As a music composer and arranger, Harshit Chauhan has spent a good number of years in the industry. While he worked with the biggest names in the business, there was an urge in him to compose and release a lot of original music independently. His creative urges paved the way for OG Studio, a unique project which aims to promote original independent music and the artists working in this space. The first season of OG Studio comprises of seven original tracks, five of which are already out.
In this interview, Harshit talks about his journey in the music industry, how he plans to take OG Studio forward, love for Indian instruments, the issues with Bollywood music, upcoming projects and more.
In an interview, you described the songs that you have created for OG Studio as ‘modern folk original compositions’. Can you elaborate on that?
When the first lockdown came into effect in 2020, I thought of creating some music that would make me feel happy as an artist. Since I got a lot of time during the lockdown, I could work on these tracks peacefully. Initially, I thought of releasing these songs as audio tracks as I didn’t have the budget to shoot the videos. However, I changed my mind later. I have always been a big fan of Coke Studio and the way composers use the platform to experiment with folk music. I thought of creating a similar platform for independent composers. That thought led to the birth of OG Studio. OG Studio has been created to promote independent music.
In ‘Rang Na’, which happens to be one of the tracks from the first edition of OG Studio, you have used Indian instruments extensively.
I have been a music producer or arranger for a very long time and I have always enjoyed working on tracks where I could use a lot of Indian instruments. There was a time when Indian instruments were used extensively in Hindi film music. Once computers and software came in, Indian instruments took a backseat. Through independent platforms like OG Studio, one can keep Indian music and instruments alive. We have also used western instruments and tried to create a nice fusion.
Pratibha Singh Baghel is known for singing ghazals and thumris. How was the experience of working with her on ‘Rang Na’?
I have always been a big fan of Pratibha. We used to perform together in Navrati for a very long time. That is when I met her for the first time. I was following her work since the time she participated in Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge 200 OG Studio has been created to promote independent music. I always wanted to collaborate with her on an original track. I sent her the track and she immediately agreed to sing it. She didn’t charge anything for the song and supported this initiative wholeheartedly. When you get support from friends and colleagues from the industry, it feels wonderful.
As a composer and arranger, you have experimented with a variety of genres. Do you have formal training in music?
I didn’t have much formal training but I was fortunate to be born into a musical family. My grandfather Pandit Shivram was a composer who had worked with the likes of V Shantaram. He had promoted Rajasthani folk extensively throughout the country. My brother Divya Kumar is an established singer in the industry. I always wanted to make a career in music. I mostly learnt singing from my mother. At one point, I got very interested in music production and learnt all the important software and tools. I learnt to play the piano when I was 7-8 years old. At that time, I was a very restless child and wasn’t interested in learning music but that training is helping me now.
Your brother Divya Kumar has lent his voice to two songs from the album. This was the first time you worked with him as a composer.
Divya and I grew up together in Agra. He is two years older to me. He started his journey as a singer with Kalyanji – Anandji’s group. In a lot of ways, Divya has been my backbone. I have learnt a lot from him. Since he entered Bollywood first, I got a lot of insights about the industry from him. Divya was one of those people who encouraged me to start OG Studio. He told me that he will help me get singers on board and he did. ‘Fakira’ and ‘Faagun’, the two songs he recorded for OG Studio are very special. I hope to collaborate with him on many more tracks.
Your brother-in-law Avinash Chouhan has written all the songs for the album.
Yes! Avinash has been an integral part of OG Studio’s journey. He is very passionate about writing songs and is a gifted writer. He was with me from the day I decided to start OG Studio and supported me immensely in this process.
What are your thoughts on the future of independent music in India?
Making independent music is the only way forward. When I started working in the industry, my goal was to compose for films. However, now is not a good time to be a composer in Bollywood. The music labels sign a handful of composers, singers and lyricists and prefer to work only with them. Good original music is hardly there. Remixes are used in every film. Salim – Sulaiman, Amit Trivedi, Arijit Singh and many others have launched their own labels and releasing music independently. That encourages newer people to do the same. In the next 2-3 years, independent music will be a proper industry.
What, do you think, are the major issues with Hindi film music?
The labels want to stick to a few formulas and do not want to try anything new. People associate Tanishk Bagchi with remixes but the fact is that he has done a lot of great original songs as well. Music labels want to use popular hooklines from older songs as they know it will click with the listeners easily. Sometimes, a composer makes 3-4 songs in a single day. One cannot expect quality music in such a scenario. Programmers are called in to make a drop that would help the song become a hit instantly. Multiple composers are brought in for a single film and expected to make a replica of their own song which had become a hit recently. Right now, film music is in a very bad state. I hope things change for the better in the near future.
What are you doing next?
I am looking forward to the release of the next two songs from OG Studio. I have finalized a couple of tracks for the second season of OG Studio. We will be shooting videos for them soon. I would love to have new composers on board in the upcoming seasons of OG Studio. After ‘Saareyan Nu Chaddeya’, I have collaborated with Adhyayan Suman for another single titled ‘Sau Martaba’. It will be out very soon.