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Marching To A New Beat

Music producer-singer Vivek Hariharan talks to Titas Chowdhury about his latest song, Challa from Uri, what makes the song special, how it was created and more  

Ever since the makers released the trailer of Vicky Kaushal starrer Uri, its music has generated plenty of intrigue and buzz. Challa, composed by Shashwat Sachdev and produced and co-sung by Vivek Hariharan, has become the latest chartbuster and is creating waves for all the right reasons. The modern and aggressive feel to the power-packed track laced with new-age, underground music is a trendsetter for all battle anthems to come.

Hariharan explains why the Uri album is special to him. “Uri is a war film. Very few people get the opportunity to create music for a war film.” He adds, “Shashwat went to Germany. We identified a few elements in the synthesizers, what he could buy and work on, which we could use as part of the sound of the album. Shashwat did the background music of the film as well. He also learnt how to use the elements because it is very tricky to use a synthesizer. Once he got them, he started laying down a few soundscapes, which helped us understand where we could go in terms of the sound of the film. That was the best part of the journey for me. Once we got the sound right, in terms of how the bass would sound and how gritty it should sound, it became easier.”

About his rapport with Sachdev, he says, “I produced the entire album with Shashwat. In a way, you could say that I was his go-to guy to ask what special things we could do with the songs of the film. I am his first point of contact in terms of production of the album. He was very keen on coming out with a sound that was different and new. He was thinking about what should be done and whether he should look at synthesizers. Very few composers are willing to take bold and challenging steps to do an album like this.”

The vocalist says that Challa was the first song that was composed for the film’s album. “Interestingly, Challa gave me direction as to where the film album was going. It is patriotic, motivational and speaks to you about pushing limits. Sachdev said we should define a song for the album. That’s when I realized that we were going in the right direction. Today, I see people posting workout videos with Challa playing.”

Shedding light on the track, Hariharan says, “The song begins with an a cappella, which has never been done before in a film song, especially in a patriotic song. It is very different how Romy does his kind of vocals on the song and how I do my vocals. It makes the song raw, Punjabi, modern and cool.”

Talking about his collaboration with Romy, he fondly remarks, “Romy and I complement each other quite well. We come from two different spaces and we are two different human beings, each with a different range of voice. He sings the highs and I sing the lows. Our styles are also different, which blends well. His earthy vocals and my modern vocals lend a nice flavour to songs. We work together on songs. It is a coincidence that we sing together. I love working with him. He is a great singer.”

Hariharan says he came on board as the song as a singer much later. “Initially, it was not decided that I would sing the song. Romy sang his part of the song. While we were producing, I am sure Shashwat had it in mind but I did not. We were just figuring out how we could make this song cool, interesting, fresh and modern. We knew that Challa would have a Punjabi flavour but we were wondering how we could make it sound modern. That is when I came into the picture. What I do is a little different in terms of my voice, style and the way I sing. I was always around the studio and a part of the discussion as to who would sing the song. We just kind of decided that I would try the song and see if it worked out.”

What was his role as executive producer of the album? “My role had more to do with making sure what we wanted to achieve in terms of sound, the artistes, and who we were collaborating with. Basically, my job was to making sure that the composers achieved what he set out to do in the right way. My job was to give direction and shape in terms of delivery and voice casting,” he says.

In a similar vein, Hariharan adds, “We are always on the lookout for new talent and working with new singers. In this album, we have singers we have not worked with before and some new singers as well. I don’t think of myself as a singer when I am producing the album; I think about what is best for the album.”

Describing the process of composing the track, he says, “Once we got the synthesizers from Germany, we would sit for hours and hours and keep recording sounds. These synth machines are analogue machines, so you have to keep recording to get good sound. You have to record that part and keep it for your song. We had to keep on working together to record different kinds of sounds. I used to keep critiquing Shashwat to make sure what we wanted to achieve was in line with what he was doing.”

He goes on to tell us the advantage of being a singer and music producer. “When I was singing, it was a little different. It is an advantage to be a producer and a singer when you are collaborating because you know where the composers are coming from because you already are a part of the album. We can achieve things quicker because we already have a great equation with the artiste. If you understand the sound better, you can put out a song quicker when it is a collaboration, unlike just a singer who will come, record and go. It is more than that in my case.”

On his upcoming projects, Hariharan says, “As a producer, I will be working with Shashwat again. As a singer, there are a couple of tracks that I have lent my voice to. They belong to different genres and spaces. They will be different from what you have heard from me so far, from Dum dum and Kaalakaandi to Challa.”  

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