India has a diverse vernacular sound culture. Unique instruments, developed in tandem with oral traditions, continue to be handed down for generations and influence the sound of the place and its people. Sometimes, more often lately, this sound culture is either appropriated by the West for ‘exotic vibes’ or ignored by the locals in favour of a ‘global’ sound.
One of the best parts of being a part of an underground scene is that you get to see the seeds of change that are being sown. One such seed is a representation of vernacular sounds in the mainstream and the intention behind them. A few years ago, we saw a resurgence of Malayalam Rap and Hip Hop with artists like Kalla Sha, Thirumali & Parimal Shais. Last year, Sanaya of Sandunes & Krishna of Skyharbor even collaborated with Parimal to sample traditional South Indian instruments such as Chenda and Edakkam and release them as a soundpack on Splice.
With these elements of the vernacular making themselves felt in the mainstream, it is a good time for young producers to dive into their roots and create music inspired by where they grew up. One such producer is Rakuuth, a musical project by Bangalore-based DJ/Producer Anurag. Being brought up in Kerala and living many years in Tamil Nadu, Rakuuth has been exposed to various cultures and soulfully rich sounds. Inspired by traditional South Indian folk and electronic music which he has been pioneering for the past six years, Rakuuth explores an ambitious route in combining both worlds creatively through a unique and dynamic sound that is rooted in the culture.
Like a traditional south Indian banquet, the ‘Sadhya’ EP is a feast of culturally and sonically rich music inspired by traditional south Indian sounds and contemporary electronic music. The EP consists of five tracks, including the two singles ‘Akale’, a soulful melodious track featuring Chennai-based indie artist Anza Prema, and ‘RasamNRhymes’, a high octane rap song with catchy bars by one of the rising sensations in the Kerala Hip Hop circuit, Aditi Rap Kid India. ‘Piravi’, the introduction to the EP, is a soulful beginning to the EP with a folk drum beat set against dreamy pads and vocal sample. The closing tracks ‘Puzhakara’ & ‘Maadan’ close the EP on a high created thanks to the drum patterns with sampled folk drums & creative sampling.
We spoke to Rakuuth about his experience of creating the EP.
1. What a unique EP you’ve created! In recent times, we’ve seen a growing vernacular influence on music producers particularly. What inspired you to produce this EP?
Thank you for listening to my debut EP ‘Sadhya’.
During my music production years, I always wondered how Indian percussions and traditional rhythms would sound with the electronic music that I’ve been working on. But I never gave it a try until the year 2021. I was born in Kerala and the whole havoc created by covid sort of made me miss my native land so much. This has to be one of the core reasons why I started making this certain style of music and by the end of 2021, I was convinced that I’m going to carve a different lane for myself with ‘Rakuuth’ and debut the project with an EP. Having a catalogue of really versatile tracks from each other, I couldn’t think of any other name other than “Sadhya’ which is a traditional banquet meal in Kerala. and also our harvest festival Onam was around the corner so it was all coming together beautifully. We released the EP on Onam, Sept 8 and the artwork is also inspired by the whole theme of the EP, which shows a kid (a nod to my younger self) indulging in a delectable Sadhya feast.
2. What was your set-up and process for producing this EP?
It took me a year to get completely confident with my sound and tracks. So I hand-picked my favourite 5-6 tracks out of all the projects that I made and worked on the best way to debut them. I wanted a vocalist for Akale and I got in touch with Anza Prem, a Chennai-based singer through Fiverr. I’m really happy how the song turned out with her vocals on it and we premiered it as a single from the EP before the release to give people the essence of the brand. While making Rasam N Rhymes, I wanted a rapper to get on board. I came across Rap Kid India, a Kerala-based Hip-hop artist, performing at an online show by Kochi Music Foundation on YouTube. I was really impressed by her sound and performance and got in touch with her manager, within no time the collaboration was on. ‘Puzhakara’, ‘Maadan’ and ‘Piravi’ are the other instrumental tracks from the EP and all of them have a certain meaning connected to my past.
3. How did you go about collecting/sourcing the samples and sounds that you have used in the EP?
Most of the sounds in the EP are taken from the collection of samples that I’ve been updating for years! I’m a huge fan of serum and vital, which are the VSTs that I used to make most of the sounds in the EP. All the percussions have been taken from various Kontakt Libraries and sample packs.
4. How would you describe the current status of the Indian electronic music industry? What do you think works and what can be done better?
The Indian electronic music scene is very progressive now than it has ever been. I can see a lot of artists bringing their own unique sounds to the table, building communities and organizing shows all by themselves which would have been way harder a few years ago. I want to give a shoutout to collectives like Welupt Records and Safar Collective who are prominent in this space and pushing the boundaries. Covid had definitely hindered the movement in the last two years but this year witnessed a rebirth of many artists and new music and I’m sure that it is going to take off at a really good pace from now on.
Regarding your second question, I think collaboration is the key. Not just with other music producers or vocal artists but with bands, instrumentalists, visual artists, graffiti artists, apparel designers etc. Because at the end of the day, whoever works in a creative field is definitely an artist and I think there is a possibility for creative collaboration. I think more artists should think outside the box rather than just feeding the Instagram algorithm.
5. What does the future hold for Rakuuth?
Rakuuth has a very interesting roadmap ahead. I’m looking at collaborating with more vocalists and instrumentalists. Even shows! I can’t wait for everything to come together.