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The Viking's call

Neeraj Sridhar, the one-man team of Bombay Vikings, is on a roll.


THE REMIX song, Kya soorat hai, changed it all. The number, inspired by the Kishore Kumar ditty Zaroorat hai, went a level beyond remix, fitting Hinglish lyrics into old melodies with a dash of rap and club music, and managed to retain its essence.

The result — a new genre of music, which had the world rocking.

The person behind it was Neeraj Sridhar, India-born and Sweden-based singer. An unusual name — Bombay Vikings — set him apart. The band's distinct style has an interesting beginning. Neeraj came up with the idea of new lyrics for old melodies quite by chance. He was travelling by train in Stockholm and trying to recall the lyrics of O mere Sona re when he found himself fitting in his own lyrics.

Music and branding

"My kind of music needed branding, a proper name. Music is a product and needs to be `packaged'. Bombay Vikings says a lot about Indian melodies. `Bombay' is my Indian identity. I've learnt a lot of my music from Sweden, and so `Vikings'," he says.

The Hinglish trend, Neeraj says: "has become part of our culture, a way of life... it will continue. We are coming together as one world; so we need a common language. English has done pretty well and it is an important language for music in this country."

"Initially, there were no English lyrics in Bollywood. Now, they've made an entry. My good friend Shaan has sung a `Dancing in the rain' number. I have sung `You are the one for me' for Salman Khan. It set a trend and the others will soon follow," Neeraj adds.

But, aren't remixes a Western trend? "Speaking in English or wearing Nike shoes doesn't make us less Indian. Healthy or unhealthy, Western influence is bound to happen. But it doesn't mean denying a place for your culture in your heart and life. I don't say that our classical music, which is so rich, has to be dumped. Work on it to keep it alive... try to use it in different forms," he says.

Universal appeal

He continues: "Carnatic music is no more just Indian music; it is a classical form of universal music." Talking about music from the West, he is certain that only mutual partnerships with the West would help educate listeners on different kinds of music. "I am discussing this with singer Sonu Nigam... "

Where does he draw his inspiration from? "Honestly, I don't listen to a lot of music, because when you listen, it influences your style. But, I have heard my mother and grandmother sing and also listen to the music of foreign artistes to know the trend there."

What about Bollywood? "I have got some offers to compose. I want to experiment and am looking into it. I have also sung four songs for a Hindi movie. I respect Bollywood a lot but would take it up only if it is really appealing to me and I am given a free hand."

Is he content with just being a pop singer? "I am very happy. We have a huge fan following like Bollywood stars, sometimes even more. Our shows abroad at times draw more crowds."

Talking about his true calling, Neeraj says he wants to take folk music across borders. "It is surprising that apart form bhangra, no other regional music is heard anywhere. Everyone tries fusion with classical music. But folk music is the core. What matters is the treatment. I am sure that if I pick up folk music from this region, it would be hummed all over the world like Chod do Aanchal."

Fun element

His favourite pick from his albums?

"There is not a single song of which I am ashamed. I like Kya Soorat Hai for the fun element. Mona re, too. Attitude is very important in music - Hawa mein udithi jaye and Chod do Aanchal (his latest chartbuster) have loads of it. Musically, I like Ek Baadal and Aa raha hoon mein. My kind of serious music is more Jazz oriented, say Jazz Rock with a tinge of R&B. I sparingly use these elements in some songs like in You and I in the Hawa mein udithi jaye album."

He writes, composes and arranges his own music, besides playing the instruments and lending his voice.

Neeraj says he turned lyricist by chance. "I was forced to write lyrics. It was then that I discovered the writer in me.

Take Kya Soorat... Sitting in Sweden, I could not have found a person who could write according to the culture, society and living style in India."

K.JESHI

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