“The distinction between independent music and commercial music will diminish,” says “Gehraiyaan” composer Kabeer Kathpalia aka OAFF
It’s rare to witness someone who understands the musical algorithm in such a way that once you hear their track, it plays continuously in the back of your head. Well, Kabeer Kathpalia aka OAFF, composer and music producer, is one of them. Whether it’s drinking coffee, taking a shower, working at your desk, reading a book, having time for me – his song, First line, released in 2018 was one such score. In fact, the song still remains close to my heart. What if I told you that the anthem of the year… Gehraiyaan the title song is actually a Hindi recreation of this beautiful piece? Yes before Gehraiyaan there was First line and we had a conversation with the man who created these two moving pieces. Excerpts from an interview:
Your stage name is quite unique, what’s the story behind it?
First, I think I have to explain to people how to pronounce it. It is pronounced like ‘oaf’ (pronounced like ‘Loaf’ but without the ‘L’). It comes from the English word “oaf”, which represents a stupid, clumsy and stupid person. I relate to it and that’s where the name comes from.
How did this film come to you?
An acquaintance introduced my indie music to Shakun (Batra) and one day I received a message on my Instagram saying ‘Hey this is Shakun Batra, I like your music, can we meet.’ We met and started chatting and having conversations about his vision, story and script. My musical partner, Savera, and I read the script and started creating music based on it. It just sort of went from there.
As for background scores, what goes through your mind when creating them?
The most important thing is how the music serves the film, its characters and the story. First of all, every decision is made from that point of view – is it what the character or the story wants to say or do that we need to convey through the music? Second, the overall soundscape of a film has a specific mood. So we used a lot of electronic elements and western classical arrangements with strings and pianos. So, it is this modern electronic world that meets this classical world. These are the main things we thought about.
From the independent music circuit to the commercial space, how different was the experience?
I don’t think there is a difference in the way we create music. For us, music is music and we create what excites us the most. But once the music is over, that’s when you feel the difference. When me and Savera release our indie songs and get around 100,000 views on YouTube, we feel wow, we’ve done so well. And there I fell asleep and woke up and saw 10 million views in 24 hours. It’s a drastic difference in terms of platform and scope. Sony Music helped push the songs to get them to people who might be interested and that’s the main difference.
How did you venture into the world of music?
I studied math and physics in college and have always had a fondness for science. But I’ve also always been interested in understanding how music works. I was in music theory and I played the guitar, which was my main instrument to start with. It’s funny because Savera, Lothika and I are from the same school in Ahmedabad. Savera and I were in a punk rock band in high school, so I picked up my guitar just to be in that band and we were having fun. So we started our journey together and now we make music for movies together.
How do you think indie music is doing in India and among listeners? What is his future ?
During the pandemic, there haven’t been too many movie releases and indie music has always been a small but vibrant scene. That’s when people realized, during the pandemic, that hey, we want more music but there’s no movies, so let’s look at these indie artists and see what’s going on there. And that’s when people realized there was so much great music out there in this indie world, why not explore more of it. Now, if a great film like this, a great production house like Dharma and a director like Shakun encourage artists like us to create music for their films, that’s very encouraging. Thanks also to Ankur Tewari, who oversaw all of this. He encouraged different artists to enter the mainstream. I see there will be more interesting crossovers with the indie world and hopefully there will be a lot more interesting music for us. At some point, the distinction between indie and commercial will diminish. It will become broad spectrum and more open.
When it comes to creating music, do you have a rule book or guidelines that you swear by?
I would love to, but I really don’t. Savera and I are the kind of people who, if something excites us, just want to do something about it. The one thing that always needs to be there is a sense of excitement and if you find that, it will always be interesting. If you go too far and try to come up with a plan, I don’t think the end product will be that interesting.
Few people are aware, but the song is an adaptation of your song First lineHindi version of it, how did it go?
Lothika and I wrote First line in 2018. It’s a personal song about something Lothika was going through at the time. Her grandmother had just passed away, so we made this song as a way to deal with grief more than anything. It wasn’t really considered making a pop song. It was more like using music for therapy. Cut to now, where someone on the team took the song and put it in the promo for the movie and Shakun loved the feel of the song and the visuals. So he asked us to try to do a Hindi version of this song, which was tailor-made for the characters. Ankur Tewari wrote the lyrics, Lothika sung them again and that’s how we got the female version of Gehraiyaan. Now we also have a male version of the song sung by Mohit Chauhan, which is a slightly different version of the song.
Do you think audiences and creators are finally accepting unfilmed tracks?
I think so. If you just look at the numbers, Doobey was No. 1 in the country on radio and Gehraiyaan was #2, so I think people just want music they can relate to. I don’t think it matters if it’s filmed or not as long as it’s something people can connect to.
What’s the next step in the pipeline?
Next in the pipeline is more independent, cinematic work. There’s a lot of new music coming out, hopefully in the next few months.
What is your favorite part of the film?
Music on your playlist that you like to listen to?
I love listening to retro music from the 90s and 2000s that I grew up listening to.
Your favorite indie singer?
I like this artist called Ditty, who is a freelance singer in India.
Who do you want to collaborate with next?
What’s your favorite, evergreen track?
Yeh Haseen Vadiyan by AR Rahman.
What’s your favorite thing besides music?
Science. Physics to be precise.
What is your favorite musical genre?
I can’t answer that, I’m a music producer so I love all kinds of music.
Songs that you would like people to like to listen to music?
Check out this Icelandic composer called Ólafur Arnalds. You might find this interesting. Then there’s Easy Wanderlings, an Indian supergroup; they are friends of mine. One of their songs is used as a track played in the car in Gehraiyaan.
If not, would you be a composer?
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Posted: Sunday, February 27, 2022, 1:36 PM IST