Music can heal an absurd mind: Jatin Sharma
“Melody, melody and melody. I am in love with this word since my childhood and the folk music of Assam left a huge impact on my mind,” expresses internationally acclaimed music composer and sound designer Jatin Sharma. In a private chat with Pandolin, this prolific audio designer from Assam tells us about his musical inspirations, working on both Indian and international projects, remixing songs at the early stage of his career, his world class studio designs and his great admiration for Lata Mangeshkar.
How did you foray into the field of music and when did you come to Mumbai? At the start of your career, you remixed various tracks and made them chart busters. Please tell us something about those experiments.
I started my career as a music director in 1986 while I was at Jorhat in Assam, i.e. my home town. I was doing original Assamese songs with compositions and arrangements achieved by handmade microphones, mic-preamp, analog audio mixture and obviously local artists.
I came to Mumbai around the end of 1993 and started working as a recording engineer at a music studio near Juhu Tara Road. During those days, I was working on a 16 track analog set-up and there was no undo & redo in analog machines. So, I started doing copy-paste of music parts and drum loops in analog spool recorder. The processing of sound was very limited at that time because the machines were very expensive and rare to find. Though I used to process guitar vocals & other instruments according to my way.
In 1995, I moved to Joshua Inc. in Andheri East where I got to work on my first high-end analog plus digital set-up. There, I was doing cut-paste, time stress on DAW SOUNDSCAPE machine with no knowledge of club-mix since I had never been to any club at that time. One fine day, I was asked to do a project by Times with artists like Akbar Sani & Jayanta Pathak. I just went with my music rhythm and flow, which everybody liked. And then only, I came to know, how to make remix music.
I would say, my Jalwa album was a remarkable path to Indian remixes and thereafter the journey began, which led to Bhoomi, Jalwa II, Moksh, Lift kara de (remix version), Aika Dajiba, Rang Barse, Roomanov Party Mania (Hero- Flute fantasy), Sajna Hai Mujhe (The Pretty lady mix), Meri Beri Ke Ber (The return of Kanta Mix), Inhi Logo Ne, Kanchan Express, Jawan Hai Mohabbat etc.
How did you master the principles of recording and establish yourself as a star audio designer worldwide?
I think, as an Audio Engineer everyone should have the knowledge of Music. Since music has no language & religion, it should touch everyone’s heart. I just went with the flow and tried to make the best use of technology for all the music compositions, I have done so far. I always look for the comfort and goodwill of the people whom I work with. I never say no to anyone and probably that’s why my clients come from across the world to make music with me. Its just a matter of time that my music went everywhere and I did various international re-arrangements, such as Craving (TATU), Suicide Blonde (INXS), Schiller (An Instrumental Track), The Way I Are (Timbaland), Eh Eh- Nothing Else I Can Say (Lady GAGA), Crazy Frog (Malgudi Days mix for Universal Music).
A good music producer always worries about the most important things like good vocals, lyrics, proper instrumentation as per the song’s emotion and perfect sound quality. For an excellent sound, you first need a skilled engineer who has a superb sense of music. Next, you require an acoustically treated monitor room, a recording booth (where we look at how to create an environment for the best quality recording), some quality microphones, EQ, Dynamic Processor, nice monitor speakers, one DAW with a high end A to D/D to A converter and some necessary software plugin etc. Though there is no end to the list.
For mixing, there are lots of facilities in DAW like NUENDO, PROTOOLS etc. while the recording software is specially engineer’s choice depending upon whatever he likes and feels comfortable. Some engineer still prefer an analog mixing console to mix but there are lots of limitations and expenses attached to it. Also, some music directors prefer to record vocal on the final music track and then go for mixing. However, I always prepare a basic music track with some drum loops and a harmony track, after which I do the final vocal. Once the vocal gets dubbed, I try to create proper rhythm, harmony, melody, bass, some live instrument dubbing, backing vocal etc. and then, go for mixing. But I always try to balance all the tracks while recording so that in the mixing I never get confused.
At the last stage, after listening on all the different reference speakers, I do the mastering on the final mix. For mastering, one specifically needs a good ear, experience and judgment along with some best quality EQ, Dynamic processor, Harmonic enhancer, Stereo imager etc based upon your choice.
What is it that sets apart your recording studio Geet Audiocraft from other studios? What kind of preparations went into setting it up?
The environment of the studio, the simplicity of the system and most importantly the humbleness.
I haven’t done any formal course in sound engineering but yes, I did my majors in physics and sound & electronics were my favorite subjects. I read lots of books on sound engineering but I still think, I am a student. This idea of making studios just clicked when I was composing music at different places. I started with setting up my own studio in Mumbai in a very customized and low cost manner yet with the best products available in the market. Whenever I make studios, I always give importance to the look, ambience and acoustic quality.
At many places, we encounter space problem to make a sound studio. For example, It was a big challenge for me to build up a studio in Japan as there had been a serious lack of space. But somehow I managed to make it and that too, in a very short span of time. After that I went on to design studios like Sangeet (Amar Haldipur-Mumbai), Em Squire (Mumbai), Zima (1st studio-Mumbai), DG Lab (in Kolkata) along with my another studio in Mumbai called Geet Audiocraft.
How was your experience working on the music album Bhumi for Salim Sulaiman?
I did not expect any recording in my small recording room as the monitor area was only 10×5 feet and the hall was 10×8 feet. It was really a big music album project and a tremendous challenge for my small recording setup. Besides, it involved all the renowned musicians & singers of India with a live performance. It was based on the Indian folk music & fused with new sounds. So I had to record both folk & modern instruments.
However, at that time, it was bit of a challenge for me to record a live instrument like acoustic drums. I wasn’t financially stable hence, I hired 15 different mikes for drum kit & one analogue sub-mixer. I started to record on a Roland VS 1680 digital 16 track recorder which was not like Soundscape or Protools. All came up colorfully & they took the album to Peter Gabriel Studio in London for mixing. And they couldn’t believe that this album was recorded on a small 16 track digital recorder. It was an inspiring experience to work with musicians like Salim Sulaiman as they are very cooperative and have a fine taste for music.
As we know music has no bar, hence I don’t find any major difference between regional & Bollywood music except the language. Though, we do have few minor things that need to be considered in particular such as the sentiments, the director’s view & the audience tastes. For example, when I am concerned with the Assamese folk music, it always drags me into a different space as it is one of the richest music in the world.
Please tell us a bit about your upcoming music album with Lata Mangeshkar. How did you develop this project and what was your approach towards its musical theme?
Lata Ji has a great impact on my life since my childhood. One day, my old music director friend Baiju Baijnath Mangeshkar (Bingo) came to my studio & asked if I can do sound designing for Lata Ji’s sufi album. I just thanked God for fulfilling my wish. Now, I am glad as my dream comes true by doing music arrangement, recording, mixing and mastering for Lata Ji’s songs. I think, every musician has a dream to work with the living legend Lata Ji once in their lives.
My initial inspiration for this album was the voice of music goddess Lata Ji itself. When they sent me the voice track of Lata Ji, I just decided to stick to the feel and mood of the compositions but with the new sounds of my arrangement style. While doing this project, I had to take every decision very carefully because Lata Ji herself was involved in every step. This album is totally based on live music with some good electronic sounds and we hope that it will appeal to all.
How did you feel about receiving an award for Malaysian Queen’s music video album that got promoted as a tourism project worldwide?
I started working with “Tohpuan Noor Sujane” (A Malayasian Royal) in the year 2008. She tends to love Hindi old songs & retro type of music compositions rather than typical western hip-hop or club music etc. After her first music album with me, she loved the compositions which I made for her songs and that’s how our musical journey started together. Last year, I did a music album for her and fortunately it was taken by the Malayasian Government as an Indo-Malaysian tourism project worldwide. I am feeling very proud to be a part of this project.
Melody, melody and melody. I am in love with this word since my childhood and used to listen guitar oriented songs as guitar was my first musical instrument. The folk music of Assam left a huge impact on my mind because we had All India Radio & gramophone record player to listen to the songs. Now since I have grown up amidst this environment, my biggest musical influences of life happens to be the greatest composers like R.D. Burman, Dr. Bhupen Hazarika and Jayanta Hazarika.
According to you, what is the major contribution an artist can make to the society?
I think, music is the food for thought as it can heal an absurd mind and work like a medicine for one’s loneliness. A good music can build an excellent bonding with anyone, anywhere in the world without any bar.
Any advice to the young music composers who are just starting out in this field?
Always listen to different kinds of music because every experience does count for good music composition and production. But at the same time, strive to make your own identity. Whatever you think is good, be confident about it and do it. If you want to learn anything, just Google it. Also, the most important thing is to “be humble” because eventually, its your character that gets reflected through your music.