South India

'R&B music soulful, not aggressive'

Independent Indian R&B singer Thomson Andrews, who takes pride in the music he promotes, says it is an "emotional" and "soulful" genre, which is never "aggressive" or "revolting".

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Independent Indian R&B singer Thomson Andrews, who takes pride in the music he promotes, says it is an "emotional" and "soulful" genre, which is never "aggressive" or "revolting".

"R&B is not aggressive and revolting. It's a pure and emotionally driven soulful genre that translates people's feelings, emotions and experiences from different walks of life via music," Thomson told IANS in an interview.

"It's also not the music of gangsters. It's a stereotypical racist thought that originates from ignorance of music and lack of awareness among people who are biased and have different musical preferences," he said.

Usually confused with rap and Hip-Hop, R&B actually originates from "traditional rhythm and blues music".

"Contemporary R&B music combines elements and influences of several genres like Rhythm and Blues, Soul, Funk, Neo-Soul, Pop, Hip-Hop, Rap and Reggae to create newer contemporary sound," Thomson added.

Thomson, who was a gospel singer from a very young age, developed an extreme liking for other genres such as "R&B, Funk, Soul, Blues, Jazz, Pop, Hip-Hop and Broadway as they were all interconnected to gospel music in some way".

"I started performing in these genres at concerts around the world and eventually evolved as a contemporary R&B vocalist and singer-songwriter. Even though it was a genre no one had ever heard of and the majority of audiences in India hadn't developed a liking to it, yet I decided this is what I am going to do," he said.

Andrews may be a new entrant to the Indian music industry, but he has already collaborated with double Oscar-winning composer A.R.Rahman in "127 Hours" and crooned a song for Luv Ranjan's "Akaash Vani".

He feels R&B music is yet to gain popularity in the Indian music industry because "many composers are still skeptical due to lack of awareness, knowledge of the genre, its right implementation and fear of rejection by desi Indian music palettes".

"India is mainly Bollywood and film music driven unlike the west or other places where movie soundtracks are yet not bigger than music artists and their work. Globally, R&B is the most sought after genre among masses," he said.

He however feels that with time all that will change.

"Since India has its own unique music elements and flavour, it will take time for Indians to appreciate western music genres emerging from within India and Indian artists," said Andrews, who recently forayed into the southern film industry.

He has already crooned two Tamil and Telugu songs for composer Ghibran in upcoming films "Amarakaaviyam" and "Run Raja Run", respectively.

"All these songs are in regional languages and it's been a fabulous experience dubbing as the music director made me sing in my original contemporary R&B style even though these were in regional languages," he said.

Andrews had recently released a single titled "People Ain't Things" from his upcoming album. He says inspiration for him to write songs comes from everything that happens around him.

"My inspiration comes from my life experiences, people, human emotions and at times a world of fantasy," said Thomson, who refers to "songs written by legends such as Ray Charles, the Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and also Indian lyricists like Gulzar and Javed Akthar to enhance the quality of my songwriting".

"I've learnt and realised that lyrics and melody should be simple yet effective, non-complicated, interactive with a clear narrative to the listeners, as songwriters tell a story via the songs they compose," he added.

When quizzed about the challenges R&B singers in India face, he said: "All major record labels are mostly Bollywood driven which leaves R&B artists no means of representation by any major or indie music label to promote their non-film music and push them into mainstream or in the limelight".

"Also, music promoters' lack of knowledge of the genre, fear of breaking Bollywood music monopoly due to mass losses and rejection among desi music enthusiasts and failure in creating innovative and effective marketing strategies for challenging and changing the music front also affect R&B artists," he added.


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