Trained in Carnatic music, mridangam artiste Viveick Rajagopalan was also exposed to different genres such as electronic, drum ‘n’ bass and jazz. His idea of connecting different musical communities led to the formation of Ta Dhom Project, which combines rhythmic Indian classical elements with hip-hop.
“It all began at these morning park sessions where I began teaching rappers the south Indian percussion language of konnakol,” says Viveick. “The syllables ‘ta’ and ‘dhom’ symbolise two worlds and two cultures. Classical music and hip-hop are representative of the very concept of two worlds, and yet, there’s a harmony that lies between their duality. Our challenge has been to retain the ethos of this collaboration, and create something that had an identity of its own,” he says.
Having released its self-titled album and also being privileged to perform at the Womad and Shambala festivals in the U.K. in 2019, Ta Dhom Project is set to expand its horizons further. On June 10, the group will be joined by The Dhols Of Maharashtra at a show organised and hosted by Royal Opera House, Mumbai, in collaboration with Avid Learning.
Viveick will play mridangam, percussion and the digital audio workstation Ableton. He will be joined by a trio of rappers, consisting of MC Dehaati aka Akash Pandey (who will rap in Bhojpuri), MC Artslord aka Kalaivanan Kannan (Tamil) and MC Khoj aka Ganesh Sonkamble (Marathi and Hindi). They will be accompanied by Sayar Mitra on bass and Joshua Fernandes on keyboards.
Though it will mainly be a Ta Dhom Project set, they will be joined at some point by The Dhols of Maharashtra, comprising Sawangi Savdekar and Yamini Khamkar on dhols, Pranav Dixit on taasha and Gaurang Dalvi on jhaanj. Says Viveick, “Pranav is the director of the group, which is from Dombivli. All of them have day jobs, but have a passion for percussion. For me, this concert is very special, as there is an additional musical element.”
Besides this concert, Viveick is excited for another reason. He has composed three songs for the film Chidiakhana, directed by Manish Tiwari. This is his first as music director in a full-length feature film. Written by Anil Pandey, the songs are sung by Pravesh Mallick, Rajiv Sundaresan, Paroma Dasgupta and Smita Jain. The soundtrack was released recently on streaming platforms.
Viveick has composed and produced music for over 300 ad films, besides scoring music for British sitcom Mumbai Calling in 2009. In Zoya Akhtar’s 2019 film Gully Boy, he composed the rap song ‘India 91’. His albums have included Dancing With Shiva in 2007 and Moving Images the following year.
The self-titled Ta Dhom Project album was released last year, and features the songs ‘Dhvani’, ‘Bol Rap’, ‘Get Up And Dance’, ‘K Rap’ and the title track.
Viveick has also released a string of singles, including the Arabic song ‘Munyati’ with Lebanese singer George Nehme, ‘Theiyye’ with Resmi Sateesh, ‘Naiyya’ with Sveta Hattangdi Kilpady, and ‘Raat.. Subah Si’ with Isheeta Chakrvarty. He recalls, “The collaboration with George Nehme happened because both of us found a resonance between Carnatic and Arabic music. Of course, I decided to record the song out of a whim. With Isheeta, it was a very organic collaboration, which led to a wonderful video featuring dancer Aditi Bhagwat.” Currently, he is working on the release of ‘Borders’, a song which says that to connect with people one doesn’t need boundaries. On the live circuit, Viveick has performed with Dinshah Sanjana on fusion band Divya, and Norwegian pianist Bugge Wesseltoft. His fondest memories are of the 2019 season, when Ta Dhom Project performed at Womad, the Shambala Festival and Oslo Mela. “The rappers were travelling outside India for the first time, and it was a great exposure to them at places where musicians from different countries participated,” he says. With Anantha R. Krishnam, he has also conceptualised the Mridangamela series, which performed at Mumbai’s Royal Opera House in January 2020.
Besides recording and performing, one of Viveick’s pet projects is the creation of a prototype called mididangam, a first-of-its-kind midi device based on the actions and techniques used to play the mridangam and other two-faced percussion instruments played sideways. “I love to explore. Music is like a river. It not only connects communities but also educates people and teaches them new things. When I met the rappers, my intention was to teach them konnakol, but in the process I too learnt their language. That’s what Ta Dhom Project signifies,” he concludes.