Arun Shenoy: Manipal’s Grammy connection4 min read
As a student in Manipal Institute of Technology, he played rock with various college bands and then he became one of the three Indians to be nominated for the 55th Annual Grammy Awards. Yes the Grammys!
Born in Manipal’s very own Kasturba Medical College, Arun Shenoy has silently been making quite the ripple in Los Angeles with his world fusion record. The 35-year-old’s debut album ‘Rumbadoodle’, released in August 2012, garnered much critical acclaim and a nomination in the Best Pop Instrumental Album Category. Shenoy however lost the award to Chris Botti’s ‘Impressions’, the results of which were announced on February 10 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
The engineer turned musician who currently lives in Singapore gave an e-mail interview to TMJ, talking about his music, his journey and his Manipal days. Here are the excerpts:
Breaking into the exclusive club of Grammy nominees, how has the experience been?
What can I say? Incredible! A humbling experience to have my work recognised at this level and now that I am in Los Angeles and the event is only a few days away, the enormity of the whole thing is just starting to sink in now.
Going back to your childhood days, what prompted you to take up the guitar and what inspired you to choose this genre of music, combining rock and roll, world beat and new age music?
It was quite accidental to be honest. Started off with a guitar class I took in the summer of 1993 (after my ICSE exams) and it just took off from there. The class was very basic with no theory or education in music harmony. But after that, I learnt along the way, with friends and other musicians I met, mainly during my pre-university and more importantly during my engineering education at MIT, Manipal. Life then was just about one rock show to another. The good old days.
But I still managed to focus on the all important education and graduate with a distinction in 1999. For all practical purposes, you could say I am self taught and created all of my music by ear, a common trait in rock and roll music as compared to other forms like classical music.
I have grown up to rock and roll, but have always loved all forms of world music. So on this album “Rumbadoodle”, I decided to experiment with the Spanish Flamenco, and for the follow up album, I am working on an Indian fusion record, a kind of journey back to my cultural roots.
You were in the college “rock band scenes”. How did you shift to Gypsy Flamenco?
Nope I did not shift. Gypsy Flamenco was just me expressing my love for the art form via an interpretation of the music in my own style. The next album will be the same, but with Indian music, and I still do a lot of rock and roll and other styles of music.
Your music is making you travel. Are different cultures from around the world inspiring you to adapt into your music?
Definitely! The more you travel and experience other cultures, the more you learn. The experiences are very enriching and I always encourage everyone I meet (musician or otherwise) to travel as much as they can.
Being a local from Manipal, has it inspired you in anyway?
Manipal has been a part of my musical journey during my formative years, and my time there is something I always treasure. I do visit quite often and was there as recently as November 2012 for a wedding in the family.
Any future ventures within India?
Currently just busy with tons of auditions in India for classical and folk singers, tabla and violin players, and the sorts.
Tell us something about your new album and other ventures or collaborations?
No name for the album yet. But the first single (that will be released soon enough) is called “Bhool” and is based on a sung Urdu poem. As far as collaborations, just finishing up a collaboration for a funk-jazz track with American producer Matthew Shell and also working on a reggae collaboration with a producer from Jamaica. Have a few more such collaborations in the works at this time.
Many young aspiring musicians here in Manipal look upto you, what would you tell them?
Dreams are work in progress. So never give up and always remember that the journey of a thousand miles starts off with a single step. As you move along, you pick up momentum that is often hard to control. That is what makes the ride so enjoyable. Better to have tried your best, rather than spend a lifetime wondering “what if”. The time is now. Grab the moment, money comes and goes. The time does not. And in the end, well, it is all worth it.
Note: The interview took place before the announcement of the 55th Annual Grammy Awards.
Sub-edited by Priyanka Sharma