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ALYSSA and SHANE MENDONSA: Music's Contemporary Young Wave (Exclusive Interview)

© Hindi Cinema Blog

Bombay is India's foremost landmark in terms of Hindi cinema and music, both mainstream and independent. Today's post focuses on two musicians who have been crisply and ingeniously contributing to enriching the Indian music scene. Shane and Alyssa Mendonsa have become a leading pair in the new young wave that swings Indian urban music from Bollywood pop to electronic music. Spanning a series of youthful genres, brother and sister have been making their mark, whether it be by opening a DJ school, creating background scores for internationally acclaimed films or remixing Bollywood hits and contributing fresh vocals or sounds to these mainstream favorites.

While Shane is involved in background scores and soundtrack work at the moment, Alyssa has become well known for her vocals in films such as Housefull, Karthik Calling Karthik, Break ke Baad, Zokkomon, Patiala House or the more recent Zindagi na Milegi Dobara

Both siblings agreed to chat with the Hindi Cinema Blog about their love of sound, their philosophy and their view of the Indian music industry, where they have united their flair for bringing a fresh breeze to commercial songs while also creating indie pleasure for the ears.

HCB: When did you decide you wanted to start doing music / singing professionally?

ALYSSA: Singing has been my passion since I was 3 to 4 years old. I used to practice in secret until I had to sing for my dad to participate in a singing competition in 1st grade in which I came in first... I just always loved it. I never decided on it. All I knew is that I wanted to sing for the rest of my life and it has now become my profession.

SHANE: Well I honestly could not say... I think my first job working professionally as a music programmer came with a Bollywood film called Jaan-E-Mann which was about 6 years ago! In all honesty, I don't know if I ever planned to take up music as a profession. It so happened that I wanted to be a pilot! (smiles) But i guess in time with a lot of exposure to all kinds of different styles of music I was drawn into it. One thing lead to another and in the following years I saw myself learning to DJ, performing and then slowly moving into music production to make dance music. Then one fine day I received an offer to do remixes, which turned out to be my first paying job as a producer/remixer.

HCB: Was your dad (Loy Mendonsa of famed group Shankar Ehsaan Loy) an inspiration to you in the sense of orienting you towards music?

SHANE: Well I would have to say indirectly yes because he was always playing something new at home ever since I was a little kid, My father is a jazz musician at heart! So at home we would be exposed to a lot of Jazz, RnB, Blues, Funk, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones, Stevie wonder and the list goes on... Besides jazz, he would listen to all styles of music, there was no restriction in musical styles of any kind. So with all that exposure to superb music I guess my orientation did shift due to a sense of curiosity towards making music. I distinctly remember my passion for dance and electronica originating from 3 albums. One was Madonna's Ray Of Light album, which i think is still by far one of a kind, purely because of its production and sound design. Another is my most favorite artist and probably my reason for getting into making dance and electronic: BT or Brian Transeu and his album Movement is Still Life. It was life altering at the time (smiles) and with it was an artist called Hybrid and their album called Wider Angle.

ALYSSA: I started singing because I just love it and not because of my dad or anything. He heard me much later... To me my dad is just my dad and I see him as a self-made man and as an example that shows that sometimes the things you never even dreamt of can actually happen to you.

Song with Alyssa Mendonsa's honey-mint fresh vocals in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara

HCB: Choose 5 songs you would take with you on your IPod if you were stranded in a desert island.

SHANE: Well... Actually I would love to just switch of all music if I was away in a desert island!! (laughs). I would probably trade it in with a bushman for water (laughs). The reason would probably be that I am constantly surrounded by music and that it could be very troublesome for somebody who is in the "business" of making music. I believe if you are creative, you have to have a clean slate to create, a fresh canvas to paint, and thus silence to generate something new musically.  Additionally, there are plenty of songs to choose from in the "jukebox in my head", if I ever need one for a day (smiles).

ALYSSA: Knowing myself, there is no way I would have an IPod with me if I was stranded in a desert island.(smiles)

HCB: So what are you listening to on your Ipod (Mp3 player) at the moment?

ALYSSA: This may sound weird but I don't listen to music intentionally. I just happen to listen to music if someone else is playing it around me. I never make the effort of putting on a CD or anything. I like silence because there is more to be heard when nothing can be heard at all.

SHANE: This very moment I am listening to Coldplay's new EP Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall. I just love Coldplay for their simple but tasteful songwriting. Very simple to make your own.

HCB: What is your take on Indian mainstream film music and a more indie Indian music scene. Would you enjoy participating in both?

ALYSSA: Indian mainstream music is expanding and is now opening up to more styles and sounds. I think this has opened a wider door for more talent to pour into the music industry. I am more inclined to Western singing so singing for Indian films has been quite a challenge for me and a learning experience. I have this huge inferiority complex about my abilities as a singer, so that gets to me and affects my confidence..

SHANE: Oh... Well that is a long topic of discussion but I will try to be short and direct. If I ever had a problem with Bollywood is that it took up all the spotlight from the indie music scene, but that has changed now over a few years as we are now seeing an indie music scene appear wherein a whole new young and talented generation of artists now at least have a platform to be heard on a more frequent basis. Until about 6 years ago you could count the amount of non Bollywood gigs in the city that would happen in a year on both hands at commercial venues, but that is changing quickly with the new generation. There are many indie rock and electronica gigs all over the country now and some of them are huge... like the famous Submerge gigs that happen throughout the year in India, and in a big way in Goa at peak season where local and international artists meet. With that, there are clubs like Blue Frog which have on many an occasion hosted local and international artists from all around the world playing every possible style of music there is. There are many independent event management companies too that are instrumental in keeping the indie scene growing.

I certainly do enjoy participation in both (indie and Bollywood music). I believe both present very different perspectives to approaching music and thus present very interesting challenges, one of them challenging you to have a certain level of creative compromise for mass appeal and the other being more self indulgent (smiles). But I do believe at the end of the day that there is no good or bad. It just is. And music is just that, no matter what one's perspective is towards it. Thus I try to learn from both.

HCB: is there any particular producer, composer, singer or musician you dream of working with?

SHANE: Any and everyone whose got music in them.

ALYSSA: Bruce Sweden, John Landis, William Orbit to name a few... but at the end of the day my greatest dream is to perform in front of millions of people the world over. So I am willing to work with anyone who can make that come true and in turn my dream should make theirs come true. What i mean by that is that the songwriter has a dream of his song being sung,the singer's dream is to sing it, the engineer's dream is to master and mix it to perfection so you see, everyone's dream is supported by another... If my dream fulfills someone else's then that's a beautiful thing knowing dreams are coming true.

HCB: Do you have any upcoming personal projects in music?

SHANE: Well I was just working on a bootleg for myself on Coldplay's new song.. but given that I don't have the individual files it is going to be difficult to meet the sonic state I would like it to be in, but nonetheless I am having fun with it and hoping it turns out to be bearable to give a few listens (smiles).

ALYSSA: I am composing for a couple of friends just to help them out because they are really talented.

HCB: What would you say is the importance of a singer's voice in the tracks you have recorded, Alyssa?

ALYSSA: To me the singer's voice bridges the gap between the listener and the music. But I could be wrong..

HCB: What is the most important effect you are seeking to achieve when you remix, compose or master, Shane?

SHANE: Oh well I am no expert in any field (smiles) but some of my thoughts are that I believe a good remix is always and should be complementary to the basic essence of the original!.. One must seek out to find what makes the original unique and great, and try to take those elements with them in the new direction they plan to head in. That allows for the listener to quickly get into what he loves most about the song originally allowing him to easily assimilate what is newly associated with it..

As far as composition goes, depending on what the scenario is. If it is for a background score or just song, based or not based on a situation, the music should be used only to support or add emphasis to what message needs to be communicated. One must.never be afraid to keep things simple. Less is more in most cases. One should also try to always look at the composition from a listener's perspective trying to find a common thread to relate to.

While mixing and mastering today I believe everyone is in a loudness war... especially with pop music.. If you listen to music from the 80s or 90s there was a lot more warmth and feel. of course that is also attributed to many other factors, mainly that there was better music then (smiles). But anyhow, the same rules would apply to a mixing engineer. One should always let the song tell you what to do. If you listen to what the song is saying and demands, in most cases the music composer will already have left hints in the basic song structure as guidelines. And most important I guess is to "listen", trust your ears and not get completely caught up in the music gear. The gear is only there to help translate the idea. It is not the idea or concept itself. Clarity of thought with its motive must be at the forefront of applied techniques to any concept to allow the layman to easily absorb and assimilate what needed to be communicated through the music.

Find more information on Alyssa Mendonsa
Watch internationally acclaimed films featuring Shane Mendonsa's distinctive music scores: Just That Sort of Day and The Sixth Sense


Anonymous said...

Khwabon Ke Parindey is a Beautiful Song !!!!!

!!!!!!!alyssa!!!!!!! thank's to you !!!!!!!

Aline HindiCinemaBlog said...

I truly have to agree with what Anonymous says! :-) I was also mesmerized by the sweetness in Alyssa's voice in that song and cheer her on to continue putting her soul into her songs as she does so well.

Anonymous said...

I am so grateful youll feel that way..I shall try to do my best in every opportunity tha is presented to me.God bless and loads of love to youll.

Third Eye said...

Khwabon Ke Parindey is a Beautiful Song because of Alyssa's soulful voice!!! Keep it up Alyssa.

deepanker pandey said...

actually Khwabon Ke so soft that it introduces you with a heavenly voice....touches dark corner of your heart....and bring a very different pleasure that is above explain........thanks a lot far that song...

Hindi CinemaBlog said...

Third Eye, Deepanker,
Hi! Yes, Alyssa's voive takes the song to great heights :-)

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