When vocalist, composer, and YouTube star Vidya Iyer, aka Vidya Vox, released her new collection of originals, Mad Dreams EP, on 26 July, it was out on every platform except her own channel, which has over six million subscribers.
Perhaps it’s a conscious effort made by Vidya — who steadily gained worldwide acclaim for her covers and mashups since 2015 — to become more of a musician and less of a YouTuber.
Plus, there’s a more practical reason behind each track being out for streaming, even before she’s put out a single music video from the EP. “I think it’s definitely important to explore other platforms, especially because streaming services are such a large part of the way people consume music now. Original videos take so much more time (and money) to make,” she says, adding that with the covers (featuring clarinetist-composer, and longtime composer, Shankar Tucker), a simple performance video was easy to shoot and upload on their own. “Since I’m only doing original music now, I’d love to make more conceptual videos for original songs,” the artiste says.
The songs in Mad Dreams certainly lend themselves to supplement Vidya’s stories of identity, multiculturalism, and the idea of home, set to her electronic fusion sound that’s been updated with hints of trap and hip-hop production. She says there are three music videos in the works. “Ideally, I’d love to shoot videos for all of them. However, I chose the ones that I feel can be elevated with visuals, and where I can show most effectively what place I am writing the songs from.”
One of them is likely to be the boisterous opening track “Appadi Podu Di (Give It Back)”, which Vidya calls her “brown girl anthem that I wanted to hear my whole life”. The track features a Tamil hook and is set to flitting electronic leads and folk percussive samples. She says about the track, “I’m never to shy away from talking about my life, especially the struggle of growing up in the US as a first generation Indian-American, because that affects my identity so deeply. Even though it was isolating, I realised from touring around the world that most Indian immigrants share similar experiences.”
The silken, R&B-informed title track is the only one that’s out on her YouTube channel right now, and it presents a calmer sound, inspired by Parvati undertaking penance to gain Shiva’s attention. It’s surprisingly open to interpretation and introduces the sensuous, soulful side of Vidya, who then turns to trip-hop on “Butterfly”. It is followed by her signature shimmering electronic-pop in the love song, “Lose The Night”, which stemmed from an auto-rickshaw ride in New Delhi with Tucker, on a hot and hazy night. There’s a somewhat more typical ode to missing home when you move to a big city like Los Angeles, but the sonics employ a hypnotic sarangi hook in the chorus.
These songs were written over the course of the last year, even as Vidya released collaborations with fusion duo Maati Baani, and a couple of her own singles. “Butterfly” came last, in February this year. “We wrote seven songs in between these, but those didn’t make it to the EP. All the songs are attached to a specific memory and feeling in my life,” she says.
What sets Mad Dreams apart from even her 2017 debut EP, Kuthu Fire, is Vidya’s realisation that she was using “Indian languages as a crutch to convey the fact that I do a combination of Indian music and Western pop”.
She, instead, leaned on the production to speak for her Indian roots, while the vocals in Mad Dreams remain mainly in English in a lower key. She admits to not being comfortable writing in Indian languages like Hindi, Tamil and Malayalam, but adds, “In the past, especially with mashups, I always sang in a higher key, because I thought that’s usually the norm for female singers. Because of that, my natural texture wasn’t able to shine.”
At her recent US tour in March, the singer played road-tested songs off Mad Dreams, and says the reception was great. “It was an amazing feeling because (in) that tour we only did our original songs. It was amazing to see how people reacted after each new song that they hadn’t heard before,” she says. Earlier this year, she also performed in South Africa and Canada, and is now prepping for a winter tour in India.
Updated Date: Aug 13, 2019 10:32:26 IST