Masala Coffee’s Founder Varun Sunil Speaks on Crafting Musical Magic for Malayalam Film ‘Valatty’ and Much More – News18

Malayalam films today have nearly flawless technical features, which is something to be stated. Valatty – Tail of Tales meets the bar, with charming dogs guiding us through romance, pregnancy, and perilous situations. Devan wrote and directed the movie, which has a unique Malayalam theme. The voice overs for the creatures that make up the primary characters were provided by some of the most well-known actors and celebrities, including Roshan Mathew, Soubin, Indrans, Aju Varghese and others. The harmonius melody that swoops directly into your ears and completely knocks you off your feet is what really makes it stand out. Varun Sunil, whose name is synonymous with the adored music band Masala Coffee, is the genius behind this amazing album that will make you squeal with delight and cry happy tears while you watch it. The musical score by Varun Sunil is outstanding and fits the scene perfectly.

Varun Sunil talks exclusively to News18 about his endeavour to become a music director, his band Masala Coffee, upcoming projects, and everything that is related.

Excerpts from the interview:

Congratulations on making your music-directing debut with ‘Valatty’! What have you found to be some of the difficulties you have encountered thus far in the process?

Well, this is a multilingual movie and primarily, a Malayalam film. What I did was I didn’t make anybody else indulge in the process; I made sure that I was the one who recorded, I was there for the recording of the artists too. So be it Hindi or Telugu, I recorded two Telugu artists from Hyderabad, then from Chennai then mostly from Bombay – so basically, every regional language. Of course it was a difficult thing to do and a challenging one, but I was in that state to take it up and do everything together. I have somehow made sure that the quality was never compromised and it properly did justice to what was being made.

You have had a lot of musical ventures as the frontman of Masala Coffee. How did the time spent with the band shape the way you wrote the music for Valatty?

I have been performing for the past 16-17 years. I have not been so much into commercial music when I started my career. When it is about having a band and having a flavour of live performance when it comes to making music, the band has been a great experience for me. I formed the band in 2014 and it has been functioning ever since. So, being a live performer, I make a song or produce a song, I watch a concert and we know how everything gradually happens. The guitar comes, the violin comes and then the drums start playing. So I already have an idea. My ideology is to be a performer and then produce music. It has always been a great experience for me. Masala Coffee and Masala Coffee’s musicians being a part of Valatty was something really fruitful. Everybody has their own flavour and styles of playing that has added a lot to my songs.

Masala Coffee stands apart from other bands in the aspect of its fusion sound. To give Valatty a unique musical personality, did you add any fusion elements to the album?

Of course, I have added. People did notice while watching the film. After going to the theatre, they told me that there is a rap song. In the rap song, they asked me if I added a mridangam. That is not something that people have always experienced. Adding a mridangam to a hip-hop groove is like a proper fusion. Adding a Carnatic classical instrument to a hip-hop groove is one fusion. Then there is a funk song, a promo song named Shwanare. Shwanare starts off with a brass section and then a proper groove comes. In between, there is a veena that is coming which Rajesh Vaidya had played. That is also a fusion and then there is a Carnatic phrase. The first interlude is of veena. The interlude has a Carnatic flavour. All that is a fusion so Masala coffee is definitely an element. Masala coffee as a musician. Also being a part of the song. They have clearly contributed a lot to the song. Fusion is always important for Valatty. I have heard Carnatic saxophone being played years back. For Valatty’s love song, Arike, I have recorded Carnatic sax. That is again fusion. If you listen to what I created years back, Kaantha for Masala coffee- Kaantha had a Hindustani classic for the interlude. Then the melody line goes like proper Carnatic classical. This is what my style is. If you are getting into film music then you need to be versatile in many things and it is always good to experiment.

Music plays a big role in a film like Valatty. How did your composition deal with the emotional components of Valatty? How did you make sure that your composition was the ideal fit for the movie?

I was very particular that most of the songs should have live instruments being recorded rather than programmed sound. For instance, for me, programming is all about, you program something, then you get the musicians on board. There are six songs in the film and one of which is an English track. The English song has a Hindustani slide guitar which is a pure fusion I don’t know if you have heard English songs with Hindustani classical interludes. These are the things that I was very particular about. Most of the instruments had to be recorded live. Synthesizers, electronic sounds and those can be programmed but all the other things have to be recorded live. That is the main impact and main advantage of being a performer. You always want to hear proper live sounds being recorded, rather than programmed sounds. Everything has to be live and the tonality has to be there.

My next thing was. I wanted to record apart from Masala coffee musicians, the instruments that we don’t perform like a veena, Flute, Bulgarian Symphony Orchestra because all these things really changed the entire color and flavor of the film. I was very particular that I record one of the top notch musicians in the world. I have been traveling all around the world with my band Masala coffee and we have collaborated with so many international musicians. I know this song and this song deserves this person to come and play.

Would you like to share with us. Any amusing anecdotes or experiences. While you were composing the music of the film.

I prefer being in a very silent space, it can be with anybody from my band. It can be anybody else. So many experiences. I was sitting with the director and this moment where I was working on the climax song of the film. There was this instrument that’s recorded in the song called Charango. Before that, it was a normal classical guitar. From that when it changed and shifted into a Charango, the color of the song changed. He started becoming more happy and it was so happy a sight because that thing was really unique and different.

The producers, Friday Film House, Vijay Babu and Vinay Babu, that experience, I mean I recorded for Bulgarian Symphony Orchestra, they were very particular about having the best musicians come and record. So when I was normally programming, we programmed something and then we make musicians record. Like for example, you program a string section, you program it and then you write the music and then you give it to them and then you record the symphony orchestra. So when this was confirmed where we have a 60-piece orchestra, that experience was something which I always wanted to share with anybody because it was a four-hour session and I had one of the best time recording that for my background score. So the producers were very supportive in that way. They have done everything possible for me.

Do you think it’s necessary for a music composer to be a performer?

I personally feel that every music composer has to be a performer. You’re producing the entire song. So tomorrow, you produce around 50 songs and then a client wants to listen to the song live. Like for example, I’m a violinist and then I have been recording violin for a long time. Tomorrow, a client is giving me a call and he’s asking me, can you come and play violin for one of my functions? Is it good to say I play violin only for recordings, I don’t play live? No. So similarly, when you produce songs, when you become a music director and then you produce a set number of songs and then somebody else is inviting you to perform, then comes the real deal. You have to perform your songs live on the stage with other musicians. Otherwise, you don’t have to make a melody and give it to the programmer. Then you’re not a music director. You need to direct the music; you need to produce it properly from top to bottom. If you ask me if there is a song, like I’ve done independent songs for Sony Music South. I was an artist to Sony Music and then all the songs that whatever I’ve produced from top to bottom, everything was directed by me because I want to get involved in the entire process of making the song. So, if you’re a music director, you need to perform. You can sing. You can sing or if you’re a violinist, you can play violin or whatever or if you play the harmonium, you can do that. But a music director has to know something in music. Otherwise, you need to know the song. Without all this, you just have a melody in your mind. You take this and give it to the programmer, he does all the work and there is no self-justice in being a music director. There is no meaning in that.

In light of the popularity of Masala Coffee, what do you see ahead of you? Any upcoming projects in Malayalam or any other language? Any other collaborations that you’re looking forward to explore?

After Valatty’s incredible success, Varun Sunil and his band, Masala Coffee, are currently working on their album, Ektara. Furthermore, Masala Coffee is working on a promo song for a Tamil movie; more information will be made official very soon. Additionally, they are anticipated to go on tour and perform at a few shows in Bahrain, Doha, the UK, and Europe. We can’t wait to hear Varun Sunil and his band perform with even greater musical grandeur in the wake of everything that lies ahead of them.

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