IndianRaga… Going Gaga

Indian classical dancers and musicians in Singapore can showcase their talent on a bigger stage with the arrival of IndianRaga. The MIT-founded digital arts education start-up, which helps artists learn, perform and shine, is launching IndianRaga Singapore to hone local talent and show them in high-quality video to the rest of the world to see. IndianRaga is hot – its remixes of Ed Sheeran’s Shape of You and Sia’s Cheap Thrills in Carnatic style have grossed over 10 million views for the IndianRaga Facebook page and YouTube Channel combined! India Se meets up with the wunderkind. Sriram Emani, the co-founder and CEO of IndianRaga, an alumnus of  IIT Bombay and the MIT Sloan School of Management, talks about his plans for artists, the way IndianRaga encourages talent and how collaborations work.

India Se: IndianRaga in Singapore. What do you look forward to?

Sriram Emani: The Singapore Indian community has tremendous potential to be showcased on the global stage. This is the first IndianRaga city chapter in South-east Asia. We think it’s time to take the amazing talent here and showcase it on the world stage. Singapore’s fascinating – there’s so much Indian talent and such a confluence of South-east Asian cultures. We have not seen so much cultural integration in other parts of the world. It would be fascinating to take this blend of cultural influences and create exciting new work. The first set of pilot projects we have done here has already been so successful. Many people in the US and across Europe have reached out to us, amazed they didn’t know such fabulous talent existed in Singapore. We will be launching several competitions, workshops and discussion forums.

India Se: The business aspect of managing IndianRaga must be challenging.  How do you continually challenge the experimental creative musician inside you?

Sriram Emani: Staying relevant on social media today is so challenging. Unless you are constantly creative and putting out new stuff, you are not going to keep growing. We think about how every video or every piece can be made unique. We pay a lot of attention to videography and using the right tools to make it a unique visual experience. The algorithms for YouTube and Facebook keep changing continuously, so we have to stay ahead of the game.

India Se: How do you work out the collaborations?

Sriram Emani: The IndianRaga selection process is one of the most transparent and meritocratic processes in performing arts. Applications are reviewed by a panel of experts from across the world. We see if there’s potential to create something groundbreaking. For example, if we see three Bharathanatyam and three Odissi dancers, we will try to find out how they could be brought together to perform something really new and exciting. Then there would be guidance from not only local but also a global panel of experts. Rehearsals begin after suggestions from the experts. A video of the rehearsals is shared with the experts after a few weeks. Then, again with inputs from experts in London, Madras, Dubai, Bombay, the rehearsals continue until the performance is ready to be shot professionally. 

India Se: What genres do you work with?

Sriram Emani: We primarily work with classical art forms as well as semi-classical varieties, film music and western instrumental music, but we are open to every genre. This year we have a tap dancer, a ballet dancer and someone who plays the Taus or Mayuri Veena.

India Se: Tell us how IndianRaga’s video albums have shaped the careers of young artistes.

Sriram Emani: The global response to these pieces has put the spotlight on several promising and advanced-level performers. Mahesh Raghavan has done compositions and arrangements for Shape of You, Cheap Thrills and many of our popular productions. Then there is Vinod Krishnan whose performance in Shape of You has gone so viral that many of his pure classical pieces are also doing incredibly well. We are inviting him to San Francisco for a major concert performance. We also have some amazing work done by child prodigies. These artists get recognised and invited for performances around the world. 

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