Sri Sriram portrait

 

 

Sid Sriram Captivates

From the first moment I heard Sid Sriram sing on his debut album Entropy, I found his voice, style, and edge revelatory. This Indian-American singer/songwriter/producer (based in Northern California) was discovered by Oscar-winning composer A.R. Rahman, who has used Sriram’s vocals in many of his films. I love this debut, and will be recommending it to everyone I know.

Sid Sriram Portrait

Carnatic Singing

Siriam is well-known in India for his virtuosity as a Carnatic singer. A quick primer: There are two main sub-genres of Indian classical music evolved from ancient Hindu traditions. One is Hindustani music, a distinct form influenced by Persian or Islamic influences from Northern India. And two: Carnatic Music, which is associated more with Southern India.

Both subgenres feature vocal improvisation and exploration of “raga,” a style of singing that plays with an intricate pattern of notes with certain intervals, rhythms, and embellishments that dance up and down exotic musical scales. Nusrat Fati Ali Kahn was probably one of the most well-known singers that can flex this skill.

The essential differences between the two styles are in how songs are composed (the ragas at the heart of each style are structured differently) and in how they are performed. Carnatic music is typically performed by a vocalist supported by violin and various Indian percussion instruments whereas Hindustani music has the singer supported by harmonium and tablas.

Sid Sriram Entropy Album Cover

Vocals and Styles on Entropy

“Eyes Open” starts out like a cross-pollination of Radiohead with Peter Gabriel’s The Passion of the Christ. Then it takes a twist into more modern, hiphop/rap elements when Sriram flexes an edgy and dark attitude, executing rap-like, rhythmic vocal lines appealingly warped by cool vocal effects.

“Isn’t It True” is a gorgeous song that demonstrates the beauty and purity of Sriram’s voice. The stripped down, clean guitar and Leslie organ perfectly support this well-crafted, soulful song with its heartbreaking lyric: “I don’t want to go outside.” It grabs you emotionally while maintaining restraint and mystery. “6 Weeks” has a more decidedly hiphop/R&B/pop feel, with very creative electronic production elements.

I could go on and on about this entire album. I have never encountered anyone quite like this artist, bridging traditions, styles, and East meets West. My only complaint is that many tracks are rather short…leaving me desperate for more, as the enchantment I was enveloped in dissolved away so quickly. Many of Sriram’s songs seem to end on a note of question, as if he’s forever seeking the answer to emotional questions…emotional questions that are definitely worth the listen.