He is the first composer who introduced two international singers to Mollywood through the film ‘Isra’ a few years ago. So when Sunny Viswanath’s first album on an international platform is due for release, there’s bound to be something special about it. The composer is upbeat about his album, ‘Forever Yours,’ which features a plethora of singers from India and abroad.
The album features big names in Bollywood including Sunidhi Chauhan, Shaan, Neha Bhasin, Rahul Seth, Sneha Pant and international singers Samantha Coe from the UK and Australians Zenya Bashford and Jemaima Gillam. “Forever Yours’ has six slow, romantic numbers. Each of the singers has a distinct style of rendition,” Sunny elucidates on his dream project. He has handpicked the orchestra, too, which includes Felicitas Geiger from Germany on the harp and A R Rahman’s flautist Naveen.
Says Sunny, “I’ve always loved doing fusion. A R Rahman is riding the fusion wave big time. But the fact is that there isn’t sufficient backing here. That’s when I decided to go global.” And Sunny’s dream project is on the threshold of realisation. “The album, produced by Spika Entertainment, will be released in New York in two months. One video has already been shot starring Hollywood stunt director Hunt Holliday and actor Maliah Sofia. Two more videos are in the offing.”
Sunny has composed for three Malayalam films. And there is something extraordinary about the music of each of them. While his debut film ‘Kshathriyam’ had Vasundhara Das crooning for him, the song ‘I Want To Be’ in ‘Isra’ introduced to the Malayalam industry singers Anneli Rydahl from Sweden and Seraya from Australia. After composing the tunes of ‘Sthithi,’ the musical gypsy had a long stint in the US where he performed in about 60 stages with a number of bands including McNarleys Rant and Simple Brothers.
Needless to say, the composer who plays seven instruments - of which the tabla is his favourite - wooed music lovers on a global level. “I performed in some of the choicest venues such as Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. Those few months abroad instilled in me the confidence to pursue my passion for music.” He has also worked with Canadian musician Ray Yule for the album ‘Yessiree’ besides other international artistes. “I’ve been fortunate enough to perform with local and international bands worldwide,” says Sunny. The song ‘Rachel Green’ he did with Swedish pop singer Anneli, whom he later introduced to Mollywood, was released in Sweden in 2005 and garnered good response.
“If not for music, I’d have been a journalist,” says Sunny, who has masters degrees in sociology and journalism. He was a guest columnist in a Malayalam daily prior to becoming the bureau chief of an English film magazine.
It was his job at Magna Sounds as Artists Research and Recording Manager that played a pivotal role in his music career. At a time when pop music invaded the minds of Indians whose staple music diet was film songs, Sunny played a big role in the promotion of many bands and singers. “Magna made a fantastic dent in the Indian music industry. We were behind some of the biggest hits of the time such as ‘Made in India’ and the songs of Colonial Cousins,” says Sunny, who was hugely responsible for the promotion of Daler Mehndi in Kerala.
“For once, we believed in non-filmi music. It was through Magna that I met many talented singers of the day including siblings Shaan and Sagarika, who were a rage at the time, and Hariharan, Vasundhara Das, Suneeta Rao, Sharon Prabhakar...lots of them.”
But the stress and strain of managerial duties took its toll and Sunny quit his job. “I was bedridden for nearly six months. Many people thought I’d never lead a normal life again.”
But he came back and how! His first album, ‘Janmangalai’ (2002) had Vasundhara Das, Suresh Gopi, Shaan and Sunita Rao crooning for him and later, ‘Malayalipenne’ in 2004, featuring Jyotsna.
“I started learning music from the age of five and grew up listening to K Raghavan Master teaching my mother, Shyamala Nair (an ex-AIR artist),” says Sunny, who has promoted a number of newcomers “who are talented but do not have the backing of godfathers and reality shows.” And he is happy for all of them who are making it big.
Surprisingly, Sunny is not against the influx of albums invading the industry. “Music is not owned by anyone. What matters is the link between the creator and the listener. Some people make songs for cheap publicity than out of passion. Those who don’t like it must just ignore them than talk a lot about it,” he says, referring to a few album songs that are in the limelight for all the bad reasons.
Sunny is also an event manager and has done a number of shows in and out of India and is a consultant for three music companies. Next in line for him are two Malayalam films and two albums.
“The Malayalam album is almost complete. Work is in progress for the Hindi album which will have Ustad Rashid Khan and Hariharan among others,” says Sunny, who is married to Priya, a teacher at LSN Convent, Ottapalam.
Ask him what he is into when he’s not making music and Sunny says, “Farmville on Facebook! I’m so addicted to it that I owe much to the game for cutting down my phone bills,” he says with a hearty laugh.