Trichur brothers break traditional bounds to make Carnatic music 'cool'

Ramkumar Mohan and Srikrishna Mohan, aka Trichur Brothers, consider themselves anything but purists. The musical brothers share their views on how Carnatic music needs to evolve with time
Trichur brothers break traditional bounds to make Carnatic music 'cool'

BENGALURU: Trichur Brothers’ concerts are always a delightful experience, not just for the beautiful Carnatic music they render but also for their way of involving the crowd with their music. Ramkumar Mohan, one of the brothers, mentions, “During a concert, a young boy asked when we were going to do the ‘sing-along portion’. It is one of our ways to make Carnatic music sound ‘cool’ for the younger audience.”

The brothers, who were recently in the city, are known for their experimentation. “Right from 2010 when we started performing, we have done a lot of harmonisation. Since both of us were exposed to choirs and both of us love Michael Jackson, we have incorporated Western-style elements without going outside the boundaries of Carnatic music.

We were never purists. I still remember when we started bringing harmonisation elements in our concerts, we faced criticism for breaking the traditional Carnatic mould,” recalls Srikrishna Mohan. Adding to that Ramkumar says, “I often find that what they call a purist approach is a closed approach, in the sense that it is not about keeping the music pure, it is about not evolving with time. There is a certain amount of evolution that needs to keep happening.”

Coming from a family of connoisseurs of music, it was their father, veteran Mridangam Vidwan Trichur R Mohan who got them into music. “There was a lot of music around us and there were no restrictions on the kind of music we listened to. We grew up listening to all genres. Of course, the most popular genre was light devotional music which was popularised by KJ Yesudas and P Jayachandran. Music in Kerala, be it film music or devotional music, there is a strong Carnatic element to it. So learning was natural in that sense,” says Srikrishna.

It was not just music that both the brothers excelled at. At one point they also were successful Chartered Accountants, but didn’t hesitate to leave their flourishing careers to devote time to music. “From 2004 when we finished Chartered Accountancy, we moved to Chennai. Until 2014, we had a hectic life, juggling between our office and concerts. There was a time in 2014 when were doing roughly 90-100 concerts a year.

It became difficult for us to do justice to music or the work we were doing,” says Srikrishna. To this, Ramkumar immediately adds, “The decision had to be made. In fact, Srikrishna quit his job seven months before I did. I didn’t even want to quit my job because I liked what I did. But there was this moment while I was listening to some classical music in my cabin that it hit me that there is a bigger world outside that I could explore.”

Looking back, the brothers wouldn’t have it any other way. Soon after they took up music full-time, it got them one of their biggest music projects – the Namami Gange – which then went on to become the anthem for the Clean Ganga Movement.

In the news

In a recent controversy revolving around the Madras Music Academy honouring Carnatic musician TM Krishna with the Sangita Kalanidhi, the Trichur Brothers said that Carnatic music is a unifying factor. They said, “Mr TM [Krishna] is only being divisive with his narrative, and is unnecessarily making the whole issue political! Leave music out of it.”

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