'Livin’ on a Prayer': Thomson Andrews on singing Sanskrit shlokas in Brahmastra

RnB Funk Neo Soul singer and British-Indian musician Thomson Andrews’s latest claim to fame is singing Sanskrit shlokas in Brahmastra.

Published: 18th September 2022 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 17th September 2022 01:30 PM   |  A+A-

 Thomson Andrews

 Thomson Andrews

Express News Service

Ask Thomson Andrews to describe his singing style and he says, “I am a Pop, RnB, Funk, Blues, Jazz and Soul singer-songwriter and performer, but I vibe to all music that’s soothing, hooky, foot-tapping, whether it is dance music or romantic ballads.”

The latest feather in his cap, though, is singing Sanskrit shlokas for the Bollywood film Brahmastra. An unusual choice for someone whose musical influences include Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, James Brown, Donny Hathaway, Beyonce, Aretha Franklin and Michael Jackson.

On closer inspection, however, one discovers that Andrews has been trained in the Gwalior gharana of Hindustani classical singing for four years, and started his Bollywood singing career with A R Rahman. For Brahmastra, he was approached by music director Pritam, with whom he has previously worked on films like 83, Ludo, Jagga Jasoos, Raees and more.

“It’s my first time singing sacred shlokas in Sanskrit. In the past, I have sung several Sufi Bollywood songs, Gospel songs, and albums, but the scale of Brahmastra is much grander than those. I’m so glad I could be part of this project and absolutely love the film score, not only as a musician but also as a member of the audience who consumes Indian cinema and music,” the 34-year-old singer-songwriter says.

Such a major departure from his usual style was certainly a challenge to contend with. Andrews explains that during the first few dubbing sessions, he struggled with picking up some of the Sanskrit words and phrases, especially as they had to be sung in varying scales and rhythm patterns, showcasing the perfect blend, dynamics, power, and articulation for the entire chant to sound strong and captivating. Other challenges included navigating the erratic dubbing sessions and ad-hoc schedules in the midst of simultaneous projects, and the odd hours at which the team worked. Andrews overcame these challenges with a positive attitude, and the willingness to go the extra mile.

A still from Brahmastra

Being part of India’s first Hindi-language fantasy action-adventure film is a dream come true for Andrews. Describing it as a “wow moment” for his career, he is particularly proud of being given the opportunity to work with Amitabh Bachchan, the Dharma movies production team, and the film leads Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt.

Brought up Catholic, Andrews sang hymns and Gospel music at church in the UK and was touring with choirs and bands internationally in France, Germany and Spain, while still in high school. Singing for ad jingles, and doing studio recordings for Bollywood films soon followed. He claims the turning point in his life happened when he was given the chance to perform on stage for maestro AR Rahman’s IPL Awards 2010 televised performance. This opened Pandora’s box of musical gigs for him.

Currently based in Mumbai, the singer keeps travelling for shows and shoots across the globe. Next on the cards are two animated Netflix children’s web series, a Disney film, and a project for Apple TV, as well as Rahman’s next film titled Cobra. “On the Bollywood front, my next project is with the iconic director-composer Sanjay Leela Bhansali, for which I am extremely excited. I am also releasing two of my Indie singles soon,” he shares. Andrews is a busy, busy man.

‘It’s my first time singing sacred shlokas for a film of this scale. In the past, I have sung Sufi Bollywood and Gospel songs.’


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