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Articles March-April-May-June 2020

The Art and Craft of Sound Design- Interview with Bishwadeep Chatterjee

PT met up with Bishwadeep Chatterjee, one of India’s most esteemed Sound Designer. In this extremely insightful interview, he generously shares his unique perspective and experience on music recording and sound design..... read more

Bose Professional Assures an IMMERSIVE SOUNDSCAPE At Sardar Patel Stadium – The Largest Cricket Stadium in the World

US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump were welcomed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as they arrived for the “Namaste Trump” event on 24 Feb 2020..... read more

Shankar and Siddharth Mahadevan’s Lambodara Studios – Leaves you Breathless

Auroville based leading acoustic consultancy & audio video system design firm Sound Wizard was tasked with designing acclaimed singer, composer and music director Shankar Mahadevan’s ..... read more

In Conversation With Sreejesh Nair

Besides being a part of the first Dolby Atmos Mix theater installation in India and the first Dolby Atmos Premiere Mix room in the world, Sreejesh Nair has been responsible for crafting the sound for major films like Bombay Velvet, Gangs of Wasseypur - II, Agneepath..... read more

Stained Class Productions - Beyond the Realms of Sound

Meet the father & son duo, Murugan N. and Mrinal N. whose musical influence has been Judas Priest and who have aptly named their studio after the fourth studio album of Judas Priest - Stained Class. Mrinal who manages the technical aspects ..... read more

Independent Producers Blurb on their Music and Technology

One of Asia’s largest music festivals, OPPO Sunburn in association with Percept Live and Klassique Events Goa returned to its birthplace Goa, this December after a hiatus of 3 years. The festival which made a grand homecoming for its 13th edition at Vagator for a three-day showcase ..... read more

Sequence of Steps to Follow on Resuming Studio Operations Post an Extended Duration of Shutdown

Munro Acoustics India has put together a suggestion/ guideline document after consulting many studios and engineers across the world to aid their clients in the Indian Subcontinent, Middle East and SE Asia..... read more

Acoustic and Audio System Design for Small Rooms - Part 1

Acoustic and audio system design for a “small room” can be extremely challenging, especially for critical listening applications like control rooms and reference home cinemas. It is vital to understand the relationship between system..... read more

Harman Reigns Supreme in Indian Cinemas

Sound in the cinema, until recently, was dictated by standardized speaker layouts. If you are from the commercial cinema project, from the first design to the finished furnishings..... read more

Recording To Records

Music in India has changed drastically. This music and song driven country which is largely dominated by Bollywood soundtracks, has in the past year seen less of originals and more of old songs being plagiarised..... read more

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Divine’s Debut Album Marks India’s Arrival in The Global Hip Hop Scene




Brochure

The hip-hop movement in India has been snowballing for the last few years gaining critical momentum through the release of the Oscar-nominated film Gully Boy. Hindi and regional rap has made it’s way from the gullies of Dharavi to the big screen and has even created an impression on east coast rap mogul Nas. There is no better testament to this journey than the debut album of Divine, the golden child of India’s hip-hop scene. Titled Kohinoor, the 8 track album was released in early October on Nas-owned Mass Appeal Records and marks a significant milestone for the hip-hop community. The DNA of hip-hop is not just defined by the beats, but also through lyricism and language. It is a vehicle through which the stories of struggle are narrated, infused with a rhythmic cadence or ‘flow’ and generous dose of local slang that gives it authenticity and identity. The genre is further defined through a range of production and mixing techniques, from booming 808 drums to sampling jazzy breaks and catchy musical toplines. Kohinoor is written with this DNA at heart, a solid musical record that could have been made to shine brighter on the production and mixing front.

The Review

For the purposes of this review, the music was heard through Audeze LCD2 headphones as well as Adam A5X studio monitors.

What sticks out on first impression is the range of music and production styles that span the album, from east coast and old school hip-hop to more contemporary trap and even dancehall beats. It is not often that you hear such a range of production styles, especially since an album is an artist’s endeavour to define one underlying sound through multiple narratives. Albums are usually milestones in the evolution of an artist’s sound and Kohinoor is more of a showcase of the various styles through which Divine defines his art form. The album has tracks that would take off on a dance floor, featuring catchy hooks mixed with heavy bass and kick drums like Chal Bombay, to head-bobbing story based tracks like Kohinoor, and even soulful R&B influences heard on Too Hype. This type of album programming would seem a bit confusing to traditional hip-hop audiences in the West. However, India has a deep rhythmic culture that ranges from the pulsating beats of Ganpati to more half-time dhol rhythms, so we are no stranger to a diverse palette of percussion and our ears are already tuned to digest a variety of tempos and rhythmic feels.

The overall mix on the album is quite enjoyable, however it does get a bit 2D at times. An immersive 3D mix style with a wide dynamic range is something which keeps the listener engaged and prevents ear fatigue. This can be brought out through a more comprehensive use of the mixing space; panning out instruments and introducing light movement in elements to play with the stereo sound field. It is also a great way to subtly create tension and release over the duration of a track, using mix techniques to feed the narrative of the song. Focusing in on the vocal mix, they strive to be strong and upfront with not a lot of FX going on. The amplitude and EQ levels seem to vary on the vocals, sitting well on the mix like in Vibe Hai, yet appearing muddy like in Gandhi Money. This variance is often a result of using different vocal mixing chains and calls for a consistency in dynamics. Frequency masking is an issue that can arise from having too many elements sharing the same space, and that can be heard especially in the low-mids in tracks like Remand. Too many instruments are fighting for presence in the 200-1000 Hz range, which dilutes the punch that is needed for an impactful mix. In contrast to this, Too Hype has a well established relationship between the vocal and the instrument elements. A stronger balance between dry and wet vocals could have been further explored, introducing more reverb automation, delays, harmony stacks and FX processing that would add the bells and whistles or ear candy to really make the vocals pop. The sound of the vocals across the tracks should ideally have one defining characteristic that is consistent and emphasises the sweet spot, and the rest of the mix should be built around this focal point.

Instrumentally speaking tracks like Chal Bombay and Wallah have a beautiful and well rounded feel in the low end and all the layers sit together in a tight mix. They have a good amount of bounce and punchy percussion and really deliver a satisfying experience to the listener. Chal Bombay in particular also has a nice sparkly high end that seems to be missing in other tracks and really stands out as it has good presence across the full frequency spectrum. The final track Too Hype has the most dynamic mix on the album, and the instruments are arranged and mixed in a real-story telling manner with an ebb and flow in the percussion. Built on low end, hip-hop mixes can become too boomy if proper control is not exercised. Rather than boosting EQs, a standard trick is to introduce upper harmonics through saturating the low end in order to give it presence. This also allows one to better define where the kick, bass and vocals sit in the low mids, since these are there 3 elements that are often fighting for space and presence. Most of the tracks also feature pads or sustained melodic content in the background that adds a nice tonality, but remain static for the most part. Often overlooked, sidechaining is a great technique to make such layers pump and breathe with the drums or with other toppling melodies.

Marking a significant milestone for Indian hip-hop, Kohinoor is definitely a diverse showcase of the artist’s lyrical style and story telling ability. Favourites like Chal Bombay and Too Hype are real indicators that homegrown Hip Hop is reaching global standards in terms of mix and production. The album is his story and speaks to his audience, and his journey from a youtube rapper to the big leagues is something a lot of young MCs look upto. Indian hip hop has spread like a wildfire, and the flag bearers now also have the responsibility of growing and progressing the sound and style into a an art form that cross borders, not just be enjoyed domestically within the country. The music and vocals for Kohinoor were composed and recorded by a number of producers such as Ill Wayno from NYC, Phenom from Goa & Xplicit from Delhi. The album has been mixed and mastered by Charles Wakeman at Circle House Studios and Abhishek Ghatak at Headroom Studios.

www.producedbyabhi.com


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