Released in early November the new EP from Yanchan Rajmohan, of Dirty Elephant Records, is proving that this artist is one to watch.
Sampling a wide range of styles and genres, Yanchan brings them together in a way that’s at once familiar and refreshingly unique. It’s no surprise that his song “Reminiscence” was a track of the week on Ashanti Omkar’s radio show on the BBC Asian Network. After listening to the EP, we were absolutely floored by this talented young artist’s work and had to find out more. Check out our interview below!
TamilCulture: What drives you to create music?
Yanchan Rajmohan: I’ve always had this curiosity about how to incorporate Carnatic sounds into other genres of music. Initially, I wasn’t sure which genre would work best but then I discovered some of Timbaland’s work. The way he fused the tabla into the song’s drum sequence on “Get Your Freak On” was inspiring and that’s when I realized that hip hop’s willingness to draw influence from South Indian sounds wasn’t the same as its willingness toward North Indian sounds.
My goal is to create a new sound for hip-hop using my Carnatic foundation.
TC: Have you had any formal training?
YR: At six, I took Carnatic vocal lessons and that led me to practicing the mrithangam. I’ve been studying and performing the mrithangam since, for the past fifteen years. I can also play the khanjira, ghatam and thavil.
TC: Who have you collaborated with so far?
YR: I’ve worked with many artists from Toronto’s music scene. They include Shaolin and Truejakczon, Slick Mason, Conwell, Aayuthaa, Keffa and CVRE. I have also been working with a few artists and producers under Cash Money, both learning and contributing. Under my label, Dirty Elephant, I work with AR-J and NO PRBLM.
TC: Which artists do you hope to work with in the future?
YR: Working with Drake and J. Cole would be the ultimate dream. I love the sound and emotions they display in their music as well as their willingness to push the boundaries of hip-hop.
TC: Which genres influence your music?
YR: Definitely Carnatic music and songs from Tamil and Hindi cinema. I also find influences in Hip-Hop, R&B, Soul, Trap, and a few sub-genres of Electronic. I love finding new music and exploring different genres because there’s a lot that can be taken away from such different sounds.
TC: What inspired the creation of Dirty Elephant Records?
YR: I’ve always wanted to build and run a record label. I want my label to become the primary platform for South Asian talent in the music industry.
TC: What are the best and worst things about being an independent artist?
YR: You have complete freedom to be yourself as an artist. No one has the power to mould you into something you are not. I think when you’re trying to do something original and achieve a sound that hasn’t been heard before, it’s important that there aren’t limitations to your creativity.
But it’s such a frustrating feeling when you don’t have all the necessary resources to accomplish your goals. Oh, and when an aunty asks your mom what you’re doing, and you see the face she makes when she tells them that you’re a musician.
TC: Why “Yours Truly” as the EP title?
YR: The sound of my entire EP is rooted in the pain and experiences I’ve dealt with in the past. It is essentially a letter I wrote to all the people who tried keeping me down, a message to them and the world of what I’m capable of. A middle finger with a smirk.
TC: What songs are sampled on this EP?
YR: I sampled Munbe Vaa for “Problematic”, Azhage Kutty Chellum for “12:01 AM”, Samijhavan for “Holy”, and Chitirai Nela for “Reminiscence”.
TC: Do you have a favourite song on Yours Truly?
YR: I love “No One” because it was the most personal to produce. There’s just something liberating about being able to get such strong emotions out onto a track, and No One being the most personal, made it that much more important to me.
TC: Which songs were the hardest and easiest to produce?
YR: “Problematic” was probably the hardest to produce. I’ve always wanted to sample “Munbe Vaa” but it never seemed fitting. When I finally chopped up the song, I had to find the right parts to use. The outro portion was also difficult to tackle but thanks to NO PRBLM, it came out great.
“No One” was the easiest to produce in terms of putting it all together. The melodies were already in my head and the drum pattern was inspired by my experience with the mrithangam.
When my songwriter, Arjun Palarajah, came over, we made history.
TC: Start to finish, how do you come up with your songs?
YR: It definitely varies from song to song. Most of the time, I’ll start by creating the skeleton of a beat I have in my head and add melodies based on what I’m feeling at the moment. Then I invite my songwriter to my home studio and we work on the lyrics for the beat, bar by bar.
TC: How can artists interested in collaborating reach out to you?
YR: Anyone interested in collaborating can contact firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m always looking for new artists to work with. If you think we could make something beautiful happen, please don’t hesitate to give me a shout.
TC: What’s the dream? What would make you say “I’ve made it”?
YR: World Domination. There’s so much I want to achieve with this platform I’ve been given and there’s just so much I dream of. I want Dirty Elephant to become a household name, along the ranks of OVO and TDE.
I want to make the mrithangam a familiar sound and instrument in music production. I want to leave my mark on hip hop. I want to help pave the way for other South Asians interested in music so they can pursue their dreams. I want to be that example, the one that assures them that anything is possible if you work hard enough and believe.
It was hard for me to take that leap and drop out of school to pursue music full time. I joke about my mom’s disapproval, but I had to get their blessings. I had to prove to them how serious I was about all this, and that I knew I was going to make it. I have a long way to go before I can see any bit of my dreams manifested, but I am on the pathway there.