A national band can help expand Indian music: Grammy winner Manoj George

Manoj George.

There are many musicians who have carved a niche for themselves beyond the space of film music. Their world is far more fascinating than creating music within the realm of framing and storytelling. Manoj George is one such musician. How many of us know of this Malayalee violinist who won the Grammy constituted by the American National academy of recording of arts and science? This is his second Grammy, mind you. An achievement that should make every Malayalee proud. The 2022 Grammy for Best New age Album was awarded to ‘Divine Trends’, which had Manoj play the role of violinist, conductor, and string arranger. Here is the Manorama special interview with the artist.

Your second Grammy. How does it feel?

It is a great honour! And I feel blessed to be a part of the Grammy Awards again. This is the second time that Rikki Cage’s album is winning a Grammy. The first time it was in 2015, for his album ‘Winds of Samsara.’ At that time I was a violinist, conductor and string arranger. For the latest award-winning album also, I handled the same departments.

Are Malayalees represented enough at the Grammys? Are you the first Malayalee to win this?

I think it was in 2015 that a Malayalee was part of the Grammy. Also, I am the first Indian violinist to win a Grammy. Most of our people don’t even know about the Grammy. The Grammys are awards given to music albums. Everyone knows about the Oscars and that AR Rahman and Rasool Pookutty won them. There are people who have even asked me if they are the awards given by a village (in the Malayalam language a village is called a grammam). It’s sad that no one knows the value of this award.

In 2015, when we won the Grammy, our then Chief Minister Oommen Chandy had called to congratulate me. I had then requested him to start a state award section for those musicians outside the cinema. Not only had he responded positively to such a request but had even made an announcement declaring such a set of awards. But the govt changed. I think we need a similar award for musicians and composers outside the cinema in Kerala. It will be a great source of encouragement for aspiring musicians. If the Oommen Chandy govt was still there, it would have materialized. I had met Minister AK Balan and given a proposal. He had agreed but somehow nothing has happened so far.

Don’t we want National level brands too?

A National band can really help in expanding the Indian music scene. America, Britain, and Israel have it. They have western classical. We need a band that explores the infinite Indian ragas. That band will be the bridge that connects our culture and music to the world. We have so many eminent musicians in Kerala but their only platform to display their talent is cinema. And all of them want to sing and make music for cinema. Of course, cinema is our biggest entertainment but there are very few people who are able to make it big in cinema. Rest opt for independent music. I don’t think they are getting enough platforms or opportunities to showcase their talent. I am insisting on a separate set of awards as I feel that will help in popularizing these artists. So I think the Kerala govt should take some steps to initiate an award for such musicians.

What is your take on the Kerala musical bands?

I started with this band called ‘Antharagni’ in the early 2000s. And we have performed at various places. We played original music there. '13 AD' is the most popular music band in Kerala and even South India. After that trends and cultures changed. Now there are so many bands here. There are musicians who experiment with various kinds of music and instruments. I am happy to see the growth of a band like 'Avial'.

Tell us about your new project...

I am doing a Malayalam film right now. Songs are almost ready. Am also planning some albums as well. 

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