Suresh Peters: The Pettai Rap star
The singer-composer who is in the city for a music camp at the Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music, takes time to reflect on his career and chat about the increasing influence of technology in music
You have been a composer, singer, rapper… which do you like best?
I enjoy music production more than everything else, as it entails everything from composing to programming to arranging and playing music. I started as a drummer, which led me into AR Rahman’s band. I got into music production at a very early age. Sometime, about 25-26 years ago, when the process of synthesis was still relatively new, we woke up to the opportunity that music could be made from anywhere. That was the beginning of a digital era. I began learning to play the other instruments, like the guitar. It’s been a non-stop learning journey since then. It’s been 26 years, but I still feel like I'm just beginning. (laughs)
You’ve composed music for both jingles and films.
In a jingle, the product is the hero. Everything should be about highlighting it. Amid hundreds of jingles, you have to make sure yours stands out. It is quite a challenge because most of the time, though we record for one-minute ads, only 30 seconds get played.
You are generally thought of as being among the earliest rappers in the Tamil film scene.
People say that a lot, but that’s because of ‘Pettai Rap’. The genre had just arrived then. What made it so interesting for everyone was this concept of taking something local and then combining it with hip-hop… It was a brand new idea.
How much would you say has technology changed music, considering you were part of the earliest groups to embrace it?
Everything has become digital, be it the internet, film, radio… everything. But I truly believe that acoustic instruments—the guitar, tabla, veena…—will truly never disappear. They are the original instruments. But of course, we are able to synthetically reproduce some of their sounds today. And due to time and budget constraints, more people are taking to that. The future, whether you like it or not, is going to be more technology-based.
No conversation with you is truly complete without talking about ‘Chikku Bukku Raile’.
(Laughs) I think it was the first time I ever attempted to sing a song in Tamil. My schooling had all happened in Bombay and Pune. In fact, one of the best things about recording for that song was that I had no idea it was for a film. I did not even ask Rahman what it was for. A couple of months after the recording, I realised it was for a flm. I had to go back and re-sing it. It was no pressure, of course, because Rahman makes sure you're under no pressure. I least expected that this song would become a huge life-changer.