She broke into the ‘scene’ over three years ago, but Aditi Ramesh remains one of the most underrated independent musicians in the country. Earlier this year, the lawyer-turned-singer who blends her Carnatic classical training with jazz and hip-hop, collaborated on Kathir, a single, with Tamil hip-hop artist MC Valluvar and music producer Keba Jeremiah. A little before that, she had also starred in the music video for her own song Shakti — both the track and its visually well-crafted video had found a sizeable audience.
Still, Ramesh is yet to attain the virality of some of her peers. The upside of this however, is that her sound, so distinct and so fresh, is still there for the world to discover for the first time. To experience one of Ramesh’s tracks is to fall into something slow and soothing yet scintillating — almost like watching colours mix into water. Learning later that Ramesh experiences a perceptual phenomenon called synesthesia — she says she sees music in visuals and colours — puts the experience of her sound in perspective. Both her 2020 singles Heal and Sambar Soul, and Leftovers, her last EP released in 2019, capture this.
Currently, Ramesh is “in a very experimental phase” as she works on a few Tamil and Hindi songs. The year 2023 promises to take her touring to different cities, with a slew of her WIP projects to come out soon: she will be releasing an EP in English early next year, a “kind of R&B-Pop-Soul”; Gatekeeper, an animated musical by animator Ujwal Nair and producer Indou Thiagarajan that Ramesh composed, produced, arranged and directed the music for during the covid years, is also set to release. “That’s a big project for me — I’ve never done something that took so long and of its scale before,” she notes.
In an interview with Lounge, Ramesh talks about the way she relates to her music, the place she works from and how it's evolved, and more. Edited excerpts.
Describe your current workspace to us.
My current workspace is my home studio. It's a room in my house and it's a proper professional studio with hardware, gear, keyboards, guitars, a bass, multiple mics, and multiple headphones. We have done live stream gigs during the pandemic as well from this room, with a full drum kit and a full band. I use it for like music production, vocal recording, guitar and keys recordings. I don't really need to go to an outside studio at all.
Has it always been this way? Or has it evolved over the years?
It has not always been this way. For the first two years (of her music career) I didn't have a setup at all. I would only do recording-work either in a studio, for which I had to pay for by the hour, which was very expensive for me at that time, or at a friend's house. It used to be quite cumbersome because if I suddenly get a project, like if somebody needs vocals for an ad, I would have to run to a friend's house, and also (hope that they) are free. In 2019, I set up a very basic minimal home studio, with two monitors, a keyboard, a computer, and a guitar, in a room that was not sound-treated. It was only useful for ideation, and final recordings, I’d go to a proper studio. During the pandemic, I spent the time and money to save and invest in making a space like this for myself in my home, so that no matter what the situation is, I have full recording and working abilities from my own space. It's like come from zero to this.
How would you define your daily relationship with this space?
It's a part of my every single day. There are so many things that I do in this space — I’m here in this space early mornings, first thing after I wake up, to do my Carnatic practice. I teach music online from here, I do my daily piano practice here. It’s where I practice, teach, ideate, write, record, and it's where I jam with other musicians. I've made it cozy because I spend most of my day in here — I’m here for five hours, six hours everyday. Everything is in this one room so I can write and (record a scratch) simultaneously, depending on the mood and the feel. So it is a very special relationship; it’s my safe space and I love being in there. It's where I'm so comfortable that creativity can flow very easily in that space.
Tell us about some of the eureka moments you have had and major works that you have done from here.
I can't recall a specific eureka moment while working in this room because I feel like with creating music, you are constantly switching between being either completely lost or having lots of ideas that may not be really cohesive. You go through this process, and then finally something clicks… so I don't think I have or recall a specific such moment. The whole process comprises of many little eureka moments.
If you were to trade in this place for another, what would it be?
I think probably just something more professional. I now live in a flat but my dream would be to have a separate little studio house, which has multiple little rooms — a drum room, a main recording room, a vocal booth, and a control room all with glass doors which you can see each other and communicate. But it should also be cozy and feel homey because you spend so much time in there. Also if if since we're talking dream workspace, it would be nice if it is surrounded like by trees and huge glass windows.
What's the one thing that has always been at your workspace over the years. Why?
The one thing that has always been in my workspace is a keyboard and an electronic tanpura. Even when I didn't have any proper recording setup, I used these for practice, songwriting, and putting down ideas even if it's not in a recorded format. Now, a real tanpura has replaced my electronic tanpura. I use that for my practice now.
One musician/composer/piece of music that helps through an uninspiring phase better. What about their work/it helped?
It's very difficult to name one musician, composer, or piece of music because I have too many different influences and inspirations. I like Carnatic music, jazz, R&B, soul, hip hop, folk, and funk. So the artist inspiring me and getting me through blocks and mental blocks will be one person if I'm writing a very cinematic Tamil song this week, but this will be someone else if I'm writing an English hip-hop song the next. At present, this is Santosh Narayanan, because he's very creative in the way that he composes and uses sounds and arranges music — I'm in a phase now where I am making slightly cinematic but offbeat music.
Have you ever composed anything for a loved one? Can you talk about who, and the piece itself?
I have actually never written a song about or for a loved one. I'm currently working on some music in Tamil, for which I had my dad’s help for the lyrics. That was a special experience to share with my parents, especially because it took them some time to really understand why I'm doing this (leaving law and getting into music full time) and become as supportive as they now are. So that felt really meaningful.
Creative Corner is a series about writers, artists, musicians, founders and other creative individuals and their relationships with their workspaces.