Many musicians have carved out a place for themselves beyond the space of film music. Their world is far more fascinating than creating music in the realm of framing and storytelling. Manoj George is one of these musicians. How many of us know this Malayalee violinist who won the Grammy constituted by the American National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences? This is her second Grammy, mind you. A feat that every Malayalee should be proud of. The 2022 Grammy for Best New Age Album went to “Divine Trends,” in which Manoj performed as a violinist, bandleader, and string arranger. Here is the special Manorama interview with the artist.
Your second Grammy. What does it do?
It’s a great honor! And I feel blessed to be part of the Grammys again. This is the second time Rikki Cage’s album has won a Grammy. The first time was in 2015, for his album “Winds of Samsara”. At that time, I was a violinist, conductor and string arranger. For the last award-winning album as well, I managed the same departments.
Are the Malayalees sufficiently represented at the Grammys? Are you the first Malayalee to win this?
I think it was 2015 when a Malayalee was part of the Grammys. Also, I am the first Indian violinist to win a Grammy. Most of our people don’t even know about the Grammys. The Grammys are awards given to music albums. Everyone knows the Oscars and that AR Rahman and Rasool Pookutty won them. I have even had people ask me if these were awards given by a village (in Malayalam 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, called me to congratulate me. I had then asked him to create a section of state prizes for these musicians outside the cinema. Not only did he respond positively to such a request, but even made an announcement declaring such a rewards package. But the government has changed. I think we need a similar award for musicians and composers outside of cinema in Kerala. It will be a great source of encouragement for budding musicians. If Oommen Chandy’s government was still there, it would have materialized. I had met Minister AK Balan and made a proposal. He had agreed, but somehow nothing happened so far.
Don’t we also want national-level brands?
A national band can really help expand the Indian music scene. America, Britain and Israel have it. They have western classic. We need a group that explores the endless Indian ragas. This group will be the bridge that connects our culture and our music to the world. We have so many eminent musicians in Kerala but their only platform to show their talent is cinema. And all of them want to sing and make music for the cinema. Of course, cinema is our greatest entertainment, but there are very few people who are able to succeed in cinema. It remains to opt for independent music. I don’t think they get enough platforms or opportunities to show off their talent. I insist on a separate series of awards because I think it will help popularize these artists. So I think the government of Kerala should take steps to launch an award for these musicians.
What is your opinion on the musical groups of Kerala?
I started with this band called ‘Antharagni’ in the early 2000s. And we played in 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 different types of music and instruments. I’m happy to see a group like ‘Avial’ grow.
Tell us about your new project…
I’m doing a Malayalam movie right now. The songs are almost ready. I’m also planning a few albums.