Viveick Rajagopalan on his striking new collaborative release ‘Raat…Subah Si’

It was in 2006 that Mumbai’s Viveick Rajagopalan – multi-instrumentalist fusion artist and educator – had composed a slow-burn demo which has now become ‘Raat…Subah Si’. 

Along the way, it’s undergone several iterations and added a formidable line-up of collaborators – both sonically and visually for a music video – for its release on January 14. Rajagopalan says, “It was a scratch I’d made when I was working on a film. Nothing ever happened and everything just stayed. It’s gone through a life of its own in a way that it never felt right to release it. I figured I should just do it myself, since it never got picked up for a film.” 

Although a few vocalists had lent their voice previously, the artist found his best fit with singer and fusion artist Isheeta Chakrvarty in January last year. She says gleefully, “Viveick called me to the studio and played two songs he wanted me to work on. With the first song, I told him I liked it. The second one, which was ‘Raat… Subah Si’, I told him I’m taking it! It blew me away and that’s an understatement.” She calls it a song that’s more “experiential” than “intellectual” in its intent. 

The five and a half minute composition is certainly composed with a different form in mind, even though Chakrvarty succinctly delivers a moody hook that stays with you through wistful reminiscence. Part of the Shringar rasa of Indian art canon which devotes itself to romantic love, lyrics by K.C. Loy describe a woman “reminiscing about a beautiful night spent with her lover, and yearning for more”, as a press statement describes. Featuring veteran guitarist Sanjay Divecha providing a bed of intricate yet laidback melodies, Rajagopalan employs the fluid sound of the udu, a Nigerian drum that covers majority of the percussive elements. 

Adding to the dexterity of the song is Spanish clarinetist Carola Ortiz, who was included in the song early last year. “I met Carola at a gig in Finch and that’s when I heard her. It’s taken its time, I didn’t do anything but I knew what I wanted and I waited for those things to happen. Although there are literally just four elements in the song and each found its own pace. I couldn’t treat it as a conventional song at all,” Rajagopalan says of the track. 

Portrayed visually through the lens of first-time filmmaker Rafiq Raja, ‘Raat… Subah Si’ features choreographer, dancer and actor Aditi Bhagwat essaying a lead role of the woman getting ready but also winsomely looking back at the night prior. Rajagopalan says, “Firstly, the subject is something that women are perhaps not open to express. The idea that it is such a pure emotion and to be honest to that was a challenge.” 

For Chakrvarty, the track was an important one simply because it’s a “celebration of the feminine.” She explains, “We don’t talk about female desire and sensuality, so this was a woman’s song and I also brought personal experiences into it.” As for Rajagopalan, he’s glad his composition could see the light of day and now there’s more on the waly. “I had my days of saying, ‘Oh man I don’t want to do this anymore’. First you have to make a song and then the video. You have to go through the fine lines, because if the video turns out bad, it can kill a song. That is something I don’t negotiate – that it’s a decent job done. I had things in mind like making it black and white and the feeling being raw and the nuance being there.”