Mr. Viraj Bahri has achieved a great deal of success as a singer-songwriter. Most recently, he was part of the Grammy-nominated album “Shuruaat” in collaboration with the Berklee Indian Ensemble, which is a remarkable accomplishment. Being recognized at such a prestigious level is a testament to his exceptional musical abilities and hard work. In addition to his acclaim in the US, he was also invited to perform and arrange music for a Buddhist chant for His Holiness The Dalai Lama in Delhi, which is a great honor.
He was the only performer at the event, and his performance received recognition from India’s leading people, including industrialists, business leaders, and politicians. Moreover, he performed as the lead singer on the Indian national song “Vande Mataram Restrung,” released by Crescendo Music and Speed Records, which has garnered significant popularity on social media and received hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube.
He has also received two Artist Aloud Awards for Best Video and Best Duo (Mother-Son) for his work on the song, which is India’s only award for independent music. Mr. Bahri was also handpicked by the leading record label Sony Music India to direct the music video, produce music, and perform as the lead singer on the official commercial for Berklee College of Music, which is a remarkable achievement.
These accomplishments are a testament to his talent and dedication to music, and we wanted to learn more. So we reached out to Mr. Bahri for a quick interview and a behind-the-scenes look at these high-profile performances.
Congratulations on being part of the Grammy-nominated album “Shuruaat” in collaboration with the Berklee Indian Ensemble. Being part of a Grammy-nominated album is a great achievement. Can you discuss your contributions to this project?
Being a part of a Grammy-Nominated album is one of the most surreal moments I’ve had this past year. Moments like these are extremely reassuring and motivating. I am extremely grateful for the support from my mentors, family, and friends.
“Shuruaat” was a massive endeavor that the Berklee Indian Ensemble set out on. It had some of the finest musicians, producers, and engineers. Soon, we had other collaborating artists that came along and made this project even more special. I think the biggest challenge in such a vast project is planning and scheduling. Once that’s taken care of, collaboration is always fun and filled with surprises.
The album featured legends, including tabla master Zakir Hussain, singers Shankar Mahadevan and Vijay Prakash, and Bollywood icon Shreya Ghoshal. It really is a full spectrum of what the ensemble has created as a team, as a family, over the last 10 years.
This was also the first time a Berklee album got nominated for the Grammys.
How did you get involved with the Berklee and Sony Music India commercial?
The Berklee X Sony Music commercial was a dream project for me. Bringing together the diverse community and culture at Berklee with the top Indian music label, Sony Music India, was an exhilarating experience for me. In the last four years, I have been recognized by Berklee and Sony individually on a number of my projects for the unique writing and production styles I present in my work.
In my very last semester, I had a script and concept for a Berklee promotional video that really touched the president, Erica Muhl, when she heard it. This was when she asked me to lead this project and execute it exactly how I envisioned it. Her support and belief in me were extremely motivating and reassuring.
Once the project was complete and Sony Music India saw it, they were eager to re-release and distribute the project on their platform with over 50 million subscribers. The project went on to have over two million views, was featured in various newspapers, and also ended up on radio stations around the country.
Aside from the recognition mentioned above, you’re well-known in India for singing the national song that was released by two very well-known labels – can you tell us how this project came about?
Vande Mataram is the national song of India. It’s really THE song of the nation. Written in Sanskrit “Vande Mataram” means “I bow to thee, mother,” a poem from the famed novel “Anandamath” written in Bengali and Sanskrit by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay in 1882.
It is a tune every Indian knows by heart. Even though this tune is known by all, it has always been used in the context of respecting the motherland. In 2014 there was a brutal rape case in the capital, New Delhi called “Nirbhaya.” This left the nation mourning and in shock. The country was in despair and the people were angered.
With Vande Mataram Restrung, our objective was to reach the youth of India through a contemporary version of the National Song with a refreshed interpretation. The refreshed interpretation is that we need to respect the women before we talk about respecting the land. Being the lead singer on this project was a huge honor and responsibility. I am forever grateful for being chosen, really as the voice representing the youth of my nation. This project continues to be closest to me.
What is the biggest challenge of leading a large ensemble vs performing as the main performer for a big event such as you did for the Dalai Lama?
Personally, I love doing both. Leading an ensemble as well as being the lead performer are both exciting in their own way.
The biggest challenge I experience with a large ensemble or crew is the planning and scheduling that comes with it. Having a team dedicated to doing just that makes things a little simpler, but it is definitely challenging. Apart from that, collaboration is always my favorite part of any endeavor. On the other hand, being the lead is also very similar in a sense. There is nothing without teamwork. I don’t think of being the lead as a solo act because it is really not. You still need to work with your team and become one, and only when everyone is coordinated perfectly, that’s when the act shines.