Tech Panda x Kenzani are on a musical mission to carry India's culture forward, the electronica way – The Indian Express

Artistes, today, are experimenting with various formats, forms, and genres of music. One such artiste-duo is Rupinder Nanda and Kedar Santwani, aka Tech Panda x Kenzani, who is on a mission to carry the country’s “culture forward” while attempting to restore Indian electronica. Ask them why (and how) they plan to do that, and they say tunes from the “golden times” are “clearly lost in the current times”, and that “music just needs to be repackaged in a way that today’s people can comprehend”.
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Recently, the duo also set the tune for designer Manish Malhotra‘s Mijwan Couture runway show, which had actors Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh as showstoppers.
Talking more about their work, Tech Panda x Kenzani take us behind their one-of-a-kind music genre, explain their mission to “restore” Indian culture through Indian electronica, reveal their dream to be awarded the Padma Bhushan, and finally share their experience of working with Manish Malhotra and muses for Mijwan — Ranveer and Deepika.
 
 
 
A post shared by Manish Malhotra (@manishmalhotra05)
 
 
Tell us about ‘Tech Panda’ and ‘Kenzani’ — as individuals, and as a team.
Kenzani: We both have individual energies and different ways of expressing ourselves when it comes to producing music. I believe energetic electronica has been more of my calling whereas he is more rooted in a classical, refined kind of music background. Therefore, when we first met, it wasn’t like we clicked in an instant. We took our time to meet at a mid-ground and get going from there.
Tech Panda: I’m a purist! I have always been drawn more toward classical sounds and for that, all credits go to my nani (maternal grandmother.) She was an MA degree holder in the Indian instrument, sitar. So a more organic, minimal distortion has naturally taken center stage in my music taste.
Tech Panda x Kenzani as a team: The thought was, you know, older times were not so technologically advanced. Due to that, earlier recordings were of very poor quality. The classical instruments recorded had lots of glitches. So taking that idea forward, we’ve basically been on a mission to give a refined sound with the best output to tunes from the golden times, because it’s clearly lost in the current times. All we feel is the music just needs to be repackaged in a way that today’s people can comprehend. So through our music, we want to carry India’s culture forward because its richness deserves that respect. That’s this duo’s main goal!
Where, when, and how did it begin for you both?
Tech Panda x Kenzani: We met through a common friend, and here’s what people don’t know — we didn’t like each other on the first go. But we had exchanged numbers and one fine day I (Kenzani) contacted him for a studio session. We sat down for our first of many tracks — he (Tech Panda) had his mind brimming with ideas, I had my hands working, the creative juices got flowing, and somehow, something just effortlessly got created within 3 hours.
The next morning we heard it, and we were blown! That sound gave us pleasure, it made us happy. We were truly left in awe and that’s when we knew this is it! We began infusing the genre in our system, put in years of hard work, and since then, it’s just been onwards and upwards.
What is the idea behind such quirky stage names?
Tech Panda: My nature has always been bent toward being laid back, chilled out, and living in a Zen mode, which is basically what describes a panda.
Kenzani: I played with my actual name. My first name is Kedar, so I took the letters ‘k’ and ‘e’ from that. My family name is Santwani from where I picked the ‘ani.’ Connecting these two, the stage name Kenzani came to life.
What inspired you to experiment with Indian classical music by fusing it with the electronic, which is a stark contrast?
Tech Panda: The gap! There came a time when I had nothing to listen to for 10 years. That space was absolutely empty with nothing new brewing. And that’s because people were probably afraid to come out and experiment. We have to understand that it’s difficult to make money out of this profession. It takes a while for any musician to establish themselves, especially if they’re trying to enter the industry with a niche kind of sound. Anybody can take up Bollywood music and probably create something cheesy out of it in order to make money. But it takes real efforts to stay true to where you belong and from where you first began. So it just struck us that we all listen to electronica and we also want to stick to our Indian roots. We don’t want to leave India, so we thought, why not induce the Indian culture into our music?
What are some of your favourite tracks produced and why?
Tech Panda: The two music tracks I thoroughly enjoy are Infinity and Mat Lovely. And here’s the best part — we never really marketed these specials so not many have heard it.
Kenzani: For me, it has to be our track called Jiya. It’s a pretty mellow track, but super soulful. Another one of my go-to tracks is Lost in Love. But although I’m naming these two as my all-time favourites, it changes every time I put my heart into a new track we’re working on.
Tech Panda x Kenzani: We’ve never believed in suppressing ourselves when it comes to ideating, producing, and executing sounds. Every track we’ve produced, we never save it in our hard disk and leave it to die. We’re always so eager to release it so we know it’s at least out there, breathing. So it’s never been about favourites, but more about what comes from the soul — regardless of the response — it’s okay if it doesn’t get appreciated, but there’s always going to be someone who’ll deeply understand it.
How would you describe the Indian electronica culture?
Kenzani: I think it’s in a good place. It’s growing! Several new artists are coming up and I’m glad to see that. The audience is evolving when it comes to sounds, and musicians know that, thus experimentation is on the rise. This is also resulting in something larger wherein it’s an evolution of the listeners and artists alike. So it’s definitely headed in the right direction.
When you say “restoring” Indian electronica, what do you exactly mean?
Kenzani: In the last 10 years, there was a sharp decrease in the artists bringing out Indian electronica, or anything fresh for that matter. And we noticed that because we ourselves wanted to indulge in this genre but never really got a chance. That’s where the idea to restore Indian electronica emerged. But when it comes to cementing this genre, I think we’ll need at least 100 thought processes similar to Tech Panda x Kenzani and another two decades of this sound to ensure it stays forever.
Tech Panda: This is music that belongs to a golden period. It’s not a genre you would listen to for mere 2-3 years and forget about. It’s fresh, everlasting, and evergreen!
How would you describe your journey of fusing electronic music with traditional folk?
Kenzani: Magical! It’s been surreal because when you undergo so much struggle in your work and suddenly you’re in a place where you’re reaping the benefits and the hard work is being paid off, that feeling is irreplaceable.
Tech Panda: Kabhi socha hi nahi iske baare mein (We never really contemplated it.) We just kept working towards our goals with zero apprehensions and second thoughts about the outcome. All we focused on was being true to ourselves, that’s all.
From a time spent in a room brainstorming your first track to now setting designer Manish Malhotra’s Mijwan Couture Runway on fire with your tunes — how does it feel to achieve this milestone?
Kenzani: This is hard to answer! When we were there at Manish’s show, we were so engrossed in our work and absorbed by the aura of the space that we never really got the time to pause and ponder. Later when it all came to an end, we realised all that went into making the show a success. And we were so overwhelmed by it that we couldn’t believe our creation got showcased nationwide on such an incredible platform. I was actually getting goosebumps constantly while playing at the fashion show.
 
 
A post shared by Kenzani (@kenzaniofficial)
Tech Panda: We spent like 12 hours in Manish’s house working on the set. We had got our thinking caps on early in the day and never even realised when the sun had set with work still ongoing despite it being late in the night. Manish just told us to do whatever we feel from within and just come prepared in the morning. He was great like that, he gave us our freedom and space. So I believe he put a lot of trust in us with his show’s music, and cheers to that, everything worked out just fine.
On that note, what was your personal experience working with Manish Malhotra?
Tech Panda x Kenzani: No words would be enough to describe the humbleness and kindness Manish possesses. He’s a super hard-working guy with passion overflowing for his craft. For that matter, even Ranveer and Deepika were a treat to work with. The show was supposed to commence at 9:00 p.m. but Ranveer and Deepika ensured to reach two hours prior for a proper rehearsal. They’re excellent people and very serious about their work.
What was the music chosen for show stoppers Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone’s ramp walk and what made these tunes the perfect fit for them?
Kenzani: Ranveer walked the ramp on our track called Sinister. And the funny story — we never chose it, Ranveer did! We had finalised a Japanese tribal track for him but he couldn’t feel the energy.
So when he heard Sinister, he instantly knew that was it. And he was so musically knowledgeable that he absorbed the track and got it entirely customised for himself. Within 15-20 minutes we made a new edit for him; he practised his walk over 25 times and absolutely nailed every single second of that song.
 
 
A post shared by Ranveer Singh (@ranveersingh)
Tech Panda: For Deepika, we knew exactly what would suit her. Kedar produced the track right there in three hours, which we’ve now come to call Showstopper after Deepika and Manish. And my personal take — Deepika aced it! Contrary to Ranveer, she practiced her walk only thrice on a new track so dramatic and full of power, yet the execution was so majestic! She knew exactly how to complement the track’s drama and pulled it off like a queen.
 
 
A post shared by Manish Malhotra (@manishmalhotra05)
What’s the way forward like and how’s it looking?
Tech Panda: I want to be awarded a Padma Bhushan! I’ve even been doing my research as to what need’s to be done and what’s the process like to receive one.
Kenzani: I want us to play and represent India at the grandest stage, probably at Tomorrowland, with people from all across the world vibing to music solely grounded in Indian culture.
Tech Panda x Kenzani: Every day is one step at a time. Amongst several projects coming up, the priority is to release some 15 odd tracks for our audience that’s still living in our hard drive. So we’re going to primarily focus on that.
Any concluding message/thoughts for your readers?
Kenzani: Don’t detach yourself from the Indian culture. Keep it solid and carry it with pride because after all, it’s our responsibility to take forward our legacy. And if we won’t do it, then who will? It’s so rich and the whole world is looking upon it, and although we’re a tiny part of it, we ensure to contribute however much we can through our music. Because one day we will be gone but our music will live on. So when that happens, we want our creation to continue inspiring as it does today.
Tech Panda: The only idea I want to share is that I want this music we’re creating to be generational-friendly. From my son to my grandfather, I want this sound to echo in the ears of all because it’s intelligent music. Regardless, the primary focus in our sound will always be to keep India with us, after that will come experimenting with any and every genre possible. It’s what we relate to, it’s what breathes life into Tech Panda x Kenzani.
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