Colonial Cousins are back!

The ’90s music superstars, Hariharan and Leslee Lewis, are working on a new single! They speak to us about creating music organically without falling prey to market demands.
Hariharan and Leslee Lewis
Hariharan and Leslee Lewis

If you grew up in the ’90s, you would know what Colonial Cousins did to that generation. They breathed magic into their lives, by the sheer power of their music, which introduced a new wave of beats and rhythms unheard of before. The two-member band comprising of singer-composer Hariharan and singer-composer-producer Leslee Lewis is now set to, “transport you back to the ’90s,” when they come out with a single soon! You heard that right! Colonial Cousins is back. As surreal as it feels, it’s for real. Colonial Cousins is finally going to be working together as the band they created back in the day. “Around 1991-92,” Leslee tells us, “when Hari and I thought of forming a band, we wanted to perform live as that was something missing in the music scene around that time.” The band eventually released its first album also titled Colonial Cousins in 1996 that went on to break many records in India! “It’s been so long!” says Leslee as we begin a conversation that feels like a long overdue trip down memory lane. Blending fusion, rock, blues and pop with hindustani classical and carnatic music is their forte. From the formation of the band to the music they created together, however, has been a purely organic journey, the duo tells us. 

Leslee Lewis and Hariharan
Leslee Lewis and Hariharan

It’s going to be nostalgic when people get to hear you again...
 Oh yes! We are going to transport them back to the ’90s! And they can relive all those moments from yesteryear. You know those time capsules? We want to open time capsules for them.
Leslee: All the mummies and daddies are gonna go back to the ’90s when they were either in school or college, and all the kids are going to experience what they have never experienced before. 

All these years when we didn’t see you perform as a duo, was Colonial Cousins in existence?
Of course! Colonial Cousins has always been there. It’s just that artistically, because Colonial Cousins is not our primary band, Hariharan does Hariharan; and Leslee Lewis does Leslee Lewis. But whether or not we were making music together, Colonial Cousins have always existed.

Was there a reason why you didn’t bring out an album after your last one in 2012? What kept you away?
Well, we were never away from music. But honestly, in my opinion, people consume more cover versions today than any other music. People have become legends singing cover versions! 
Leslee: I understand that companies are promoting something that works for them, which is fine. But what they are promoting is not what we do, and that’s why you are missing Colonial Cousins.

Colonial Cousins
Colonial Cousins

Back in the '90s, you were one of those who brought freshness into the music scene. Interestingly, Sa Ni Dha Pa or Krishna still sounds as fresh. What is the magic? 
Ours is a natural process of two people, growing up with different musical backgrounds, coming together with a common aesthetic sense. So, what we create is a natural flow of music. It was never thought of, neither was it ever constructed, because when you construct something, after sometime, you know it’s been ‘made’ and would feel an urge for change. 
Leslee: Whether we bring in rock, blue, fusion or folk, we are coming from a very 'classical' place, so when we make music, it is not bound by time. We don’t believe in designing something to make it market-friendly or what’s going to sell. 
Hariharan: Our listeners in the '90s were exposed to Indian and Western music, but perhaps didn’t know that such a fusion could be done. So when we brought it to them, they lapped it up.
Leslee: Yeah. It wasn’t alien to them.

How is the music sensibility divided between the two of you when you compose together?
The basic process starts with a line, melody, a core of the song. From there, as we proceed, a suggestion can come from either Les or me; and then on, it’s like block building.
Leslee: When Hari creates something, I react to it, he hears the mixes I do to it and reacts to it again. I then add another level to it and build the structure on action-reaction. 

So, when can we have the next album from Colonial Cousins?
We are thinking of coming up with a single soon. We don’t want to make another album because so much work goes into marketing it. It’s better to do just one song and put all the energies into it.
Leslee: We are saying this because that’s how people consume music today. They do not listen to full albums anymore. So, even if were to release an album, they will listen to only one song.
Hariharan: And others will just go waste. (laughs)

How do you perceive the music of today?
 It’s nice, a lot of creative people out there. However, I am happy only when I hear an original. 
Leslee: I think people should write new songs. You can’t live on the past forever. You have to work. 
Hariharan: It is the original work that will make a real artiste. It’s an expression of your soul and if you don’t express something new, then where is your soul?

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