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Q&A by Brad Balfour
Never in a million years did I expect that composer/musician Prem Murti and I would cross paths. The Indian-based composer/performer produced the song “Love and Peace” which has won the Best Music Video and Best Experimental Film honors at the Canadian Cinematography Awards (CaCA). It also received multiple Josie Awards nominations — Song: Vocal Event of the Year; World Artist of the Year: Prem Murti of India; Songwriter of the Year: Mike Greenly; Musician of the Year: cellist Tess Remy Schumacher. "Love and Peace" is up for consideration on the Grammy® ballot in “Best Global Music Performance.” There will be a show in Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry House on October 22, 2023.
It’s not that Murti doesn’t already have something of a track record — so to speak. He was part of “Divine Tides” — the 2022 Grammy Award-winning full-length release ("Best New Age Album") by Stewart Copeland , former drummer of The Police, and Ricky Kej. He did the official Lo-Fi mixes for the album.
But it was thanks to his connection to my friend Mike Greenly that I was turned on to the song, A multifaceted artist — skilled in singing, music composition, production, mixing, engineering, and voice-over artistry — Murti has worked with several notable record labels, such as Saregama, Zee, and Shemaroo as well as collaborating with numerous artists in India and abroad since 2013. Based inChandigarh, India, Murtigained fame when his rendition of the song “Toofan Ko Aana Hai (Ik Pyar Ka Nagma Hai)” went viral across social media platforms during the pandemic. He also co-arranged and sang lead vocals on “Vande Bharatam” for the Republic Day parade at India Gate as 500 dancers performed to it. With Kej, he made “Salaam” — an anthem dedicated to India’s armed forces.
Though Greenly is gay, he didn’t write the lyrics to “Love and Peace” with Pride or same sex relations specifically in mind. His message was meant to be far more universal than that. But LGBTQ-identified people are reaching some of the highest positions in society now and attaining more cultural relevance. For example, Ireland’s Taoiseach Leo Eric Varadkar, came out as gay. (He’s of Indian and Irish descent.) Pride Month has become more visible than ever.
Even with Pride month in the rear mirror now, “Love and Peace” struck me as the perfect song to highlight LGBTQ pride by writing about Prem Murti. Greenly’s lyrics squarely keep the sentiments of that recent month in mind while suggesting loving acceptance of every diverse individual among us.
Recognized for his calming and restorative voice, the youthful Murti performs a vast repertoire of devotional songs, mantras, and other spiritually uplifting compositions. Buoyed by Murti’s beautiful and exotic music, “Love and Peace” has a universal quality that makes the message all the more profound.
Q: Have you always focused on being a musician?
PM: Yes, it was always my childhood dream to pursue a career in music. Despite not having any musical background, I began a journey of self-teaching. Along the way, my friends and audiences recognized my blessed voice, encouraging me to include a focus on singing. As a result, I’ve found a balance between being a composer-producer and a singer. In the song 'Love and Peace,' I not only composed and produced the track but also performed the Shanti (Peace) Mantra section.
Q: It seems like a unique combo of people. Do you always do such eclectic music?
PM: While producing music, I prefer not to confine myself to any rigid style. Instead, I think of whatever serves the song best. Since 'Love and Peace' is about harmony and togetherness beyond any geographical or language barrier, the selection of musicians and singers from different cultures was an obvious choice. For other projects, also, I would go with anything that will make our listeners feel good.
Q: Are you planning a full album?
PM: While I have a deep appreciation for music albums, as they provide a compilation of songs with a shared flavor, I wanted to take a different approach for 'Love and Peace.' Instead of releasing an entire album, I aimed to combine the efforts of 5-6 songs into a single track, with the goal of creating a distinctive and exceptional masterpiece. There are additional factors influencing my preference for singles over albums, one being the shift in how contemporary audiences consume music.
Q: Have you done music for films?
PM: I would love to, but until now, my focus has primarily been on creating music, doing production and mixing for independent artists. That’s kept me occupied. I’ve also been actively involved in singing and providing voice-overs for various projects. However, I’m always open to new opportunities.
Q: What was the origin of your “Love and Peace” song?
PM: There are certain topics or ideas that we often don't have the opportunity to fully explore when we’re focused on creating 'commercial' music. Love, in its broader sense … peace, in light of the world's current climate of hatred and conflict … and spiritual themes and social issues are a few examples. These subjects have always inspired me and I’ve longed to create meaningful art around them. In this particular song, everything came straight from the heart, without adhering to any typical format. The inclusion of the Shanti (Peace) Mantra in Sanskrit was an unconventional choice, but it’s been widely embraced and loved by everyone. Furthermore, Natalie's addition of some Hawaiian traditional lines beautifully complemented the song and harmonized with its essence.
Q: I assume you had a musical idea but of all the lyricists, how did Mike Greenly enter your sphere of reality. What did he bring to it that you didn’t find elsewhere?
PM: I and Mike Greenly were in contact via email, sharing our thoughts and philosophies. We both had an interest in collaborating and creating something new together, although the specific topic was not yet clear. When the idea for the 'Love and Peace' song emerged, Mike was the first lyricist who came to mind. I believed he possessed the maturity and sensitivity required to write on such a subject. I had trust in him based on his previous works, which I had explored.
When he sent me the first draft of the lyrics, I knew I wouldn't need to seek out anyone else for this song. I truly loved the lyrics. There were a few lines that I asked him to revise, and he graciously made the changes. Mike is an enthusiastic individual and was always prompt in making adjustments to the lyrics whenever I requested. Consequently, there was no need to search for another lyricist for this particular song.
Q: Who did the production and how was it done?
PM: I composed and produced the song 'Love and Peace'. The song is about peace, so I wanted it to sound very ambient and soothing. The selection of instruments like acoustic guitar, flute, cello and violin was done accordingly. However, considering the concept of peace and silence, it was also important to incorporate elements of contrast and dynamics. Just as you can't fully appreciate light without darkness, I wanted to provide a contrast that would capture the listener's attention. This is where my singing part came into play, utilizing large drums, electric guitars, heavy orchestration, and thick layered vocals. These elements added a powerful and intense dynamic to the song, creating a striking juxtaposition against the peaceful elements.
Q: How did you find the musicians you used and what's their backstories?
PM: Before I started working on this project, I had already established connections with so many musicians and singers through various social media platforms. They loved my musical style and singing and were also willing to collaborate with me in future. When the idea of 'Love and Peace' came, Natalie Ai Kamauu was our first choice as a lead singer because of her soothing and peaceful voice which was apt for this song. When it came to the lyrics, we sought out the expertise of Mike Greenly, a highly experienced songwriter who possessed the necessary skills to craft the ideal composition for this particular piece.
Once we had a basic foundation of the song ready, I approached other singers and musicians who seemed suitable for it. Annemarie Picerno has not only provided backing vocals but has also served as a guide throughout the process of releasing the song. Another lovely musician on our team is Tess Remy Schumacher, a talented cellist who, despite being senior to me, has consistently shown tremendous support and enthusiasm. She approaches music with the curiosity and dedication of a lifelong student. An Vedi, as a skilled violin player, and Russ Hewitt, as a talented guitarist, brought an extra dimension to the song.
Q: You and your team were nominated for various Josie Awards. How did the awards organization hear of you and the song?
PM: 'Love and Peace' was my first song with this incredible team of singers and musicians. Receiving recognition at the 'Josie Awards' earned their trust. I was absolutely thrilled and honored upon hearing the news of our song and our team being nominated in various categories for the 'Josie Awards'. It validates all the hard work, dedication, and creativity that went into creating the song.
I’d like to thank my collaborators, especially Annemarie Picerno (vocalist) and An Vedi (violinist), for keeping me informed about the award shows happening around us. Additionally, I actively promote my work through various channels, such as social media, music platforms, and my official website. This helps in gaining visibility. Furthermore, positive reviews and word-of-mouth recommendations have also played a significant role.
Q: Given the Pride Month that passed us this summer, did you see the song’s connection to universal love … not just personal love, but the general love that Pride Month embraces?
PM: The song goes beyond personal love and does aim to highlight the concept of universal love. It explores the idea of love that transcends individual relationships and embraces love and acceptance for all people. The song celebrates the notion of love that unites everyone and promotes inclusivity and understanding.
Watch the “Love and Peace” music video here:
Prem Murti’s Website:
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