6091 / India
By Ranjini Achuthan
This Malayali electronic music producer has been quietly shaking up the ground with his work. Are you listening?
Biomusic. If one must name a creative skill that makes the artist, 6091, stand out from the rest of his peers, it has to be biomusic; Biomusic (usage of recordings of nature in music) is not a new phenomenon. But the devil is in the details. The nuanced and mindful way 6091 incorporates nature and folk elements in his tracks is remarkable and it touches the listener in ways only some can.
Take for example, Kummatti. This classic Malayalam folk song reinterpreted by 6091 is an emotional trip. The sound of birds, the sound of children at play, the voice of the old folk singer all at just the right places, the sublime bass at “manathoru mayilaattam”, the use of traditional instruments and unhurried use of synth is a delight for the senses.
Says the musician, “the movie Kummatti took me back somewhere, may be to my childhood, I don’t know where, but all the sounds that I have used along with the imagery of hills, people and the culture connected with me on some deeper level and inspired me to create the track, blending nostalgic, old school elements with a contemporary genre. I just wanted everyone to listen to it and understand how sounds connect with our emotions and I think it worked. Sounds matter!”
It could be this love for everything sound that led 6091 to primarily identify as an electronic music producer. It could also be the reason why his artist name is a cryptic set of numerals. We desist from revealing its meaning. Keep guessing! Meanwhile, 6091 aka Gopikrishnan PN released a track named “Echo and his stone” in March. For an electronic track, “Echo and his stone” is unexpectedly airy, with an almost organic feel thanks Gopi’s scrupulous programming technique.
The song features Fadil who has written and sung beautifully about a dog belonging to the Wayanad hills. “Echo, the dog loves collecting stones. Wild and free, finding happiness in the little things, that is what this song is all about.” The song is a perfect example of Gopi’s impeccable production skills. Synth in 6091 tracks, almost always appears with oodles of character and purpose.
Gopi landed his process the hard way, breaking out of his comfort zone and exploring new genres, new artists and experimenting with these discoveries to develop a signature sound of his own. Case in point, “When you are gone”. Lo-fi and Love. One would be hard pressed to find another Malayalam track in the Lo-fi genre, which is why he decided to include Malayalam lyrics beside English and have his super talented friend and collaborator, Damini aka Krameri lend her song writing skills and her super soft, ASMR inducing wondrous vocals to this gem of a composition. The track sounds and feels like an offspring of nature. Sounds of river and water being played with, amidst that near-fragile voice of Krameri could very well evoke a low-key euphoria in the listener. The artist says that working in this genre has been a learning process because he got to pick up the nuances of using sounds in imperfectly perfect ways!
With close to 15 unreleased tracks between Krameri and 6091, their partnership is something, music aficionados can keep looking forward to. Similarly, Rakhil is another artist that Gopi frequently collaborates with. “Rakhil always has this raw and pure texture in his voice which adds to the feel substantially. It is this kind of magic that I always search for when I want to collaborate.” Kanaavile featuring Rakhil is a Tamil song and is available on Spotify.
Gopi’s tryst with sound and music began unusually early. “I have a picture of me with a keyboard and a headphone at the age of 2, I think. I was in my 7th grade when I started programming. Initially I kept working on small projects like devotional songs. I had no clue what I was doing, but I kept fiddling around playing some instrument pre-sets, drum loops with the stuff I have learned on piano. But I remember I was too curious about the things happening inside the DAW. I had no idea about electronic music then. It was one of my friends, Adil who introduced the then released electronic tracks to me. It was unlike anything I had heard until then, and so I started learning more about it by trying to create similar sounds. It was difficult, so it took me years to learn the basics, but I never stopped learning, working on it over the years, and here I am.”
The otherwise completely self-taught musician grew up learning mridangam, piano and music theory. Music flows in his blood. Gopi’s father, Mr. Parthasarathy Karunakaran is a Carnatic singer with whom he released his very first track called “Spirits and Heroes” on YouTube and later ‘Thillana’ on Spotify. “We jam together to Carnatic songs; him on vocals and me on mridangam. I accompany him to all his recordings and shows too. I have always been curious and heavily invested in the research about ragas and its effect on songs and consequently on human emotions. Similarly, the effect of sounds produced by instruments as well as sound produced by nature like rain, wind, water on our mind and the extend of its control on our emotions is my favourite field of study.”
The audiophile insists that it is important to find a DAW that is compatible to one’s unique workflow and style. 6091 currently works on Cubase and Ableton. “It has been a gradual progression exploring the various types available in the market. Ableton, especially works the best for me right now because it’s easier for me to do my sound designing sessions and sampling.”
The musician’s latest track “Born in Kerala” is, according to him, “The Sound of Kerala’ courtesy the native sounds, be it chenda, elathalam, folk song, or the quintessential rain. The highlight is ‘chenda’, Kerala’s traditional percussion instrument played by chenda artists which were recorded by the musician himself at various temples in his hometown. The song features the brilliant Sayanora Philip who aces the evocative folk dialect and its core emotion.
Gopi is also an alumnus of KM Music Conservatory, Chennai where he worked with a lot of artists and travelled around the globe performing gigs. He even got the opportunity to learn a new instrument called Seaboard from the legend himself, AR Rahman. “It was a great experience performing it live and being a part of the Roli Seaboard Launch programme held in Uk.”
At the beginning of this year, Gopi tried his hands on song writing and singing with the track Njan Daivam. The musician insists he is not a singer and so, he just went with the flow. “I wrote the song and just read it out loud or as though I am speaking to someone; I am God, and my body is the temple; that's what I was reading about and trying to understand at that point of time. I wouldn’t label the track hip hop because I don’t stick to genres or follow patterns and rules. I make music according to my thoughts and imaginations; some people connect to it and some don't!”
Gopi intends to keep this pace going with more releases. I am also preparing a live set and would like to do more live shows. I have played on stage sporadically with Krameri in Chennai, Cochin and the last one was in 2017 at Brisbane, Australia. The self-effacing man of few words signs off by stating his ikigai, “I just want to keep making music, explore what it can do to us. Just be in the present and enjoy my work. The rest will follow!”