Surround sound

Hitani Kaur        Print Edition: Nov 14, 2010

Thank goodness, Yanni is dead. Figuratively speaking. The days of entering hotels only to be hit by the orchestrated rumble of the Greek composer or the melancholic drawl of the curly-locked Kenny G's saxophone have run their course. Some hotels may still have a lonesome pianist or quartet whipping out classical tunes in the lobby or tea lounge, but those are few and far between. It's time for everyone to burn the borrowed playlist.

Welcome to the age of distinct aural identity. You could say it really started when Indian Airlines made Anand Shankar's fusion music its own. Then Delhi club Shalom got artists like the Midival Punditz, Karsh Kale and Anoushka Shankar to compose special sounds to go with its ambience. Now, Leela Palace Kempinski, ensconced in the capital's Diplomat Enclave, has got into the act. The hotel, which was open for Commonwealth guests but is now taking bookings only from December, needed a sound all its own, decided Madhu Nair, director, interior design and operations, and her daughter Samyukta. So they got in the talented musician brothers Amaan and Ayaan Ali Khan to create it for them.

"Our hotels are an expression of us as a company. The idea is to create a sense of belonging. We've done the same at our hotels in Udaipur and Bangalore where composer Rahul Sharma has done an impeccable job. But we thought the Delhi Leela needed a sound of its own," explains Nair. To create that unique sound, the Khan brothers have used their beloved sarod of course, along with flutes, violins, the sarangi and other percussion instruments. Vocals (by the two) have been used in the background "but only as samplers," says Amaan. The album went through a complex edit process but everyone seems happy with the end result.

Nair says New Delhi: A Journey has "music that imbibes the very soul of the hotel's heritage." Well the idea strikes the right note and you know what they say: you can check out any time you like, but you can never really leave. The contempo-classical music that echoes through Leela Kempinski Delhi's majestic architecture might just ensure that.

Amaan Ali Khan on New Delhi: A Journey

"In the past few years, Ayaan and I have been dabbling with a lot of experimental music. We were very keen to do this project as it was very challenging. The brief given to us by Madhu Nair was that the sound had to be completely Indianised. It's very difficult to produce a sound within an outlined brief, especially when you're creating background music. The catch is to get the balance just right. It can't overpower the ambience, yet it must bind together all the ambient elements so that it can work across different spaces where it will play simultaneously, such as the elevator, the lobby, the spa and even the restrooms. The music has a very pleasing note to it, and we are happy with the way it has turned out."

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