For any gamer who started playing games in the 2000s, one franchise that would have stuck in their hearts is Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed. The game allowed players to experience a world in time with picturesque heights and a soundtrack that cuts right into the player’s heart.
Of these soundtracks, the one that stood out was the Ezio’s Family theme from Assassin’s Creed 2. Originally performed by Jesper Kyd, even today hearing the track takes me back to when I started to play the game.
So I was surprised to learn that an Indian artist with a command of Indian classical instruments – Tushar Lall – had decided to recreate this masterpiece with an Indian twist, and the end result was unparalleled aural bliss.
The Indian classical music orchestrator has also worked alongside legendary composer Pritam, creating popular songs from the Bollywood film Brahmastra starring Ranbir Kapoor, Alia Bhat and Amitabh Bachchan, among others.
Ubisoft collaborated with Lall on this project, but how did they manage to do it so well?
A fun experience
It’s strange to imagine Ezio’s family being recreated with Indian musical instruments, however, Lall describes the experience as quite fun.“It was fun to do a Hindustani classical version on the track. I think it’s a one-movement orchestral piece and the good part is that Hindustani classical music also works by affinity in many ways.
“So if you hear Ezio’s family, it has an affinity with a pattern like a set of notes and the Hindustani classic would also have an affinity with a particular path. I thought maybe we could find some parallels out there and create something interesting. Also, I’m always very excited to use the classic Hindustani soundscape for any Western composition, and this one is so beautiful.
He added, “We were able to record a lot of interesting instruments and their articulations on this track. The Sitar not only plays the main notes, but it also plays a Jhala in between. Using multiple techniques was only possible because the composition is simple enough that you put a lot of breathing room into it. It already has plenty of room to breathe, so it’s simple enough that you can do a lot inside it. So I think there was a lot of fun.
The process to recreate the classic
The track involves instruments like Tabla (played by Ishaan Ghosh), Sitar (by Prasad Rahane), Flute (by Avadhoot Phadke), Mohaveena (Ayush Sharma), Sarangi (by Vanraj Shastri) and Keyboard (by Tushar Lall).
Lall helped us better understand the compositional process involving Indian classical instruments, “Indian classical instruments, they are regimental. Most of the time when we play Hindustani classical we try to play ragas, which are already defined, but I think when you take a composition that comes from the west, it almost always ends up being a Mishra, like a mixture of 2-3 ragas. And it’s fun when you do that even purely in classical Hindustani not being bound by the regiments of a raaga and having a Western approach to what you’re doing.
Challenges along the way
One would think that adapting a particular composition into a series of instruments that follow an entirely different set of rules, so to speak, would be a difficult undertaking. And according to Lall, even though the composition was not very complex, there were elements at play that made the experience less fluid than one might have imagined.
“The compositions are very simple and very beautiful, so there weren’t a lot of challenges. That said, we played like a counter-melody on a Sarangi. That won’t come easily to a Sarangi player. The notes were there and as I said, the Hindustani is very regimental, you have to correspond to a pre-existing structure of a raaga. You also have to understand how you try it, how you go up and down those notes,” Lall said.
“Playing this role was very interesting because obviously he could play it in parts, but then I asked him to do a full take and play it all in one go. He’s obviously a very gifted Sarangi player, Vanraj, and he played it brilliantly. I think the whole interaction can be described as a challenge because it’s not something you would normally ask him to do. But I think for the theme he had to unlearn some things and also incorporate them while recording,” he added.
Fanboying throughout production
Lall described a funny anecdote when he and his team first learned that they were recreating the track from Assassin’s Creed. “I obviously knew why we were doing this, but the other musicians didn’t know it was for Assassin’s Creed.
Before the taping, one of them started talking about Assassin’s Creed and his excitement for the next one. And it just happened out of nowhere and he asked if we were unknowingly doing something with them. I thought he really had no idea we were officially doing it.
“So when I told him he obviously lost his mind. He asked if we could dress up and if he could take this costume, but obviously we can’t wear costumes and play instruments. That’s a bit tricky unless they’re tailor-made for us and we’re running out of time. Just to see him already talking about the game, it clearly shows how mainstream the AC franchise is. Especially people who are at the early twenties or my age group. For him to see that we were officially doing a collaboration with Assassin’s Creed, he was in awe. I wish I could have captured that properly.
This fanboying continued even during filming, with the location they chose for the music video: “We found the perfect location that literally looks like something out of the game. We all chatted and we had fun during filming while talking about Assassin’s Creed. We also couldn’t believe it was for the game itself as we are all fans and have been playing it since we were all kids. So yeah, the whole experience was a lot of fun, more than anything.
He added, “We are really enjoying the process and at the same time fanboying a bit. While discussing a little anecdote, we were also trying to place our musician on this area that sprang from the Fort. We were trying to put it there so we could kind of show off the “Leap of Faith” in our own way. Overall the whole process was great fun.
Exceptional Versatility in Classical Indian Instruments
Lall shared his thoughts on the whole concept of fusion music and the potential of Indian music: “I would like readers to be introduced to the idea that there is this exceptional versatility in Indian classical instruments. Whenever I have fashioned both schools of thought like Western Classical and Hindustani, the results have been amazing.
“In my original compositions as well, Bano and Sifar, you can see a clear fusion of a symphony orchestra and Hindustani classical song. And I also have to do the same things for Brahmastra. Each time I have tried, the result has always been amazing.
He concluded by saying, “I think people can be more open and give this fusion space a better chance to listen. Right now I obviously understand that musically we’ve drifted into a different space, and I’m hearing amazing music coming from singer-songwriters.
“However, I think there is a lot more depth to combining Hindustani and Western classical music forms. In fact, I think it should be a college subject and the parallels should be studied as a major. This is so interesting. I want to impress upon people that you should consider listening to fusion and maybe learn more about it.
For more in the world of Technology and Sciencekeep reading Indiatimes.com