Popularly referred to as the youngest EDM prodigy of India, musician Ritviz Srivastava, a.k.a. Ritviz, became famous with his hit song “Udd Gaye”. The track was produced as part of Bacardi’s House Party Sessions campaign, judged by Nucelya and AIB—and it was released by the latter on their YouTube channel in December 2017.
The 22-year-old Ritviz dropped out of school at 17 and released his debut EP Vizdumb in early 2014 on UK’s Relentik Records. In 2015, he released “Mukti”, a single that was bought and released by High Chai Recordings, a US-based music label. His last album, a four-track EP titled YUV was released as a free download in June 2016. The album got him a lot of attention for its tracks influenced by mainstream EDM, trap and dubstep.
Months before the release of his next EP titled VED, which he had teased with songs such as “Jeet” and “Barso” last year, Ritviz spoke to Guardian 20 about what makes VED different from his other EPs and his early success as a musician.
VED, unlike his last two EPs, will be a mix of vocal and instrumental tracks. Ritviz said, “My 2016 EP YUV was a dancefloor-oriented EP and essentially a showcase of my production skills. The EP has four tracks in it and I play with different synths but I decided against using vocals at all and instead used a lot of my classical influences in terms of composition and sound design. However, you can find me extensively using my vocals in my 2014 debut EP, Vizdumb. For my upcoming album VED I wanted to go back to my roots and in a way collaborate with myself. And so it’s going to be an album that is not just vocal-driven but has my production supporting it also. Udd Gaye’, ‘Jeet’, ‘Barso’ are all part of a list of eight tracks that will be called VED.”
When writing songs, he tries to go easy on himself and prefers penning down the lyrics once the entire composition is done. Ritviz said, “Every song has a different process and I don’t think I can apply any particular formula to it. But in terms of the structure, it’s usually a melody that hits me first and then I figure out the baseline and composition around that. I prefer to write lyrics after the overall composition is in place instead of creating a song around the lyrics. There was a time when I used to work hours and hours to figure out the tracks, but now I let the songs figure me out. I try my best to not force it, and at times when I’m facing a block, instead of trying harder to figure it out, I let my brain breathe.”
He was introduced to Hindustani classical music by his mother, a music teacher in Pune, when he was six. His mother trained him in the khayal form, and he learned the dhrupad from Pandit Uday Bhawalkar. These two experiences, Ritviz recounts, made him realise that he wanted to compose something of his own.
He said, “Ma would wake up early every morning to practice and I would join in on my own. Singing with Ma is one of the most cherished memories I have from my childhood. At first, I wasn’t sure about what I was doing and whether I was even doing it right, but I enjoyed it nonetheless and soon after I began learning the khayal from her. This went on for about 3-4 years and it was one of the best experiences ever because while it required a lot of practice and discipline, the entire experience was very personal and this is when the initial thoughts of wanting to compose my own music really began.
“After this, at the age of 10, I got an opportunity to train in dhrupad under the tutelage of Pandit Uday Bhawalkar. While I learned a lot here as well, I started to find the entire training process a little monotonous and restrictive. I was also not a huge fan of the whole guru-shishya parampara. So essentially by now, my desire to compose my own music had reached an all-time high and I knew the only way forward for me was to learn production.”
How does the Indian classical genre inspire the music he creates?
Ritviz said, “Classical music helped me understand where I belong and what I want to become. Being trained in Hindustani classical music gives me an immense sense of pride and I knew from a very young age that I didn’t want to try and imitate the West. At the same time, I also knew that I didn’t want to go down the traditional route of a classical musician. Instead, I wanted my music to be edgy and I wanted to represent classical music in a form that I as a youth would enjoy. My 2016 EP was titled YUV for this very reason.”
Despite tasting success at a young age, Ritviz hasn’t let fame get to his head. He said, “I guess life starts to change a lot [after getting famous], and very quickly at the same time. It’s easy to get influenced and it would be false to say that I’ve not been influenced at all. But I figured there are few people or things that had a strong presence and influence in my life from before things took off, and I need to always hold on to those. My parents, my friends, my bedroom at home—I make sure I keep going back to them and that keeps me grounded.”
About his musical influences, he said, “I grew up listening to Ma sing various bandishes so a lot of classical music initially. But as I started to find it monotonous after a point, I began to look for influences from other places. I remember watching a lot of Vh1 Top 40 at the time and I was influenced by hip-hop and pop music and that influenced me a lot as well.”
The musician is currently juggling between wrapping up his upcoming album and doing live shows. He said, “I’m still finishing up some of the tracks on the album and once that is done, I’ll start taking up other projects. For now, I just want to focus on wrapping this up, while I’m travelling to play shows on weekends.”