Yearning, wonder and empathy: feelings that make you bite your lip. And with emotion at the heart of his work, musical innovator Niraj Chag’s mission is simple – it’s to create unique ‘bite your lip’ moments in as many ways as he can. Working on a huge range of projects, from albums, to film scores, to theatre and live events, Niraj has been able to use the roots of Eastern and Western classical music in ever more inventive ways.
Niraj’s documentary soundtracks have reached a worldwide audience and brought emotional depth to some of the most compelling stories of today. Beginning with One Night in Bhopal (BBC1, 2004) he has since composed for Emmy and Bafta winning The Power of Art, The Age of Terror (2008) and a sweeping orchestral soundtrack for Darwin’s Dangerous Idea (BBC2, 2008). In contrast to this, Niraj produced a dance-oriented piece for Sex and the City (HBO 2003), while Origins of Us (2011) gave him the opportunity to create an electronic-tinged score. Having embraced technology from a young age Niraj is one of the few artists working on such large-scale projects to not only compose, but also to play and mix all the instruments himself. Niraj used these techniques to create the music for one of the biggest stories of all - The Story of the Continents (2013 release).
By contrast, Niraj’s album work allows him to explore and bring to life his own narrative. His debut Along the Dusty Road (2006) featured plaintive and uplifting songs in six languages and won him a considerable fan base as well as an Asian Music Award as ‘Best Underground Artist’. The album led to a Maida Vale session and atmospheric live set at the Roundhouse as part of the Electric Proms. Single The Nomad went on to be selected as itunes single of the week. He followed this up in 2009 with the intense and darkly themed The Lost Souls. The album featured opera, breakbeats and western classical music alongside South Asian classical and folk music. BBC Music said of the album “The Lost Souls has a point to make: the role of the heart over the mind; the plight of the dispossessed in a world beset by religious and intellectual divisions” and went on to describe the music as “Simply gorgeous.” He followed the album with a sell-out tour featuring an East European choir.
Many of Niraj’s projects are achieved through working with unusual and challenging combinations of musicians. In 2008 he worked with opera singers, a 40-piece brass band and 600 vocalists to create a piece for the official Olympic Torch event on London’s South Bank. And with the torch passing from China to the UK, Niraj found himself heading the other way in 2009, as he took up a residency at The Factory in Shanghai, working with Chinese urban and classical musicians. Following this in 2011 Niraj co-created the online magazine Eastern Soul, which showcased a unique combination of musical artists in a series of articles and podcasts.
Niraj’s desire for innovation has been sustained in his work for the stage. In 2012 as composer for the West End musical Wah! Wah! Girls he created his music within a new system that allowed musical stems to be played and remixed dynamically in a live settting. This followed a run of work on successful shows including Olivier Award winning Rafta Rafta (Royal National Theatre, 2007). In addition, Niraj has scored over 20 dance productions including Shobana Jeyasingh's Classic Cuts (Royal Opera House, 2012) an avant-garde piece which merged South Indian Carnatic music and Bollywood samples.
The future holds more diverse projects in store for Niraj. Having created the score for film All in Good Time (Studio Canal, 2012), other movie projects await him and he is working on the follow up to The Lost Souls with a planned 2013 release.