“Words are the character of a song, and ultimately that remains.”
- Javed Akhtar
It is said that music is a universal language, a medium beyond words in fact, but the truth of the matter is that although bilingual music may be dominating the musical charts and it is not necessary to know what a musician is saying to enjoy and appreciate their work, there is a certain joy in understanding the lyrics completely that accompany the melodic tunes that enthrall us time and again. Translating lyrics is not as easy a feat as one might think. Fidelity to the envisioned meaning, poetic structure and rhythms, and staying faithful to the original composition goes beyond mere translation as we see it. It is with dedication and perseverance that Somesh Chandran carries out this task on the website Dohaz, meant to help readers discover the meaning behind the words of a song that is often lost in translation.
A 24-year-old sports journalist working in Mumbai, Chandran along with a group of talented individuals run the website that offers for readers the translated works of a variety of musical styles–right from powerhouses like Gulzar, the popular music of Lucky Ali and a number of Bollywood tracks both old and new, to the works of Rumi, Urdu rapper Naezy and rock band, Indian Ocean.
“Well I didn’t really plan to set up the website professionally. But I remember I was listening to a lot of Jay Z, Kanye West and MF Doom at the the time of its conception. I was just inspired by their life, their interviews and mostly, their lyrics. I figured I should start taking more risks in life,” Chandran tells Homegrown. Initially, he says, he started “decoding lyrics” with the help of a Hindi poet and tutor he’d visit twice a week–”she would help me with it. Once I got a hang of it, I realised I needed a bigger team and started looking for talented people to contribute.” Every team member of Dohaz was, in fact, discovered via Facebook. We caught up with Somesh Chandran to understand what drives this website to succeed and just how
HG: In your opinion, what is the need of such a website today?
SC: ”You know, an artist spends a lot of time writing the lyrics of her/his song. Many song lyrics are by their very nature complex and have various layers to them. I am not saying all do, but the proportion is definitely increasing. Lyrics have never been part of movie/music conversations for quite a while now. So we figured we could try and bring about a cultural change. People have been decoding Shakespeare’s poetry for decades now. Why cant we do that for good Indian music? I put Gulzar and Shakespeare in the same bracket of great writers. The joy lies in listening to a track and have its meaning and other interesting information being unravelled in front of you. So when you visit Dohaz, you can click on the lyrics to know its meaning, interesting information, and much more.”
HG: Are there any particular kind of artists you are looking to feature on your website?
SC: “Well, we’re always on the lookout for music with great lyrics and melodies. We even have producers who visit the website and explain their creative process to the listeners and readers. We’ve collaborated with around 20 independent artists so far.”
HG: In your opinion, how can today’s generation really benefit from the site?
SC: “There’s a lot of great lyrics out there that people aren’t aware of. This lyrical information needs more depth for the readers and listeners to be able to engage with every song at a deeper level. So if a particular user feels we can decode a particular track, they can just send us a mail. Many of the lyrical lines have an underlying worth. We want to be able to bring this to the attention of the listeners. I don’t know about how today’s generation can benefit from our site, I just hope we can help them engage with their favourite songs and artists at a deeper level, thats all. So when you click on the lyrics, you not only get to know its meaning but also it’s context, interesting information, trivia, and so forth.”
HG: What does the future hold in store for Dohaz?
SC: “I envision every talented Indian musician visiting Dohaz and explaining to their listeners the story behind the lyrics and song creation-process. We want to be a platform that artists can use to express their artistic intent to the listeners. In the near future, every visitor can create an account and explain the lyrics themselves, from their perspective.”
“I think there is certainly a need of such a website because it’s important for the listeners to understand the lyrics, and since most of our lyrics are in Hindi, and we use a lot of slang, going through its translation and elaboration would really make an impact and help the genre of Indian music, indie, pop or rap, grow. This could be India’s RapGenius [a crowd and artist/producer sourced website providing annotations and required explanations of rap lyrics/beats],” rapper Naved Shaikh, also known as Naezy, tells us. While on the website, you can listen to a song or poem while reading the lyrics, their meaning and translation alongside while also reading through the context provided by the Dohaz team. For Chandran, the aim is to create a platform for creative communication and discussion, a point of connection between artists, producers, listeners and readers to discuss the musical and lyrical intent of songs, beats and tunes. As an information bank, Dohaz is still in it nascent stages of development, but with competitors in the same field such as Bollymeaning.com and The SongPedia, it will be interesting to see what added depth Dohaz brings to the table.
Click here to visit Dohaz and expand your lyrical mind.
Feature image courtesy of Dohaz.