Singaporean raps in Indian band

This story was first published in The Straits Times on May 17, 2013

An upcoming pop act in Chennai, India, has a local connection. A member of the trio Mamiboys is Singaporean R. Rathakrishnan, better known by his stage name Krisheno.

The 27-year-old rapper and singer and his Indian bandmates R. Karthikeyan and S. Bharathi launched their full- length debut album, Dum Tea, last Sunday at one of Chennai's most prominent music studios, AVM Studios.

The group are building up a buzz in the South Indian city - the album launch attracted more than 100 members of the press there. Their music videos have also attracted more than 320,000 views on YouTube. "We stand out in the Tamil music scene because we are an independent group making quality music, which mixes genres such as hip-hop, dance, R&B and pop," Krisheno tells Life!.

More than just the rapper in the group, the former Changi Airport customer care executive also runs the group's record and artist management label M-Boyz Recordz and now shuttles between Singapore and Chennai.

Krisheno joins a growing list of local Tamil singers who are making their mark in India. These include singer Pravin Saivi and Vasantham Star winner Shabir Tabare Alam, who are both performing at the Vasantham Live! concert at the Esplanade Theatre tomorrow.

Pravin made his name in Chennai two years ago after taking part in popular Indian television show Airtel Super Singer, a reality TV singing contest in the style of American Idol. Although he did not win, he was a hit with viewers and ended up with Best Entertainer and Best Overseas Contestant awards.

Pravin, 30, launched his self-titled debut album last month with a show in Singapore and plans to do another launch in India next month. His concerts there attract up to 30,000-strong crowds.

Describing his music as "new age Tamil pop", the singer is aiming beyond India and is marketing his music at Tamil pop fans the world over. Speaking to Life! on the telephone from the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, he says: "India's music scene is different from everywhere else. The focus is on music from films but I make pop music and that's why I am targeting this album internationally."

Shabir, 28, who won the inaugural Vasantham Star singing competition in 2005 organised by the local Indian television station, made headlines in India early this year when he picked up the Best International Singer prize at the Edison Awards, an annual awards gala celebrating the Tamil film industry.

He is now getting ready to release his fourth album, Town Bus, his first that will be distributed in India. "There is a real market for Tamil singers in India. It's hard work but the moment you have a following among the Indian music listeners, they'll never let go of you."

Shabir works on his music from his studio in Singapore but he travels to Chennai at least twice a year and spends at least a month there working with music professionals.

For Krisheno, his plans with Mamiboys go beyond music - he is planning to produce a semi-autobiographical film about a pop group trying to make it in the music industry starring the group members. Sharing the same title as their album, Dum Tea, Krisheno will direct and independently produce the film himself. "In the Tamil industry, there is no such thing as a 'pop' act... You have to do a movie. We are competing with the big movie studios but we also want to show that we can go mainstream independently."

Dum Tea is available on iTunes, Amazon, Nokia Music Store and as connecting tones through SingTel and M1. Pravin Saivi's album is available on iTunes, Amazon, GooglePlay and CD Baby. Both CDs are sold at Jothi Music Corner in Little India. Shabir Tabare Alam's albums are available at, CD Baby and by e-mailing

This story was first published in The Straits Times on May 17, 2013

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