Colonial Cousins

Colonial Cousins
Colonial Cousins
Origin New Delhi, India
Genres Pop, rock, soundtrack
Years active 1992–present
Leslie Lewis

Colonial Cousins is a band formed by Indian duo composed of singer Hariharan and singer-composer Leslie Lewis. They also have a largely successful career as solo artists as well. Their unique brand of music fused Indian and Western musical genres instantly won the hearts of young and old alike.[1] The album hit platinum in sales in India alone and consistently busted the Indian music charts in 1996. Award upon award was piled on the duo, notably the MTV Asia Viewers' Choice Award, 1996, and the US Billboard's Viewers' Award, 1996. On 19 November 1998, the Colonial Cousins released their second album, The Way We Do It. They also released their third album Aatma on January 1, 2001. They have scored two Tamil films, Modhi Vilayadu (2009) and Chikku Bukku (2010).




It was during Lewis's jingles career that the idea of Colonial Cousins was conceived. Lezz had called in Hariharan to sing a jingle for him one evening in 1992. The lyrics for the jingle were late coming in. The restless Lezz began crooning something while strumming on his guitar, Hari felt inspired to jam with an alaap, and the result: the seamless fusion of Eastern and Western sounds that has become the quintessential characteristic of the Colonial Cousins.

When Hariharan and Leslie Lewis formed Colonial Cousins, little did they realise that their foray into popular vocal fusion would make them the hottest act in town. Being a ghazal singer in the Indian music industry for over two decades, Hariharan is well versed in Carnatic and Hindustani music. Besides releasing several ghazal albums, Hariharan has also lent his voice to many Hindi and Tamil films, and ended up winning several awards including the National Award as Best Singer for his song "Mere Dushman Mere Bhai" from the film Border.

Debut album

In October 1996, under Magnasound Label, the duo released their debut album self-titled Colonial Cousins. The album broke all records including hitting platinum sales in India. The duo also won the MTV Asia Viewer's Choice Award and then later on bagged the US Billboard Viewer's Choice Award too.[2] The song "Krishna" won the Star Videocon Award for Best Music Video.[3] The exceptional Indian and Western music fusion generated a new genre of music and won hearts of millions of music lovers worldwide.

Their debut album opened up the doors for Indian sounds to be used in western sounding songs. The style is essentially fusion, with a lot of songs opening with recognisable Hindustani or Carnatic ragas and then segueing into a more pop style. A further cachet to the album is that the musicians who worked on it range from Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, winner of a Grammy Award for his invention of the 14-stringed guitar, to sessions musicians who have worked with the likes of Madonna, Boy George, Annie Lennox and other big names in the Western world. It was the first Indian act to be featured on MTV Unplugged.[2]

The album had two major hit singles "Krishna" and "Sa Ni Dha Pa" ("Never Know the Reason") for both of which their music videos were repeatedly played on music channels.

The Way We Do It

The first Colonial Cousins album was a tour de force. On November 19, 1998, their second album, a sophomore effort, The Way We Do It, was a continuation of, and a departure from, that first effort. Lyrically low-key, musically rich and groove-ridden, this album saw Hari and Lezz establish themselves as India's premier fusion artists.

The album was a continuation in musical terms to the extent that Lezz and Hari had done what they do best individually, and fused it into a format that enriches and complements each other. That said, the album was also a departure sound-wise from their eponymous first album. While that has a softer sound to it, their second album was edgier and groovier.

The album has some successful singles like the title track "Way We Do It With You". Srinivas playing on it, "Dekhoon Main Jahan" penned by talented lyricist Javed Akhtar, "No Longer Mine" and "Lady".


After two-and-a-half years in hibernation, Indipop fusion band Colonial Cousins, sprung into action with their third album Aatma. Released in April 2001, under the Sony label, the nine-track album was a delectable fusion of Indian vocals and contemporary instrumentation. Besides being busy in playback singing Hariharan had cut a ghazal album Kaash the previous year, while Lewis has been busy composing jingles and producing music.

Hariharan, an exponent of Carnatic music trained in Hindustani gayaki under the tutelage of Padamshree Ustad Ghulam Mustafa Khan, displays vocal skills in his rich baritone in songs like “Guiding Star”, “Mata Pita” and "Dheem Dheem Dhirena".

Lewis, on the other hand, chips in with the pop element. While the English lyrics Lewis sings have depth and meaning, his vocals are delightfully sweet at places. One can easily detect a conscious attempt on his part to infuse his singing with emotion. Still, the saving grace of “Aatma” is the emphatic presence of Hariharan.

There is also a song "I Love You Girl" which Hariharan has dedicated to his daughter Divya. Its title "I love you girl", for Divya when "I’m Gone" says everything.

In Aatma, they have got back to square one and incorporated the same sounds and style that music buffs have come to identify with them.

Modhi Vilayadu

In 2009, the Colonial Cousins made a debut as music composers for Tamil film Modhi Vilayadu directed by Saran. The director of the film required a new trend of music and so roped in the Indipop duo thus opening doors for them to the Tamil Film Industry.[4]

Chikku Bukku

Colonial Cousins scored their second soundtrack for the film Chikku Bukku (2010). Its audio was released on 13 August.[5]


Awards and achievements

  • 1997: MTV Asia Viewer's Choice Award for Colonial Cousins
  • US Billboard Viewer's Choice Award


External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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