The music was not just around Simon Fransquet. It lived in him.
At 12, Fransquet, born in the Belgian city of Liège, started playing the guitar at home, before moving on to learn it in some of the country’s best institutes.
His mother was a housekeeper, his father a railroad worker. Life was hard, but at home, there was always music playing in the background. “I grew up in a very musical environment,” says Fransquet, who was recently in India for his maiden Hindi film Lakadbaggha, which will release on January 13 (Amazon Prime).
Besides experiencing the excitement of working in a country he had never visited, Fransquet was also attracted to the Victor Mukherjee directorial on another level. It appealed to his love for animals, a love he describes as “very important for humans”. It was also the first time he was composing for an action thriller.
Fransquet’s assignment was to set to music the poem ‘Purano Sei Diner Kotha’ by Rabindranath Tagore. In his discovery of Tagore, Fransquet found “a rare sweetness and beauty”. And, his understanding of the poem? “It’s about nostalgia, how we remember old times and how we try to relive the moment once again,” he says.
Fransquet’s name was suggested for the film by its director of photography Jean-Marc Selva. The film’s lead, Anshuman Jha, flew to Belgium for an in-person meeting. “We locked down ourselves in my studio, recording for two weeks,”recalls Fransquet. “I showed him [Jha] the almost hundred instruments I had collected from all over the world and also some that I had built myself. He fell in love with one called the ronroco (a stringed mandolin-like instrument). We decided that was the instrument that would give colour to the film. It became like a character of the movie. The ronroco was the centre and around it I mixed many other modern sounds like electronic traps drums.”
At 35, Fransquet has an impressive body of work. He has composed for more than 30 films, documentaries and even video games. “It is all the same,” he says. “The purpose of all music is to tell a story.”
He also teaches ‘musical awakening’―an approach that allows students to explore genres other than what they are used to, and thus expand their musical palettes.
Among his many accolades is the Magritte award (the Belgian equivalent of the Oscars) in 2019 for When Arabs Danced. The same year, he picked up the best original music prize at the Madrid International Film Festival for Qui Vive.
Fransquet is a multi-instrumentalist. Though trained to play the guitar (both jazz and classical), he can also play, among other instruments, the accordion, drums and piano, all of which he modestly admits he is not very good at.
For him, music is an international language, the syntax never impeding its texture or grammar. “Even when we don’t speak the same language, we can speak with music, scales, rhythms and melodies,” he says. “I have always found connections between music from all over the world. This is a very exciting process for me. The role of music (as other forms of arts) is to bring positive messages to people, to make them dream and escape reality sometimes.”
Woven into Fransquet’s music, besides classical, jazz and pop influences, are also stories of his travels. Every country he visits, he learns to play some instrument, in turn teaching some of what he has mastered. In Sri Lanka, for instance, he taught jazz to a sitar player and learnt from him. “My process is to not keep it all to myself. I like sharing experiences and instruments,” he says.
Fransquet is also a creator of stringed instruments. The most strings he has mounted on an instrument are 18. A mixture of a double bass, guitar and harp, the instrument produces a wide range of pitches, ideal for his live performances.
India has stunned Fransquet with its sounds, colours and flavours. He has also delighted in the many vegan options for meals. Unlike most westerners who are challenged into adapting to the spicy flavours, he has delighted in them, attributing the growth of those taste buds to the time he spent in Mexico. He cannot wait to return to India while incorporating the “music, images, colours, films, food and instruments”that he discovered in his time here in his compositions.
There is another Indian project he is working on―Lord Curzon Ki Haveli, a black comedy thriller. “I have hired this amazing Belgian violinist―Joachim Iannello―and we have worked on violin textures,” he says. “I made him play very close to the bridge (a device that supports the strings and also transmits their vibrations to the body of the instrument) and made the sound almost ‘dirty’. It’s a sound that will disturb the audience a little and also create a strange atmosphere for the film. “There are other creators he is speaking to for more opportunities, too.
As a young boy, Fransquet had looked upon music as a medium for self-growth. That goal is worded differently now. “I want to grow as an international composer,” he says. “My ambition is to create stories with my music and make these stories travel all around the world.”
And thus, the music lives on, in and around him.
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