(As published in India Currents)
If you are one of those who sing in secret or just among friends, and would love to find out how you would sound “on-mic,”take heart. LaDiDa, a new iPhone app, can be your recording studio on-the-go. Record whatever you want, and LaDiDa will match it to your preferred music or find the best style match itself.
“LaDiDa is like having an orchestra or DJ with me wherever I go!” shares Shalin Mantri, 25, doing his Masters at Stanford.
So, how does it work? LaDiDa is like singing karaoke, but in reverse. And it is utterly simple to use and to get addicted to from the get-go. Downloading it from the iTunes store is a breeze. The first aha! moment is when you figure out that the shadowy picture on screen is that of the “real” microphone in a recording studio.
You choose your style (there’s a default “E Piano Pop”). A little ticking metronome keeps beat. You hit the record button. The adrenalin does a little jig when you see the countdown “Start to sing in 4…3…2…” and you sing the first Bollywood number that comes into your head. And just like that, you’re a musician, even though the first time feels strange—who sings to a phone?
There’s like a second’s wait before you can hit play. Out floats a voice that’s yours, but with professional music backing it. It’s a feeling few of us have experienced, and oh-so-different from hearing your voicemail greeting playback, even if you may have sung it!
The second time, you try another style, say “Rhythm Synth Pop,” at say 100 BPM (it doesn’t take long to figure out that BPM stands for Beats-Per-Minute). Next, you decide to try out the Dub Tone. Then it’s time to experiment with folk with the Dirty Rap Beat set to 155 BPM. You get the picture—it’s addictive, and sure to surprise joyful mirth. Not because you’re sounding bad, but because it’s so cool.
LaDiDa is the latest from Khu.sh, an “Intelligent Music Applications” company founded by husband-wife music technocrats, Parag Chordia, CTO, and Prerna Gupta, CEO. Chordia is an active sarod player and a disciple of the legendary Pandit Buddhadev Das Gupta. He holds a Ph.D. from Stanford and is currently the director of the Music Intelligence Lab at Georgia Tech. Chordia’s early venture, Bol Records—an Indian classical music label, produced compositions of stalwarts such as Tanmoy Bose and Chitravina Ravikiran.
“Interactive music technologies are allowing everyday people who are not musically trained to experience the thrill of making music,” is Chordia’s opinion. “Historically, most people participated in making music together in groups; it was a part of the culture to sing, beat drums, etc. in a communal setting. It’s only recently that a separation between rock star and audience was formed, in which the audience member is just a consumer of music. Technology once again is allowing busy people to participate in music and express themselves creatively, without having to be trained professionally.”
In a bid to make artists out of bathroom singers, Khu.sh is investing in creating pitch and tempo detection algorithms to help improve amateur recordings. Their new and improved version in this regard is set to release in February 2010. According to AppVee, an iPhone app review site, “Instead of forcing the user to sing a song in a specific key, LaDiDa will automatically choose the key and change the chords for you so that all you have to do is sing.”
Khu.sh’s Gupta, sporting a Stanford degree in Computer Science and Economics, is a rare combination of techie and singer. When asked about what inspired the duo to create LaDiDa, she said, “We wanted to create an ecosystem in which artists can sell their styles and generate revenues from their musical content. The future of the music industry is in the technology used. Music technology is unique in its ability to create digital content that cannot be easily pirated.”
And once you create your digital musical content, you can share it with other open-mic enthusiasts.
LaDiDa’s “Discover” page lets you hear songs recorded by other users, like a Flickr for original singing. There is a star rating that allows you to pick who you’d like to listen to, and you feel like you’re part of this vocalist neighborhood. You could also upload your LaDiDa content onto your Facebook and Twitter accounts at the click of a button. This social and sharing aspect of the app is not surprising, considering that the Chordia’s and Gupta’s previous venture was a desi social networking site called Yaari.
Khu.sh plans to release new versions perhaps to be used with any kind of phone. In the works are also additional styles (e.g., salsa, rock, classical) to cater to a variety of audiences, including the RIs—Resident Indians back home. (Should we expect to hear original soundtracks instead of ringtones next time we visit India, one wonders?) Khu.sh is also planning to bring out an application that will allow others to create styles of their own. There’s hope for the A.R. Rehman in all of us!
LaDiDa can be found at the iTunes store. A demo of LaDiDa can be seen athttp://www.facebook.com/l/bc97a;www.youtube.com/watch?v=bXI9ARwN-Ng