Interview With The Founder of Bollywood Influenced Virtual Music Making Software 'Swar Systems'

SwarPlug by Swar Systems has become the backbone for most of the music producers globally. The cutting edge easy to use design and tonality of the sounds present has made it one of the highly used Indian Influenced plugins.

It is one of the finest virtual instruments if you are looking to produce Bollywood music. The Flexibility with which the sounds work together has made it a favorite of Bollywood Giants like A.R. Rahman, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, Salim & Sulaiman Merchant.

SwarPlug comes with over 80 perfectly sampled instruments that are go-to for all production needs. Not just limited to one product the company also has various other plugins and software designed to help the musicians keep up their game and make them be able to produce classically influenced music without compromising with the quality.

We had to chance to sit & interview the founder of this great product “Mariano Etchepareborda.” Here are some important takeaways from the interview –

How did the company start? Has there been any change in the vision and mission of the company now?

The journey started around 1996. I was a young software developer who was learning tabla. As the number of thekas, peshkars and other kaydas started increasing, I thought it would be nice to have a software tool where you could enter all these notations into folders. Once the rhythms were stored, I thought it would be cool to be able to link an audio clip to each stroke and then be able to play the sequence at different tempos. That’s how the ancestor of SwarShala was born, called then TaalWizard. It started evolving into other drums like Dholak or Naal, then I thought I should do the same for melodic instruments. And that’s where the software was renamed as SwarShala and the Swar Systems company was established, in 1999.

Once SwarShala gained popularity, people started using it to create their rhythms and melodies using the traditional bols and sargam notation, and then exporting them as audio files to load into their sequencers or DAWs. But soon enough they started asking to play the instruments from MIDI keyboards and files. That’s how SwarPlug came into play. First as a VST, then into various other plugin formats.

With this new audience in mind, SwarPlug kept evolving, with more and more functionality as well as instruments, until it reached the 80+ we currently support. We also developped our own DAW, Swar Studio, to provide an affordable, mid-level music composing tool that includes both western and Indian virtual instruments.

At the same time, we still catered for our original client base, that is all about classical music aficionados, with improved versions of SwarShala, as well as mobile apps for riyaaz/practice..

Why did you choose ‘Swar Systems’ as the name of your company? 

As explained above, it was in 1999. It seemed to properly convey the message of Indian music software tools.

What’s your story? Musical Background/Founder’s love for music.

I’m originally from Argentina, living in Switzerland, and I fell in love with Indian music when I first came to India in 1985, for a Sahaj meditation tour across Maharashtra. After that I started learning Tabla, but after years of practice I had to accept the fact I would never become a good player. Still enjoy the occasional bhajan accompaniment, though.

What can we expect with Swar Plug in the future?

Our current focus is on resampling all our instruments with the highest quality possible: multi-layers, multi-mics (stereo + mono), 48kHz, multiple playing styles, etc… Of course, that’s a lot of instruments to cover, so we do that with small sets called Multi Layer Packs or MLP. We have currently 6 ML Packs available, with one more on the way. Along with that, we are looking at improving the functionality of SwarPlug, even though it’s quite mature at the moment.

Are you planning on starting any subscription-based service or rent to own plan?

It’s tempting, but it’s more complicated to manage, so for the moment we will be sticking with our policy of paying only once for a product. Our updates are free, unless we add new instruments or major new functionality, in which case we usually charge a small upgrade fee. We also offer payment facilities like split payment, with half the amount paid up front, and half within 6 months.

How’s the Journey so far? And how was the response of the professional producers after they used Swar Plug? Did you receive a call about how astonishing the product is or maybe feedback?

21 years on, we are very happy with the journey we have made. It wasn’t always an easy path, but we are very proud to have reached where we are now. We only started looking out for the professional producers among our clients recently, and their response was very encouraging. We got great feedback from them, mostly by mail, but also a few calls, for example with Jerry “Wonda” Duplessis who absolutely loved the plugin and was jamming along it on his favorite instrument, the bass guitar.

What do you think about the current Music Market in India? Do you think a change is coming in the style of productions, mixes, and everything?

The music market in India is huge, and so diverse. Along with a fantastic, rejuvenated classical music scene, you have the giant film music production as well as a growing and exciting DJ scene. This music is also now reaching wider audiences in the west, through the impulsion of the ever growing Indian diaspora. Can’t really comment on any specific changes, but I know musicians in each of these styles will keep evolving and experimenting with a more global approach to their music.

How do you plan on capturing the Indian market? A lot of heavy hitters are already using your products. Do you wish you launch a variety of products in the future? Mixing plugins maybe.

Swar Systems is the main Indian music software company at the moment. We do have competitors, of course. Many large software companies have released specific products of very high quality for the Indian market. But these are usually one offs, as their main focus is on the global audience. At Swar Systems, we are fully committed to Indian music, and as such are providing not only the largest collection of virtual Indian instruments in the market, but also the whole know-how, the whole understanding of the specificities of Indian music. We intend to delve deeper and deeper into that.

Our short and middle term plans are to keep improving our current range of products that is already quite large. But we do have some interesting ideas for the future, which I’d prefer to keep under wraps for the moment.

Name of few Bollywood producers who think your products have helped them immensely improve their production and workflow. 

I wouldn’t have the audacity to claim that our products helped “immensely” such great composers as ARR, the Shankar Ehsaan Loy trio, Gulraj Singh, Salim & Sulaiman Merchant and others, because these geniuses would be able to create absolute hits with their empty hands. But they have all expressed a lot of appreciation for our tools.

How many people are usually involved in the creation of such great sounding Vstis? 

I’m managing the programming all by myself, but we have had various people involved in the recording of the instruments and for the creation of  MIDI loops for them. Also a graphics artist for the UI.

A few tips for Indian Music Producers.

I’m a tech guy. I have a great understanding of the flows of Audio and MIDI throughout a DAW and its plugins. But I have absolutely no talent for creating music myself. So I’ll clearly pass this question. 

Who’s your favorite producer?

It’s difficult to rate artists, because each one is in their own creative world. But I love AR Rahman, the way he is able to create a perfect blend of modern and classical music in a song. That is really exceptional. 

Anything for the Suffle Music Fans?

It has been an honour to be featured here and be read by you. If you are a musician yourself, keep practicing and enjoying what you do. If you are lucky, the world will notice. 

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