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Colonial Cousins is a band formed by Indian duo comprising 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. 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 01, 2001. They have scored two Tamil films, Modhi Vilayadu (2009), Chikku Bukku (2010). Their fourth album Once More was released in 2012.


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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.

About Hariharan

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Hariharan born 3 April 1955, is an Indian playback singer in Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada and Telugu movies, an established ghazal singer, and one of the pioneers of Indian fusion music.

Early Life:

Born in Thiruvananthapuram (Kerala) he grew up in Mumbai in a Tamil Iyer family, and has bachelor degrees in science and law. He did his collegeing from S.I.E.S.College. The son of renowned Carnatic vocalists, Shrimati Alamelu and the late H.A.S. Mani (full name:Anantha Subramani Iyer), he inherited his parents' musical talents. Alamelu was Hariharan's first guru (mentor). From here he picked up Carnatic music skills. He was also exposed to Hindustani music from a young age. In his teens, inspired by the songs of Mehdi Hassan and Jagjit Singh, Hariharan developed a passion for ghazals and started training in Hindustani music from Ustad Ghulam Mustafa Khan. He used to put in nine hours of singing practice everyday. The committed Hariharan also put heart and soul into learning Urdu when he decided to become a ghazal singer. He has perfected his Urdu diction to such standards that even his audiences in Lucknow, the heartland of the language, have been wowed over.

In 1977, Hariharan bagged the top prize in the All-India Sur Singaar competition and was promptly signed on by the late music director Jaidev to sing for the Hindi film Gaman. His debut song "Ajeeb Saaneha Mujh Par Guzar Gaya Yaaron" in that movie became such a hit that it won Hariharan an Uttar Pradesh state award, as well as a Best Singer National Award nomination, and Hariharan's playback singing career took off.


At the start of his career, Hariharan did the concert circuit and also performed on TV. He sang for a number of TV serials (e.g., Junoon). In addition, he cut several successful ghazal albums, writing most of the scores himself. One of Hariharan's first ghazal albums was "Abshaar-e-Ghazal" with Asha Bhonsle, which went gold in sales. Another outstanding ghazal album was "Gulfam", which not only hit double platinum in sales but also fetched Hariharan the Diva Award for the Best Album of the Year in 1994.

Hariharan entered the world of Tamil films in 1992 introduced by debutant music director A.R. Rahman with the patriotic song "Thamizha Thamizha" in Maniratnam's film Roja. He was judged best male playback singer in the 1995 Tamil Nadu State Government Film Awards for his soulful rendition of the song "Uyire Uyire" also by music director A.R Rahman in Maniratnam's Bombay (Hariharan sang the song with K.S. Chitra). Hariharan has been one of the most trusted singer of A R Rahman and has sung many songs for him in long list of movies that includes Roja, Muthu, Minsara Kanavu, Jeans, Indian, Mudhalvan, Taal, Bombay, Rangeela, Indira, Iruvar, Anbe Aaruyire, Kangalal Kaithu Sei, Sivaji, Alaipayuthey, Kannathil Muthamittal, Guru etc. In 1998, Hariharan won the national award for the best playback singer for the soulful rendition of the song "mere dushman mere bhai" from the Hindi movie Border, composed by Anu Malik.

He has sung more than 500 Tamil songs which is his highest in his career.

The year 1996 was a career milestone; he released the fusion album Colonial Cousins with Bombay-based composer/singer Leslie Lewis. This was the first Indian act to be featured on MTV Unplugged. It won a string of awards including the MTV Indian Viewers' Choice award.

Hariharan has also acted in a Tamil film with Khushboo, titled Power of Women & also played cameo roles in the Tamil film Boys & the Malayalam film Millennium Stars.

Recent Years:

In 2004, he was awarded the prestigious Padma Shri and Yesudas Award for his outstanding performance in music.

Hariharan also collaborated with Pakistan based band Strings for a track called "bolo bolo". Hariharan released an album called destiny with Punjabi / bhangra artiste Daler Mehndi. His newest Ghazal album "Lahore ke rang, Hari ke sang" with renowned ghazal composers from Pakistan won him rave reviews and critical acclaim inside and outside India. He also coined the terminology "Urdu Blues" with his immensely successful album "Kaash" which featured musicians like Anandan Sivamani the percussion maestro, Ustaad Rashid Mustafa on tabla, Ustad Liyaqat Ali Khan on Sitar & Ustad Sultan Khan on Sarangi. Hariharan also worked with tabla maestro Zakir Hussain on his ghazal album Haazir. In 2006 , He came to Doha, Qatar, and performed a fabulous bonanza of music to exclusive audience like Doha Bank CEO Sitaraman, AAB Meenakshi etc. Recently in mid 2009, he along with Leslie Lewis composed music for a Tamil movie 'Modhi Vilayadu'. They are again composing for another Tamil film "Chiku Bhukku" starring Arya and Shriya Saran.

About Leslie Lewis

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Leslie Lewis is an Indian composer, perhaps best known for his work as part of Colonial Cousins, a duo composed of Lewis and Hariharan. In 2003 Lewis stated that he felt the public associated him too much with his remixes and for that reason he had begun to avoid remixes and instead concentrate on his original compositions and on his work in Colonial Cousins.Lewis' father P. L. Raj was a prolific film choreographer.


Leslie Peter Lewis (or "Lezz", as he is known) inherited his artistic inclinations from his father P L Raj.Dad is a well-known choreographer for films. So, naturally, the early sounds the young Lezz heard were Indian classical and film music. Later, at boarding school, Lezz was exposed to the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton. With these diverse musical influences, Lewis soon began plucking guitar chords at the Cafe Royal, Oberoi Towers. Later, he had the opportunity of recording with renowned film music directors such as Kalyanji Anandji, Laxmikant Pyarelal, R. D. Burman and Louis Banks.

In 1987, Lewis launched a music company and began carving out a career in jingles composing. He composed for some of the leading television networks and picked up nominations for the awards handed out annually by the Indian Academy of Advertising Film Art (IAAFA). After four consecutive nominations, in 1989, Lezz bagged the award.

Lewis's other musical credits include doing the remix job for Asha Bhosle's Rahul and I album and writing the musical scores for the legendary diva's Janam samjha karo album. He also composed and produced the music for Suneeta Rao in "Paree Hu Main", Alisha in "Bombay Girl" and for KK in Pal.

In 1998, Lewis cut his first solo album, Haseena, which sold fairly well. He has also just[when?] made a foray into film music, completing the scores for the Hindi films Mela and "Jahd" and working on the scores for a yet to be titled Tamil film. Dad had long been prodding Lezz to do film music, reminding him that that was where the big bucks and big names were. But Lezz had been reluctant. Being a stickler for quality, he felt he'd have to compromise standards in film music. He told the Malaysian newspaper, The New Straits Times: "I feel a lot of the music in films doesn't have quality. Not because the people involved are not quality-conscious but you'd find people putting pressure on you to do things their way and use singers that they want to. I would only produce music for films when the director is one who can think, who's got a good concept and who understands what I'm doing." Presumably, the few film producers he has chosen to work with are people who think, who've got a concept and who understand what Lezz is doing.

On the personal side, Lezz is quick-witted and has a good sense of humour. He is also a sentimental person; the lyrics he writes certainly reflect that aspect of him.

Colonial Cousins:

Today, Colonial Cousins has become Lezz's key vehicle for popularity and success. Lezz wrote the scores for the songs in the Colonial Cousins albums—some with Hari—and arranged all the pieces. The strains of his guitar can also be heard in some of the tracks. And, Lezz is the man who penned the English lyrics. Initially, Lezz hadn't intended singing on the album since he isn't a trained singer. But with a nudge and plenty of coaching from Hari, Lezz soon discovered and honed his singing talents.