Kiran + Nivi Bring ‘New’ Sound To Pop By Blending Indian & Western Music In ‘Y’all Got It Wrong’

Kiran + Nivi have have drawn more than one million fans on TikTok by adding elements of classical Indian music to hit songs. The twins explain how they’re now using similar techniques for original music.

While a talented twin act is always bound to attract attention — as the Olsen and Mowry twins have proven — Kiran and Nivi Saishankar have earned more than one million followers on TikTok for far more reasons beyond the fact that they’re twins who can sing. Like, really sing. The 21-year-old Indian-American fraternal twin sisters from Southern California have even demanded the attention of celebrities like Jason Derulo (who personally invited them into his studio for a collab) because they are bringing something “new” to the music industry. The evidence is in their latest song, “y’all got it wrong,” a track that Kiran said is about proving your online critics “wrong” by making “your dreams come true” despite the “hate” that has manifested online as a result of being on our phones and laptops “24 hours a day” amid the pandemic.

Kiran + Nivi are represented through Firetower Entertainment. [Photo Credit: Sahana Raj]

“Our goal is to mix Indian with Western in a very subtle way. That doesn’t make it seem like it’s out of place, but also seems like it’s something cool and something new,” Kiran EXCLUSIVELY told HollywoodLife as we caught up with her and Nivi over a Zoom call after their new song’s March 1 release. In “y’all got it wrong,” this blend of two sounds is so congruous, the untrained ear wouldn’t even notice a mixing of cultures is happening. While the majority of the song incorporates a pop minor scale, an Indian scale was actually added to the verse, called Rasikapriya, which is used in Carnatic music (a classical style popular in Southern India).

Kiran demonstrated this Rasikapriya scale by singing it out loud, which she then transcribed to a Western version: “Do Me Mi Si Sol Le Ti Do, Do Ti Te Sol Fi Mi Me Do.” The difference was clear; in Indian music in general, there are “a lot of oscillations between each note” that are “specific to each Indian scale,” Kiran noted. Once again, she used her commanding voice to highlight these sonic differences between a Western major scale (the classic Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Ti Do scale) and its Indian counterpart. This side-by-side comparison, sung out loud, made the difference in oscillations even more clear: the Indian scale contains nuances unique from Western music, which is what fans are picking up on — even if they don’t realize it.

Kiran and Nivi began with singing classical Indian music as children, which led them to take opera lessons to “open up their voice[s],” Kiran shared with HollywoodLife. [Photo Credit: Sahana Raj]

The twin sisters also invited KanjiraMan, a respected musician from the Indian city of Chennai, to play the Kanjira instrument in “y’all got it wrong.” The percussion instrument heard on the song is played in all South Indian classical concerts, Nivi explained. You see, Kiran and Nivi aren’t solely using their voices to “solidify” this new sound that they’re trying to introduce to pop. They’re also bringing on-board classical Indian instruments that stand out from the sea of Western drums, guitar, piano and synths; another example is their 2020 song, “Real Friend,” which incorporated North Indian classical instruments called the harmonium and tabla.

You don’t need to be brushed up on music theory, however, to recognize that “y’all got it wrong” doesn’t sound quite like other Western pop tracks (even if it’s sung in English). Kiran and Nivi’s decision to start making this type of music actually stemmed from the rave responses they were receiving from fans who weren’t familiar with South Asian music on TikTok. After joining the short-form video app in 2019, the twin sisters began posting mashups of popular pop songs by artists like Lil Nas X and Daniel Caesar. These weren’t simply covers of Top 40 pop tracks: Kiran and Nivi were adding to the songs by using a type of solfège called swaram (you can listen to this technique being applied to Kali Uchis‘s viral song “telepatía” below).

Keep streaming loves! Link in BIO @kaliuchis #fyp #foryou #foryoupage #telepatía #kaliuchis #carnatic #swaram #viral #twin #duo #duet #singing#xyzbca

♬ original sound – Kiran + Nivi