Leslie Peter Lewis (or “Lezz”, as he is fondly known) inherited his artistic inclinations from dad 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, Lezz 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, Lezz 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.
It was during Lezz’s jingles career that the idea of Colonial Cousins was conceived. Lezz had called in Hari 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 seemless fusion of Eastern and Western sounds that has become the quintessential characteristic of the 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.
Lezz’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 Kay Kay, a new singer.
In 1998, Lezz cut his first solo album, “Haseena”, which is selling fairly well. He has also just 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’s also a sentimental person; the lyrics he writes certainly reflect that aspect of him. But we’re only just getting to know Lezz, so this is all we have for you folks for now.
Vital statistics: Born in 1961, Lezz is a half South Indian (dad’s side) and half Hindu Goan (mum’s side). He’s been hitched to Lolette for more than 10 years. They have two little monsters, Dev (born 1991), and Divya (born 1996).