In search of the soul

World Music Day

In search of the soul

This is a time of endless musical possibilities. Ever since the Internet shrunk the world, music has been democratised and boundaries erased.

Amateurs are taking the place of professionals. Music is stepping out of the consoles and technology has made it easily accessible. So far, so good. But at what cost? As the world celebrates yet another ‘Music Day’, musicians across genres check what’s ailing the music industry even as they retrace their footsteps.

Ten years back, Avial, the alternative rock band, made their debut. Looking back, vocalist Tony John says, “When we started, finance was an issue. Fortunately, I had a studio. But we always knew that folk and rock would gel well. In 2008, we released our first album,” he says.

Fast forwarding, he says, “Technology has come in hard. Earlier, it was analogue recording. Now, there are recorded grooves and samples for everything. In the process, though, the soul of music is lost,” he rues.

There is room for hope and Carnatic vocalist Sangeetha Srikishen, who specialises in world music, believes that. “Since we cannot wish away digital music, we need to take the good elements of it. Carnatic music, as it is, brings in a lot of challenges. But blending it and tailoring it into world music is worth the trouble,” she says.

She reiterates the need to keep one’s musical heritage alive. “I watched a Celtic music performance in Ireland recently. If they can preserve their heritage, why can’t we?” she adds.

Malayalam playback singer G Venugopal, whose soulful melodies have captured many hearts, points out how luck has played an important factor in his career. Nonetheless, nothing came easy. “Music has transformed over the years. Playback singing has evolved from analogue to digital recording.

Earlier, singer was the priority, now voice has become just a layer, like a rhythm instrument. The humane element is missing. Since instruments can suppress the voice, the engineers should have the expertise to give importance to the voice and the lyrics,” he says.

The singer is equally comfortable with the younger generation. “But there isn’t enough space for all. The reality shows too serve as a good podium since these give opportunity to those from lower and middle-class families. But later, on placement continues to be an issue,” he informs.

But is cacophony created in the name of music? Is it ‘all sound and fury and signifying nothing’?

Tony adds, “The true value of music comes only when you play your stuff manually before the mic. The sad thing here is people don’t buy music. The day after our first album — three-and-a-half years of hard work— came out, it was downloaded. What we need is stringent laws against this like in the US and the UK,” he says. Avial is working on its next album.

When British rapper and hip-hop artiste Hard Kaur walked into the male arena sometime back, she was breaking new ground. In her homeland, she was defining hip-hop. This artiste continues to emphasise the importance of creativity in music and echoes the need for better encouragement for independent artistes.

“It’s a good thing that there is experimenting of all kinds of genres going on at the same time. But there is a need to promote independent music better. We have to create new opportunities for independent artistes,” she says.

Her Ek Glassy or ‘Singh Is Kinng’ has had ample takers. Born for rap, she says there is a huge following for hip-hop in India. “Kids are on the Net and are deeply interested in this genre.” She also points out how things are much better in India than in the UK.

“I struggled in the UK because it’s a male-dominated industry there. In India, things were much easier,” she adds.

The young, meanwhile, has no dearth of choices. While easy listening genre has its own followers, Sangeetha adds, “I see a lot of children interested in jazz, which is good. Let the music flow into your life, it will enrich you, whichever form it may be.”

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