Attuned to hits

Attuned to hits

When you meet Mano Murthy at his house in Bangalore, you also see his music studio, where now the composition for the upcoming Kannada film Shankara is ongoing.

(He has one such music studio at his Californian home, where his family stays). And alongside this setup is his laptop from where he takes care of his network-security company, Attivo. “It keeps the other side of my mind occupied. I enjoy juggling the two streams,” says the engineer and much-sought-after music director of the Kannada film industry, whose has composed tunes for films America America (1995), Nanna Preethiya Hudugi (2001), Mungaru Male (2005), Milana (2007) etc.

A youngster’s penchant

Well, the markings of becoming a musician were all there... “At age three or younger, when taken to weddings, I would park myself in front of the orchestra and concentrate on the percussion instruments — correlate hand movements with the sounds coming out of the instruments.

Then, he “often listened to Western pop music — Rolling Stones, The Beatles and others. At the time when LP s ruled the music scene, there were portraits of musicians on their covers. With no internet, I would visualise drumming techniques and then audiolise music. It was purely by conjecture. And my parents’ gift for acing SSLC was a drum set.”

But imagine the aspiring artiste’s distraught when the drums were take away... “While pursuing engineering in Bangalore, I started a four-member band, Sonics,” which amplified his love for musical performances and muted his interest in academics. “One fine day, I look for my drum kit, and my friends tell me that my dad has taken it away.”

In retrospect, he sees it in good light as he left to the US for further studies, pointing out that “a comfortable living is difficult to make as a musician, despite talent. This holds true around the world.”

Mano Murthy holds ‘Arranging an Orchestration’ degree from Berklee College of Music and ‘Advanced Music Theory’ from the University of California, complementing his Master’s degrees in Electrical Engineering (University of California) and Computer Science (Stanford). He adds that these learnings have helped compose background music for films.

But, has his musical and technological paths crossed? “Yes, my technological skills helps me understand when the softwares I use for music composition encounter bugs. Someone not in my shoes would perhaps get frustrated and would have to move around schedules. Dependence on others for fixing glitches is less. I won’t let it stop my work.”

Film entrance

He began his musical contribution to Kannada films through America America in 1995, directed by Nagathihalli Chandrashekar, and after a handful of projects from 1996-2005, was pushed to limelight when everyone wanted to know the people behind the contagious songs from Mungaru Male. “Although Sonu Nigam had sung a few songs for Kannada films, people credit me for bringing him in to sing for this industry. It was my wife who suggested his name, and she deserves the credit,” he says by way of clarification.

Now, well-noted in the music circuit, he has complete freedom to choose his singers. And, for those who say his choice of voices are from Bollywood, “I say, as long as listeners like it, why should it change? Music is for them, not for critics.”

He adds, “What few people know is that, most of the voices I use in my music belong to local singers. This is shadowed by the popularity of Kannada songs sung so far by Bollywood singers. I have introduced a lot of singers here. I give it my best, the co-operation must also come from filmmakers.”

The music director’s inbox is marked with requests from aspiring musicians and singers to ‘please listen to my sample music’, which “I do, sparing none. I reply with feedback sometimes. Once in while I run into someone who I wish to try immediately. It might not work in the end, but it gives the person some practice and experience,” Mano Murthy adds.

Mano Murthy’s concern is the absence of an exclusive space for music. “This association of films and songs here, it’s the only one in the entire world. Independent music and film music should have their own places. For example, the Western world’s music industry is bigger than their film industry in terms of revenue. It gives its musicians more venues and chances. In here, unless a song is in a film, even though it’s excellent, it doesn’t have the reach, and dies out. It has nothing to do with listeners, it’s to do with the music business and production houses. Of course, films need music, we have grown up with that format, and we like it. But let that not preclude the other channel of having an independent music industry.”

To corroborate what he has said above, he draws the experience of the fate of his own album, Neene Bari Neene, created a few years ago with Sonu Nigam. The music did not reach many ears, but it got positive responses from the ones who heard it.

“Many regional albums are produced here, but not marketed well, escaping public, unfortunately. So, having an independent music industry would offer many artistes ample opportunities. Many of my peers and musicans feel the same way.” Now the album’s music will be used in the film Neene Bari Neene, under Deepak Thimmayya’s direction.

Mano Murthy’s music can be heard in the upcoming films Abhinetri (actor Kalpana’s biopic), Neene Bari Neene, Prem-starrer Mast Mohobbat and Shankara.

Mano Murthy, besides composing music and managing his company, likes cheering San Francisco 49ers (American Football team) and enjoying the comedy of sitcoms Seinfeld, Friends and Three’s Company.

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