'Being a musician is pretty hard'

'Being a musician is pretty hard'

Inheritance of art

'Being a musician is pretty hard'

Saby Singh is just like his music — honest, refreshing and entertaining. Trained in Hindustani Shastriya Sangeet since the age of 10, the singer-songwriter from Kashmir plays a variety of instruments like the guitar, tabla, harmonium, flute and drums. But the talented artiste has no hesitation in admitting that musicians find it tough to make a living. In a chat with Rajitha Menon, Saby talks about his musical upbringing and life as an indie rockstar.
How did you get interested in music?

My maternal grandfather used to be a professional classical singer. When I was small, I spent a lot of time with him. In fact, my entire family is musically inclined. So even though I wanted to be an aeronautical engineer, this passion for music grew in me. Apart from the classical genres, I became  interested in classical rock, blues, jazz and other such western forms of music by the age of 14. To pursue my dream, I packed my bags and moved to Bengaluru as soon as I finished my degree.  

So your parents were ok with you doing this?

Oh no. My mother told me you can go wherever you want and perform but we need a job. But I understand the need for security. They probably want their son to know where his next paycheck will come from. They are supportive...no, they are not...it’s dynamic.

How would you describe your music?

It’s unaltered, pure and influenced by shastriya sangeet a lot. But there is a touch of western music and western classical like blues, jazz and all. Earlier I used to write in English a lot. One day when I was writing songs, something came up in Hindi and I was like ‘Woah, this is something new.’

How feasible is a career in music today?

I have been performing as a professional musician for quite some time now and right now, I can barely make ends meet. I have to compromise on a lot of things. Being a musician is pretty hard; you have to be patient.

What do you feel about the music scene in India?

The indie music scene in India is still underground. If I ask 50 people about ‘Parvaaz’ or ‘Local train’, only a very few will know them. Everybody associated with this genre is doing their level best to cross the threshold and get into the mainstream musical industry. But we have still a long way to go because we are dominated by Bollywood. TV, newspapers, social media — everything is filled with Bollywood.

What can be done to change this?

People need to come out of their zones. We don’t know who the really good artistes are because we don’t care to explore. They just switch on the television and watch whatever is being shown. And for an artiste to make it to the silver screen, a lot of money is required. That’s why the audience should search for artistes on YouTube. There should be more events and promoters. People should come to see us perform. Don’t just go to places to drink and think of a performance as a side entertainment.

What is the main difference in the audience from the north and the south?

Audience in Delhi and other northern parts are really dynamic. Sometimes when you play at a venue, 300-400 people turn up, surpassing all your imagination. But next time you play at the same venue, maybe only 10-20 will come. But that is not the case down South, especially in Bengaluru. People are loyal to the artistes and we can build a fan base here.

If not music then?

Physics. Or maths.