It’s the World Music Day today ! It comes suddenly. It’s not on my list of holidays, even at my home studio; nor have I ever celebrated it by going for a concert, or even listen to my favorite playlists. I get to read it in magazine section of the newspaper, where our favorite musicians world over are ruing over their trysts and struggles than celebrating their success. This is how my heart bleeds too and I feel for once, I am part of who’s who, whatsoever I may be seen as, by the world around me.
But am I qualified? This is an unasked question by music fraternity of whom, over the years alongside of my long corporate and professional engineering career, I have been faced with.
Why am I happy? Because at 60+ now, I started learning nuances of music at age 52 when I gave up a full time job to record a music album. As it stands, the album is still in making as the race between capital that goes into doing one independently and what I might use to run my life and family is endless. But sure, it has allowed me fantastic improvements, to master songwriting, composing, playing many instruments, programming music digitally, mixing and mastering it – all by myself as I carry a briefcase studio to my core jobsites! It does not guarantee keeping up with the massive technological and marketing transformations that the music industry goes through.
Ten years ago, I was recording one of my compositions in voice of the well known singer from south N. Srinavas himself an engineer by profession before he gave it up to be amongst the top playback singers, singing Bollywood hits from ‘Dil Chahta Hai’, ‘Yuvraj’, etc. He said that even sitting in office in initial stages of his career, he had made up his mind where his heart is. Story of Shankar Mahadevan and many others is similar. So in my case, this 50-50 life between my 50s and 60s was fraught with ‘ugliness’ to say the least!
Taking my daughter to A. R. Rahman’s K.M School of Music when I was living in Chennai; the lady in charge said that here we encourage our students to have an alternate profession and not give up their studies until they are sure they have made ‘the mark’; she was voicing Mr. Rahman’s belief, as one who has collaborated with genius he saw in musicians from diverse sectors, countries and genres. There it was, I came in touch with Ustad Ghulam Mustafa Khan through his sons and his words ring in my ears too “if we have not learnt how to live our life, we are wasting our time doing music”.
Today, that I am wiser, I think this is what musicians and singers are ruing, ‘cribbing’, mourning in their fate as musicians “does the public even understand what they are doing?” Even a successful composer like Amit Trivedi says that constantly dealing with rejection is part and parcel of being even popular and successful. With aspiring classical musicians around me in Delhi, who despite best of training have stories that can often even be grim and saddening.
I occasionally sing and record myself to Bollywood tracks, experimentally most of the times. I post them on YouTube if a particular track has some ‘special quality’ mainly for closer friends, family and seeking critique of professionals. I sang “Moh Moh ke Dhaage” recently after seeing videos of how difficult it was for composer Anu Malik to put this song together and repeated trials with singers Papon and Monali Thakur who took time to do it ‘perfect’, but have made a name with this song. I wanted to see why was it so difficult. Recording myself, with nobody directing; then mixing it on my own was very challenging even technically, as resonance-frequency conflicts tend to make tracks sound out of tune in places. But it was too much work so I kept perfection asides. But an associate classical musician calling the whole of me “besura” (tuneless) as a singer itself followed by the advice that I should give up music – was height of critique. It does of course energize me to leave no stone unturned in finishing my “Main” productions, whenever that shall be!
So all I can request is “bear with us please”, understand our specific circumstances. To make a song like Bollywood costs lakhs and lakhs of rupees to get heard and a video of cinema quality must accompany it for a now impatient world entangled in euphoria to make it worth even listening. But that cannot stop a man for whatever age and mettle – as life has the journey as its subset and my kinds enjoy the journey!
We are on the path just to that, but we work for no guarantees just like the infrastructure and power projects I have done in my life, that took more than ten years of follow-up as a business development professional and then to come for tendering; then we competed with the best in the world to see profits, or losses and yes, even many careers rolling downhill! Let’s face the RISKS of a blessed life with dignity; for people like us, who toil towards their own respective state of “perfection” and combined perfection of equally talented and dynamic teams. And yes, I was and am, a very special man….and music is just another “business” to me!