Single beats, his best

From Sorgam Enbathu Namakku to his latest Thilang, Srinivas continues to keep us in thrall. He believes that unscientific methods of learning (to keep singing) helps a singer achieve goals naturally.
Singer Srinivas at a concert
Singer Srinivas at a concert

CHENNAI: A well-known playback singer in Tamil, Hindi, Telugu and Malayalam films, Srinivas has never looked back on his decision to shift from his chemical engineering career to the world of music. Growing up in Thiruvananthapuram, listening to the melodies of street bhajan groups and lessons from his aunt and guru, Padmanarayan, deeply influenced his prowess in music. Having worked with several stalwart music directors in the industry over the past 24 years, including AR Rahman and Illaiyaraja, the singer has also composed music for movies like Yei Nee Romba Azhaga Irukke (2002) and Seetha Kalyanam (2009), and also released singles and albums in Hindi and Tamil. Recently, he released a new single, Thilang Connection, which was released on Playtoome. CE catches up with him for a chat about his latest single, his love for music and how he maintains the most vital tool in the music industry, his voice. Excerpts follow...

What is your latest single, Thilang Connection, all about?
It’s about universal oneness. Thilang is a raaga — there’s a Pakistani ghazal singer and a carnatic singer — both sang almost the same tune of this raaga. But the strangest thing is that these two people have never met; but if they have sang in similar tunes, it means we’re all connected, and somehow we’re all one. That is the idea behind Thilang Connection. I have always thought about why there is so much insistence on how different people are, when in fact man is the same irrespective of region, religion, colour, caste etc. There are many unspeakable atrocities and violence happening in the world due to these so called differences. But there is essentially no difference; and music is something which expresses that very beautifully, much better than words. Music is a universal language. No musician can ever feel that ‘I’m different from you’, that is if he has really realised at least a little bit of music.

Your repertoire has several songs in various languages across India. How does it feel to sing in a language you don’t know?
The point is, somehow all the regional languages have been derived from Sanskrit, so those languages I know how to sing in. Of course, Tamil is my mother tongue, and Malayalam I know since I lived in Kerala. And as for Hindi, I have always had an affinity to Hindi songs. And I travel a lot, so I guess that helps my felicity with languages. (Laughs)

We’ve heard that you have a soft-corner and liking for ghazals. What do you love about them?
I think it’s the soft melody that gives you a heightened sense of peace. I do love all kinds of music, but ghazals are what make me feel peaceful, and at the end of the day, peace is something that is more deep, beautiful and everlasting. The kind of music I listen to really depends on the mood that time, I do enjoy fast music that keeps me excited, but somehow it feels unreal happiness which can always bring disappointment later. Perhaps that’s why I keep going back to melody and ghazals which give everlasting serenity.

Tell us about your first ever experience singing for
a film?
My first break came with music director Mahesh for the song Sorgam Enbathu Namakku in the movie Nammavar (1995). I had come to Chennai primarily to meet AR Rahman to try and sing for him; that was during the time when Roja (1992) came out. My first recording was in 1994, and was a great experience. I started singing a lot of tracks for him. He’s given me some great songs till now. I never
looked back.

For a singer, the voice is the most important aspect. How do you maintain the delicacy and strength of
your voice?
You have to keep singing. You discover newer things within yourself as you keep singing — your strengths, your limits, your reach. But again, practising with a set rigid pattern will also tend to get boring. It is true that a scientific method of training always help to achieve a certain goal faster, but I would prefer the slower, unscientific methods of training. Keep singing till you reach a mindless singing point, then it becomes so natural to you that it feels like you are talking. That’s what one should aim for.  

How much do you think technology has a role in music these days?
Technology has beautified music and has made it limitless. But it has to be used in the right way. There’s nothing like the wrong way, but it has to be balanced. I come from an age where you have to go, and stand outside a record playing shop to listen to music. That was a quaint old good time in itself. (Laughs)

What’s next after Thilang Connection?
I would definitely like to do more singles. And also work on music direction for films, if somebody approaches me. I would like to continue singing, of course. These days several actors are getting into singing, so it’s probably going to be harder for us
now. (Laughs)

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