‘The human voice is a singing voice’: Ananth Vaidyanathan

Ananth has joined hands with the Mumbai-based Artium Academy, co-founded by Ashish Joshi and Vivek Raicha, to offer an online course in Karaoke and Stage Skills.
Ananth Vaidyanathan
Ananth Vaidyanathan

CHENNAI: In the world of reality music shows, Ananth Vaidyanathan is a familiar name. From Super Singer to Indian Idol, he’s been a voice trainer to several generations of aspiring singers.

With the pandemic having revolutionised education, Ananth has joined hands with the Mumbai-based Artium Academy, co-founded by Ashish Joshi and Vivek Raicha, to offer an online course in Karaoke and Stage Skills that promises to tap into one’s vocal skills, enabling them to present them at a much larger stage.

Excerpts follow

You’ve been a voice trainer for quite a number of years and have helped generations of singers find a voice.

Yes, I’ve been on Vijay TV for about more than a decade. I’ve also worked in the North, for Indian Idol and Sony etc. but I’m familiar largely with the Tamil population because I’ve been very closely associated with Vijay TV Super Singer for more than 10 years. And when you combine the juniors and seniors age group, the age group with which I’ve worked is very wide.

How does the nature of your pedagogy differ from the usual music training?

The human voice is supposed to be a singing voice, and that’s a fact. There is nothing called a special singing voice, or a singing aptitude. The human race is a singing race and singing species and has a singing voice. I myself lost my singing voice over 40 years ago because of wrong training. My voice recovered and I’ve recovered hundreds and hundreds of voices over the last 30 years.

Suppose you’re learning an instrument. You have to learn how to handle the instrument, whether you’re playing the harmonium or a violin or a guitar, you should know where the notes are, and how to operate them. For the voice, when you bring that certain level of awareness, conceptual awareness of how the voice is working, the inner feeling of the voice and various dimensions, then suddenly the physicality of the singing comes into the singer’s control.

This is how I’ve been able to get extremely powerful results on television, because people at the audition level, who would sing very ordinarily, within two months would start singing brilliantly.

We have to train a whole new generation of teachers, music teachers. Music trainers who teach kids should know fundamental things about where the voice works, the way it should be trained, so that a lot of young talents get the proper chance to be in the right direction. This is my motto, and this is my mission. I found people in our team who are willing to work on this, spread the message, and create a teacher training method. I have trained over 200 or 250 teachers over the last two years.

And you’re going online for the first time.

This whole game started during the lockdown. I never used to teach online previously, because I feel this is a very offline method. But I began to find online very effective. One never gets the physicality of being offline, but I’m very encouraged by the results. Today I’m teaching students in the USA, all over the world, Europe, Sri Lanka, Australia, how can I do that offline?

But is there something lost in the absence of proximity between teacher and student?

Definitely. Offline has its advantages and so does online. In offline, the sound you’re hearing through the air, not through an electronic medium, nobody can deny that. The advantage of online is the reach you get across the planet. This is a subject that needs to spread very fast, and online allows knowledge to get to people in areas where there aren’t experts.

So I don’t take this as a face-off between online and offline. But then the teacher, the trainer has to make a greater effort, the effort of that live experience. And you get used to a medium.

Is this course open to all age groups?

Absolutely. So long as the body and the mind are full of enthusiasm. We have an 83-year-old student. Of course, at that age, the voice might be a little shaky and other stuff, but it’s like physical exercise. People have learned judo at age 90. So what’s the big deal? But at the bottom level, I will say that sometimes kids are extremely talented, they’re training them at three or four or five, that is fine. But otherwise, I always warn parents, just because they’ve seen 100 reality shows and you want to copy other parents, don’t force the child into music training unnecessarily.

Because the secret of music or any art training is to expose the child to the art, let the child develop a taste for the art. Parents don’t seem to understand that. Another point that I make is to let the child respond. Let’s train the child in music they actually respond to. I find today they’re exposed to Western music and what not because they watch YouTube night and day. You can’t say “Oh no, I’m an Indian, I want my child to learn Carnatic”, that won’t work.

So these are also the revolutionary ideas I’m bringing into the academy and they are a very enlightened group of co-founders like Ashish Joshi.

You also have a karaoke course.

It’s a very revolutionary statement I’m making, classical music training and technical training, of course, is necessary to be musically literate, to be a music professional. But in order to be just a singer, you just need to know how to sing if you have a natural gift of notes and rhythm etc. If that wasn’t true, how did Kishore Kumar become such a genius? Even SPB once confessed not knowing anything about “sa re ga ma”. There’s a lack of confidence put into people which is unnecessary.

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The New Indian Express