Wednesday, April 05, 2017
From the tunes of a musician . . .
Satish Raghunathan is an upcoming, talented musician with great calibre and creativity. Born in a family that has always been exposed to music, it was easy for Satish to appreciate the essence of Music, especially its classical forms from a very early age. His maternal grandfather Shri. S.V. Ramamurthy is a theatre artist, dialogue writer and a lyricist. A Masters Degree holder in Film Scoring from the prestigious Berklee College of Music, Satish Raghunathan agreed to talk about his musical journey over a classic South Indian breakfast!
Talking of how music has now become an integral part of his life, Satish feels music is a never-ending journey. Music, to him, is one of the greatest forms of art that sets one up for an untiring journey, almost immediately clarifying that it is not just because he is a musician that he says this, but also among the 64 kalais, there are very few that are as intense, deep and sensitivity-intriguing as music is. His major inspiration to embark upon his musical journey was Dr.Ilaiyaraja, other than GhazalSamrat. Ghulam Ali Saheb, Shri.TN Sheshagopalan and many others. The melodic structures, orchestration and arrangements of Dr.Ilaiyaraaja, he says have taught him hundreds of concepts and techniques to approach music composition.
Satish says, “I have always felt that every composition is given by the universe. We are just beggars before nature for it to give us sparks of ideas to develop on. If I compose a beautiful piece of music today, I should be able to do it every single moment of my life. But it doesn’t work that way – and that proves nature’s role in every creation. Composers are just the via-media between nature and art. We convert it from one format to the other and deliver it to the people.”
Here are a few questions, with answers in the words of the musician!
1. What is your real passion and why music?
Music is definitely my passion. However, music is not my only passion. The phase in which I decided to make Music my profession, my mind was in music. It was during my 9th standard that I decided to pick up music as my profession. But our journey never freezes with time. There have been so many different interests ever since too.
2. What do you think is quality music?
Depends upon where the music is placed. Different genres of music have been evolved from different times. So, depending upon the time frame in which the music has come out, the quality is understood.
3. Your first album?
It was a strange, yet the most beautiful incident that has happened to me. In 2006, a friend approached me to work on a devotional album. But, I hadn’t worked on any project before that. I hadn’t even seen a microphone or a studio completely. He said, “Satish I have about Rs.30000 to fund the album, let’s give a try…” All I had was a synthesizer at home. I didn’t even have an internet connection then. I just randomly walked into Digi-Track, a recording studio in Nungambakkam and asked Ganesh Uncle, the engineer there, about the rates. Fortunately, I was good at doing the math and plan the production. After working out the cost, I gathered a bunch of friends and we worked on the album. It was more like an excursion for all of us kids. We all gathered at the studio at 9AM and recorded for 3 days. I enjoyed every bit of it and still carry wonderful memories of it. And ya, we successfully completed the album!
4. If you could go open for any artist on tour right now who would it be?
Actually anyone that I think I can learn from and get inspired.
5. What was your fondest musical memory that you have ever had in childhood?
When I was 12, I was sent to Tamizh Nadu from Calcutta by my people, fearing my less advancements in my academics. Those were the times when we had a TV Channel called SCV, in which songs were played 24/7. My maternal uncle, Ashok – a die-hard fan of Ilaiyaraja, would make me to listen to those songs as he would discuss about the arrangements and the instruments of every song. He majorly improved my critical listening, helping me concentrate on the layers of music. That was the start for me to appreciate the maestro, Ilaiyaraja. Interestingly, both my uncle and I were absolutely clueless that those musical moments were to be my building blocks of my musicality. It was just fun, but even today, I thank nature very often for those moments.
6. What is your biggest break or greatest opportunity?
One of my biggest opportunities was to compose music and conduct a full orchestra. I got to write music for some of the world’s best orchestral instrumentalists and work alongside many of my classmates from Berklee College of Music.
7. Your definition to success?
If I can sleep peacefully with no mental stress and remain healthy with almost no physical ailments, keep my parents contented and my cherished circle happy, I’d say I am insanely successful!
8. Opinion about low grade musicians?
Not sure if a category like that even exists. But if someone is not able to perform well, there can only be 2 reasons:
1. Pressure of earning a livelihood, eventually shifting one’s focus to only make money somehow.
2. Laziness and lack of passion/focus.
9. What kind of projects do you work on?
I am currently open to any form of work to gain more and more experience in scoring. I am currently working on Corporate films, Ad films, Web/TV Series, Independent Films, etc. I have also worked on Additional scores for movies like Kabali & Bairava alongside Santhosh Narayanan. Other than these, I also get commissioned to write for ensembles/orchestras in India and abroad, involving performances related to Indian/Western Music.
10. Interests other than Music?
Agriculture, Yoga, Ayurveda, Photography, Travelling, Learning languages, Appreciating different cultures, FOOD!
11. What personal advice would you give to someone wanting to pursue this career?
Never lose hope. Your day of success isn’t far.
12. What typical mistakes do people make, when trying to pursue this career?
Many people come in for fame and money which are only the by-products of success in any industry. If you come with these as your goals to achieve, there is an expectation and if there is an expectation, there is disappointment and depression. The bigger goal is satisfaction for which we work; the rest will automatically follow - name, fame, money, popularity.
13. If you had to do it all over again, would you still choose this career? Would you do anything differently?
I am not sure of choosing music. I doubt. I would get into agriculture or spiritual sciences or child psychology. I know all the three are very different from each other, but why not? Herpetology – precisely snakes, is another fancy subject that I would always fall hard for.
14. It’s common for musicians to be out of work for long periods of time. How can you supplement this time without work? How can you transition out of this period as quickly as possible?
I personally haven’t felt such restlessness. But I cant talk for the future. I might, for which I’d want myself to take the reality and get prepared for better tomorrows.
15. What change would you like to bring musically in the society?
When there is an every week P.E.T session for kids in school, why not a music session? Why not introduce every kid to classical music? I truly dream of a day when every kid in the world is exposed to some form of Classical Music at an early age. This dream is beyond being a musician. What a child gains through early exposure to music should not be looked into from a narrow perspective of just music. It improves the holistic quality of life, for the child, in turn the student community, in turn the society and the whole world.
16. What’s your advice to the society?
I wish I was born in a world of more sensitivity. I feel that the whole world is gradually becoming more and more insensitive - physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually! I don’t know if I can advice, but I sure can request everyone, including myself, to take conscious steps to be more aware and sensitive about every thought, word and action.
1. Favourite singer GHULAM ALI
2. Favourite music composer ILAIYARAAJA
3. List five artists that You listen to, in loop. – Ilaiyaraaja, Ghulam Ali, Hariprasad Chaurasia, Stevie Wonder, Miles Davis
4. Five things you cannot live without: Food, Air, Water, Health, Thought
5. Your favourite moment - Every time a Film-maker approves my work
6. Your favourite part of composing – the concept and idea of conceiving the tune
7. The toughest part of composing – facing the pressure of working.
8. Fav food: Raw veggies and fruits
9. Most unforgettable candid moment – When SPB Sir heard me sing one of my compositions and asked me “If you don’t mind, can I record this song for you?”. Of course, he was being very humble by expressing his appreciation that way. But the fact that he liked the song and was ready to record it for me was just magical. Which composer on Earth would mind to have this magician onboard?
10. Face palm day – I’ve lived a very gethu life!
11. Fav quote: “Only after the last tree is cut down and the last river is poisoned, we will realize we cant eat money!” – Native Americans.
Unsung Heroes - No Longer !