Baby, you make me sing!

It is amazing how a little human being with tiny feet, pink cheeks and hair like strands of silk, can make a singer out of anyone.

The beauty of singing for a child is in its spontaneity. You have no idea whatsoever of what you’re singing; you just start ‘la-la’ing off to make the baby stop crying. And when it seems to work, when the frown is gone, and the eyes shift focus on to you, or close peacefully in slumber, you suddenly realize that the gibberish you sang was really a tune. And you sing it again and in loop. Right then, at that point, you become a singer. No matter how harsh a voice you think you have, when the baby in your palms will start to cry, you will sing. And that song will be the most beautiful, because you will have no idea of where the song came from, and you will want to sing it again and again, just to re-experience the joy of having relieved the divine little being of its restlessness.

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Madhumathiye: When my voice spoke to me

I heard this song from the movie Sakhavu months before it got its final form – and right then, I knew that this was going to be a challenging, but heartfelt song that savors a simple, timeless love story.

What I did not know, was that I had 7 lines to depict all those emotions in. 7 beautiful lines, penned by the brilliant Shabareesh – the lyricist behind the warm and embracing album – Anuraga Karikkin Vellam.

7 lines to depict the elation, the deep admiration and the unbreakable promise that a young revolutionary woman made to her husband, the leader of the revolution.

This was to be the song that, if you looked deep inside, beyond the struggle, the determination, the patriotism, you would find at the bottom of her heart.

And so, I considered this song to be another incredible opportunity to express – little did I know that it would also stir a realization within me.

This song was to be more challenging, because my dear brother wasn’t going to be there to record me. So, of course, there wouldn’t be retakes in 10 different styles, and I wouldn’t know which ones would sound good to his ears.

The first recording was thus, a very nervous and overwhelmed attempt – and my friend and chocolate flavour-enthusiast Shreekumar was the live navigation system for the session. And Prashun was there to remind me to breathe and smile.

We recorded for about 5 hours – with a lunch break and some soul-searching debate around the studio’s snooker table.

Through that session, I learnt that this was something more than a melodious song – it needed more vibrance than that. And a wider vocal range.

But well, as it turned out, it did not fit in with the vision my brother had for this song. And realizing that I probably needed his supervision, he asked if I wanted to come to Kochi to do the re-recording with him.

And there it was – the tough decision. Should I give in to this need for comfort? Or should I go ahead and risk it again, do it without him around?

I stayed and took the risk. A few days later, I was back at the studio, and this time, my recordist was Rahul, the same guy who recorded me for Poyi Maranjo. We had quite a laugh at that time, but that story is for another blog post! This time, it was him and me, no Shreekumar, no Prashun, no Kannetan around.

The session began – and I gave in to my instinctive melody, picturing the love story in my head the whole time. The 7 lines were recorded time and again, since I was my own critic there.

When the lines went higher, my voice spoke to me. Breathe, it said. Don’t be conscious of the note, be conscious of the words and their meaning. Don’t focus on the result of this recording, just let it out and sing!

We recorded for about 2 hours, and at the end, I was really hoping this had worked.

And, as it turns out, it did!

My voice had spoken to me in this song: it had told me secretly to explore my voice more, to forgive myself for all the songs that I won’t end up singing because they are too high or too low, to focus on building with what I have. To spend more time realizing the depths my own craft. And to take a step out of the comforting sun and test the rains for a little while.

This exceptionally beautiful song comes with one great lesson – that vulnerabililty and struggle is not be feared, but to be embraced, and eventually, something beautiful and self-affirming comes out of it! Much like the story that this song depicts. Thank you, Shabareesh, Shreekumar, Prashun, Rahul, Praful and Kannoto for getting those beautiful lines out of me!

And hope all of you, my listeners, enjoy the song!

Music without music is still music

My best song, till date, is ‘Solomon Shoshanna’ from the Malayalam film that is making waves all over India, Amen.

For artists of most kinds, it is usually the flaws that they notice in their own performance. And I’m no exception. I used to hear Solomon Shoshanna, and think- well, its just OKAY- I could’ve done this here, maybe sung this way here, and so on.

Weeks later, I heard the final mix along with the teaser video. The music composer had decided to keep it without any music, just the vocals singing the melodic tune, and the background sounds of the sloshing lake water and the singing night insects. Continue reading “Music without music is still music”

‘Wise enough’ rather ‘Bold enough’

We live in a nation of paradoxical sentiments. Or perhaps I should say, we live in an era of the lifetime of our nation, which is plagued with paradoxical sentiments. Where certain sentiments like humanity, justice and kindness are (seemingly) badly shaken, provoked and then forgotten in the daily grind, whereas sentiments of religious and caste discrimination, of political pride and its brothers are rampant are seething beneath the surface, waiting to explode over the slightest friction.

In such a nation where a few vulnerable minds can terrorise an entire population and a few lecherous crimes and criminals cannot be dealt with with courage and righteousness; where one population sleeps more than it awakens, and the other is awake with sickles in its hands to chop off the smallest blooming buds of peace or change, I wouldn’t make a film on terrorism, or religious outrage or sexual abuse. Continue reading “‘Wise enough’ rather ‘Bold enough’”