Crooning to glory

Playback singer Karthik unplugged

Karthik has always scored high with his Malayalam songs, right from his soulful Akele.., his first number for a Malayalam film in 2004. Many albums, songs, and awards later, Karthik recreates the magic with his songs in Lal Jose’s Spanish Masala and Rosshan Andrrews’ Cassanova that releases later this month. His duets with Shreya Ghoshal in Spanish Masala [Aarezhuthi aavo…, Irulil Oru Kaithiri…] are already topping the charts. Within a short period of time, this protégé of A.R. Rahman, who discovered him courtesy Srinivas, has become one of the leading songsters in India with songs in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Hindi and Malayalam. Karthik and his band [Bennet and the Band] performs in the city on Saturday in connection with Dhwani, the youth fete organised by the College of Engineering, Trivandrum.

Talking over the phone from Chennai, the down-to-earth playback singer talks music. He talks about singing in different languages, composing, stage shows, his band and so on. Excerpts…

On song in Malayalam

I have never pondered about the reasons why I get chosen to sing these memorable songs. It is a pleasant surprise because the language is really difficult, the pronunciation is tough! I write the lyrics in the Devanagari script and then seek guidance to get the words right. Every language has a certain unique intonation that one has to get right. Once that is done, the rest is easy. I have always got some really good compositions by leading composers in the Malayalam industry. Recently, I sang for Deepak Dev, Ousephachan, M. Jayachandran and so on.

Fortuitous meeting

I was in the city for a recording for Rosebowl, when I was invited to perform with Bennet and the Band. I was simply awed by the performance of the band and invited them to Chennai. Our first big stage show was for Sarang, the fete organised by the Indian Institute of Technology, Chennai. We rocked and that was the beginning of our musical association that see us playing rock, jazz, film numbers and hip hop… We vibe well and that is heard in our music as well. I get bored quickly. Maybe that is why I enjoy experimenting with different genres of music. Jamming sessions with the band and performing for stage shows give me that opportunity to explore and experiment.

Music I like

EMI approached me with this offer for an album of Carnatic music. I am trained in Hindustani music and so this was a challenge. But I decided to go ahead and see how it would pan out. My friend Madhukar encouraged me to go ahead, while playback singer and Carnatic vocalist P. Unnikrishnan helped me get the nuances and prayogas right. See, it is not about just getting seven notes! There are subtle usages that one has to be careful about. Unni motivated me and helped me to navigate those notes. The success of the album came as a pleasant surprise, especially its popularity among youngsters. A couple of months ago, I met a bunch of youngsters at a mall who told me they were my fans. I was really pleased when they said how much they enjoyed Krishna Nee Begane from the album Music I like. It includes Carnatic compositions such as Maha Ganapathim, Krishna Nee Begane, and Brochevaarevarura. Inspired by its success, I hope to come out with something similar in the next months.

Turning director

2011 was a happening year for me! When you turn music director [for Vasantabala’s Aravan], you get the chance to sit in the boss’ chair and it gives you a completely different perspective. Then you become aware of all the little things that go into each song.

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