Melody vs Technology

Debarati Palit Singh
Friday, 12 January 2018

Composer-singer S P Balasubrahmanyam shared his thoughts on usage of technology in the music industry and his approach in choosing songs and singing for different actors

If the audience feels that they are not being offered good, quality music, they shouldn’t encourage the makers by listening to the songs,” said veteran composer and singer S P Balasubrahmanyam. He was speaking on the sidelines of 16th Pune International Film Festival on Thursday. The singer known for singing more than 40,000 songs in his 51-year-old career, received the SD Burman International Award for Creative Sound and Music. 

Speaking further on the music and songs that are being churned out by the film industry, the singer said, “When we stop encouraging such songs, makers will realise that they have to maintain quality for the audience. What the audience is liking has become a  formula in films. But are all these formulas working? They are not.” 

Agreeing that the industry has to keep pace with the changing times, Balasubrahmanyam, who has sung the popular title number of Chennai Express, says, “Life has changed and so has cinema and music industry. But I think the process of creating music was much better back then. I think it’s time to strike a balance between composition and technology. However, if musicians think that they know the pulse of the audience, then they have to do it.”

But there is no denying that technology is enhancing music in a big way. To this the singer replies, “Had there been technology back then, we would have also used it. But the problem is that technology should not rule the roost. You should learn a song from a composer and at least sing half of it. But what is happening now is that a singer wants to save his/her breath, and hence wants to use technology. But then the voice becomes ‘plasticky’. In my opinion, technology should be used only if you want to correct something.” 

Subrahmanyam, in his long career, has worked with different generations of music composers from Ilaiyaraaja, A R Rahman to Vishal-Shekhar. Is the experience of working with different generations of composers any different? 

“The difference is because of the music and the trends that are prevalent. The younger generation of composers knows what kind of music I like or I do justice to and approach me accordingly. My approach is simple — if I reject a song, it’s either because I do not like the content, or because I may not fit into it,” he adds. 

The singer, who has sung for different actors like Salman Khan, Kamal Hassan, Shah Rukh Khan and Anil Kapoor,  says that his approach towards each song depends on which actor is he singing for. “It depends on the mood, the song, and also the actor. I  have to understand the actor’s body language etc. No two voices are the same, but you have to be closer to the actors. After listening to the same voice for many years, the audience feels comfortable and you should not break that comfort zone. Also, do not overdo the emotions while singing,” says the singer, who is also gearing up for his concert in the city on April 29. 

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