Constant learning is the way to stay relevant with changing times, says National Award-winning singer-composer Shankar Mahadevan, who feels fatherhood changed him as a musician.
Mahadevan, who is currently nurturing young talent across the country as part of the Colors’ reality show Rising Star, said: “Fatherhood changed me as a musician. Yes, I would say that. There is always a musical exchange happening between me and my sons.
“If I want to stay relevant, if I want to keep the learner in me alive, I should be aware of what they are listening to. Our sons are the next generation who are more clued into the new trends of music. So if I want to understand the vibe of the new generation, and if I want to stay relevant with time, they are my source of learning.”
Mahadevan also performs with his sons, and had recently collaborated with them for MTV Unplugged.
He also composes songs along with his two music partners Ehsaan Noorani and Loy Mendonsa, who are together known as Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy. They have brought a huge change in the sound of Hindi film music with some memorable albums for films like Dil Chahta Hai, Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, Rock On!!, Wake Up Sid, My Name Is Khan and Mirzya.
Asked about the evolution of film music and if enough experimentation is happening, Mahadevan said: “I think an experiment creates an impact and can bring a change if it has a depth. See, when we did ‘Dil Chahta Hai’, ‘Kal Ho Naa Ho’, and ‘Rock On!!’, it created a huge difference because it was no fluke.
“The experiment has to have some amount of insight or knowledge. So that both a veteran and a common audience can connect with its musicality.”
So, does he change his approach to music to bring change with time?
“Apart from being a singer and composer, I always have (the aim of) educating the layman. We have to prepare them to accept the experiment we are doing, and that is how we can grow in future. So, I keep using musical elements of different genres that give common people a glimpse of a new thing,” said the composer.
“For instance, if I play heavy jazz, a common man might not enjoy it, but if I fuse some jazz elements in a Hindi song composition, sub-consciously listeners are getting familiar with the sound of jazz. I think that is how we can bring change in the sound of Hindi film music or anything for that matter,” explained the “Breathless” singer.
“A common listener does not need to understand the technicality of a song, but still can appreciate it in this way,” he added.
Also, since Mahadevan is one of the mentors of Rising Star, which gives an opportunity to the audience to vote the best singer, is it wise on the show runner’s part to give viewers the responsibility to choose a winner without knowing the technical nuances?
Mahadevan said: “Music is the highest form of communication. So if a participant is able to communicate his skill to the audience through a performance, why shouldn’t the audience get a chance to judge the talent?
“As mentors, all we are doing is nudging the audience to the talent. I see nothing wrong in that.”
But what about the emotional decision that audiences take knowing the poor financial background of a participant, because a good voice has no connection with the financial crisis?
“Yes, that is true. In reality shows, many times emotional decisions happen, and therefore many talented singers get eliminated from the show. It is natural that one day, even a very good singer could have a bad day. But then, we do not let the talent go away just like that,” he said.
Recounting one such incident, he said: “There is a singer named Sayani Palit who got voted out from the first season of ‘Rising Star’, but she was very talented. So I give her a chance to sing in my film. We industry people do not let any talent go just like that.”