From Tu Hi Re, Bahon Ke Darmiyaan, to Jhonka Hawa Ka, Chanda Re and Ay Hairathe, Hariharan’s soulful voice added to the melody of these songs and ensured that they are etched in our memories forever. But the singer has also showcased his versatility with his peppy and fusion numbers like Sa Ni Dha Pa and Krishna.
The singer, who recently conducted a masterclass — ‘Ace it with the Masters’ Season 2 on Paytm Insider — spoke with indianexpress.com about his journey, the music industry, classical music and how he loves to explore new music all the time. Excerpts:
You have been a part of the music industry for decades; how would you describe your journey?
I think I have been fortunate to have been part of the two exciting periods in the music industry. The time where music was consumed through large formats like vinyls, cassettes, CDs and now the digital age. Both have been equally exciting and I have been lucky to have my fans follow me for the music I continue to create.
Can you tell us about your masterclass, and the Ghalib ghazal that has been especially composed for the same?
Masterclasses are the in-thing now, so when I was requested to do this one, I was drawn to the idea that I will be able to teach something that is specifically curated for the session, as opposed to giving a generic talk on ghazal singing. The unique thing about this masterclass is the ghazal I have composed is just for this session; so it has never been heard or performed. The ghazal I have chosen is a well-known one by Ghalib, but has simple lyrics. It will make it easier for people to pick it up and allow me to spend time teaching the nuances of singing it.
What do you think draws today’s youngsters to classical music?
As much as we may cherish and hold classical music sacred, we as artists also understand that we have to adapt to younger audiences in the songs we perform, the style of performance etc.
Good music is good music and will never go unrecognised. The host of young classical musicians we see today and how they interact and engage with their fans is testament to how both are learning to appreciate each other.
You have also been a part of Bollywood. Have you ever felt the culture of remixes and mashups corrupt the originality of songs?
Like I said, for me music is either good or bad. I don’t think labeling them as a remix or a mashup should make any difference. Yes, one should never butcher a song to the extent that its sanctity is destroyed. Some songs deal with sensitive topics, so any remix or mashup should be mindful of that, that’s all.
The pandemic affected everyone in a huge way. What do you feel has been its biggest impact on the art and music industry?
For a large section of the music fraternity, the pandemic meant a loss of livelihood. That was extremely disturbing. Also, for most artists, live performances are a vital key, and with that taken away, and not knowing how to really work the business side of music, made it very hard for them to do anything. I also realised there is no organisation that has a corpus of funds for artists in distress, in times of need. I think that is essential if we want to avoid such events in the future.
The pandemic forced performances to go virtual. What is your take on virtual performances versus physical ones?
A virtual show is never the same as a physical live show. It will always be a compromise but both have their pros and cons. For an artist, the thrill of being on stage and the energy of the audience is very important. In a virtual concert, you are essentially performing to a screen.
However, virtual shows have allowed us to perform and engage with audiences from any part of the world. So, if there is a country I have not performed in, and there was a fan, I am sure that for them a virtual experience is as close to the real thing as they could get. It also saves on costs on various fronts.
But personally, a true musical experience is best enjoyed in-person.
You are a playback singer, ghazal singer and have also experimented with fusion music — but what kind of music do you really enjoy personally?
These are styles of music I perform and sing in, but there are so many others I listen to! Since my training is in classical music, I generally gravitate towards music that has a touch of that. But I love to explore new music all the time.
How challenging is it to keep reinventing yourself as a musician to keep up with the changing times?
It is challenging only if it requires effort. I have thankfully not had that problem. To be honest, I really do think that if one’s music has a strong foundation, it will stand the test of time. Adaptation is a natural process in music making. One is constantly evolving and re-evaluating. As long as we keep our eyes and ears open and are not closed to change, it should never be a problem.
One artiste/music composer you really wish to collaborate with, and why?
Stevie Wonder. Always admired him. I think something beautiful could come out of a collaboration with him.
What do you wish to achieve from your masterclass?
Oh, that is simple. To infuse the participants with a love for ghazals and to appreciate the beauty of the style. I enjoy teaching and the best reward would be to hear the participants render the ghazal in their own voice and style.