Indulge one-on-one: Musicians Yohan Chacko and Timothy Madhukar catch up to discuss all things music, theatre and namma Chennai
With the diversity that Chennai brings in its music, there are so many artistes who have made it big over the years. Among the many, Yohan Chacko and Timothy Madhukar make for quite an enthusiastic pair, and while one may come across as a little more serious, the other balances the equation with his quick wit. Sitting in two different parts of the world at the moment — a multi-talented musician and theatre artiste, Yohan talks to us while hiking through the Yosemite National Park in the US. On the other hand, Timothy or Timmy, as he is more fondly called, sits in his Harrington Road studio in Chennai. Having known each other for most of their careers, Yohan and Timmy share an interesting camaraderie, which is quite evident in their conversation.
Being a part of the rock music scene for almost two decades, Yohan couldn’t help but start by asking Timmy about how much things have changed over the years. Interestingly, Timmy says, new compositions have increased over time, and that is encouraging to see, because while it was all about covers of popular music earlier, the audience is now being more receptive to original music, seeing an encouraging trend among younger musicians to take up writing music seriously. On the other hand, Yohan is known to have dabbled with varied areas like music, and theatre, while also being a fitness freak. This piques Timothy’s interest and he asks if there is anything that Timothy’s fans don’t know about. Yohan immediately says that he has even tried his hand at carpentry, sailing, fishing, photography and even creative writing. While most people have time for just one hobby, Yohan seems to have aced the game, as he poetically says, “I have found that one half of the word ‘time’ is ‘me’, and I try to apply that in my life, but many a times, even 24 hours seems less.”
However, while Timothy has stuck to music, he believes artistes in Chennai should be versatile, not just stick to rock music, and begin exploring other genres. Intrigued by Yohan’s vast knowledge of musical instruments, Timothy asks if he received any formal training, but Yohan goes on to reveal that it all started at home for him, as singing was actually a family activity that was done on a daily basis. However, the singer, who shot to fame with Hotel Keralfonia and I Am A Malayali, says he did go for piano classes as an eight-year-old, but he was already playing the keyboard — a Casio VL Tone, which he learned entirely by ear, he specifies. Interestingly, Yohan wanted to switch to drums, but he was refused entry into band class, which left him disappointed. Taking it positively, that incident helped him explore Indian music, which made him study Hindustani violin for four years. He even went on to experiment with the saxophone and clarinet, because the latter was played by his father.
While Yohan was exploring northern classical music, Timothy was introduced to Carnatic music by his father, and grew up listening to Ilaiyaraaja’s music. Interestingly, for Timothy, Chennai played a very important part with its influence in Western classical music. “With the likes of Madras Chamber Orchestra and The Madras Philharmonic and Choral Society, it only became better, so there was no escaping it,” Timothy elaborates. As rock music has evolved over the years, Yohan asks about the future of the genre in the city. Timothy immediately responds saying, with newer sub-genres encompassing the influence of pop, rock, rap and hip-hop among others, the idea of rock is now rather blurred.
A regular face with The Madras Players, such as with their plays Dial M for Murder and Out Of Order, Timothy shifts focus to Yohan’s tryst with theatre. The latter says, while it all started in school, he happened to enter the theatre scene by accident in 2009, and has never looked back ever since. With over 35 productions and an international debut with Water Lilies in Chicago under his wing, Yohan has a considerable theatre background. Timmy is not far behind, as he has sung with the likes of AR Rahman, Vidyasagar and Harris Jeyaraj, among others. He has also been part of theatrical productions called Pink, which saw songs by Pink Floyd and Bohemian Rhapsody, which was based around songs by London-based rock band, Queen.
Timothy gets a little cheeky, asking Yohan if he ever combined dentistry with music, making the latter burst out laughing, saying music is quite an integral part of his clinic. He even lets patients choose the music if they wish to, as the work environment becomes a lot more peaceful. However, with musicians who are patients, he invites them to his studio above the clinic, for a quick jam session, before the next patient arrives. So, we aren’t surprised when he throws another query, asking about Yohan’s order of preference, and the singer-dentist puts dentistry on top of his list over music, followed by theatre, teaching and adventure — as it all happens in one place for him. All in all, we’re left in complete awe of both artistes.