Playback singer Karthik shares why singing is like meditating to him

Ahead of his performance in the city, Karthik lets us in on his progressive rock fusion band, Arka, his special bond with Hyderabad, the therapeutic streaks of music and lots more…

Chokita Paul Published :  29th September 2023 12:00 AM   |   Published :   |  29th September 2023 12:00 AM


Poised to grace Hyderabad, playback singer Karthik talks to us about the beautiful connection he shares with the city. While offering a visionary perspective about the ever-evolving Indian music industry, he recounts Hyderabad’s role as the nurturing ground for his readiness for multilingual music. During our conversation, Karthik highlights the music industry’s dynamic terrain, sculpted by changing genres, innovation, and technological advancement. He shares poignant insights into his collaborations with AR Rahman, Ilaiyaraaja and others, underscoring how he seeks to artistically understand their vision. He then talks about the transcendent impact of his chart-topping opus, Behene De. Additionally, the artiste celebrates the therapeutic sanctuary that music provides in his life — one where both the performer and the listener find solace. 

How do you connect with Hyderabad?
Hyderabad holds a special place in my heart. It’s where my musical journey began, encompassing both Tamil and Telugu music simultaneously. Over the past two decades and beyond, I’ve had the privilege of singing a diverse range of songs and collaborating with both seasoned composers and fresh talents from the industry. What makes this journey more remarkable is the incredible support and loyalty of my fanbase in Hyderabad, especially the Telugu-speaking community.

What are your thoughts on the current trends in the Indian music industry?
I noticed a huge transformation in music. Whether it’s the evolution of musical styles, the emergence of new genres, or the innovative approaches to composition, change is the only constant. Technological advancements continue to amplify these shifts, further elevating the music industry. The delivery of music to the audience has also undergone a revolution. The ever-evolving nature of this industry is marked by its unpredictability. Yet, it’s precisely this unpredictability that keeps musicians like myself exhilarated and eager to see what the future holds. 

You’ve worked with iconic music directors like AR Rahman, Ilaiyaraaja, and many others. Could you share some insights into your creative process when collaborating with these legends?
Be it a seasoned composer or an absolute beginner, my game becomes more interesting because I aim to understand their headspace — the musicality and what is expected of me to deliver as a musician. To crack it, and chip in with what I think would add value, also feels great.

Behene De from the movie Raavan is considered one of your biggest songs. What was it like to be a part of such a chart-topping track?
First of all, big thanks to AR Rahman for choosing me to sing the intensely beautiful piece of art that he created. What makes it all the more special is that Raavan is a Mani Ratnam film. We did the Hindi version of the song at first, crooning Gulzar’s words. Then we sang it in Tamil and Telugu. What struck me is how this song took me to a larger audience. Even today, when I get on stage and sing it in any of these three languages, I consider myself lucky. I hope I have done my part to justify the song’s beauty.

Can you recall a performance or moment when you felt a strong connection with an audience, even though you were singing in a language they may not have understood?
Two months ago, I had the incredible opportunity to perform at a club in Bengaluru in front of an enthusiastic audience of nearly 1,000 people. The atmosphere was electric, with the crowd passionately cheering and screaming. During the performance, there was a particularly heartwarming moment when the song I sang resonated equally with the audience in two different languages, Tamil and Telugu. The crowd was wonderfully diverse, representing a mix of cultures and backgrounds. I continued to sing in the languages that felt right in the moment, and to my delight, the audience embraced the music, even joining in with the lyrics in Tamil and Telugu. Their hums and melodies reached me, creating an indescribable connection. At one point, I had to pause the song to acknowledge the crowd’s incredible energy and harmony. It was a magical moment where language ceased to be a barrier. Each person in the audience carried their unforgettable memories from that night, singing along to the music in their way. The beauty of that moment lay in the unbridled expression of individuality, where everyone sang from their hearts.

Tell us more about your band, Arka. How did this collaboration with other talented artists come about, and what’s the vision behind your contemporary fusion music?
Arka is a progressive rock fusion band led by the exceptionally talented Selvaganesh as percussionist. What sets Arka apart is our ability to infuse pop lyrics seamlessly into complex time signatures and harmonies. The band displays an exceptional lineup of musicians, each a virtuoso in their own right. For me, Arka has been an invaluable learning experience. I’ve had the privilege of surrounding myself with extraordinary artistes, which has elevated my musical understanding. The band is incredibly dear to my heart. While our musical journey has had a brief hiatus due to our busy schedules, I’m thrilled to announce that we’re gearing up to relaunch Arka for an India tour in the coming three to four months. It’s an exciting chapter we can’t wait to share with our fans and music enthusiasts alike.

How does music contribute to your mental well-being?
Taking the stage and engaging in two hours of uninterrupted singing is like a meditative experience for me. During those moments, my entire focus is channelled into maintaining pitch-perfect notes, selecting the right songs, and ensuring the audience’s happiness. It’s a healing process, and it has an incredible power to alleviate stress. What is remarkable is that the listeners play a significant role in this process as well. Those who appreciate music, regardless of whether they are professional musicians, possess a unique gift. The act of simply sitting down, immersing oneself in a song, and momentarily losing track of the surroundings is therapeutic.

`2,000 upwards. September 30. chokita@newindianexpress. com @PaulChokita