In Tamil Film Music, SPB’s Singing Is A Guideline To Follow: Sathyaprakash, Film Companion

In this episode of Tuning in, celebrated singer Sathyaprakash talks about his love for Carnatic music and his journey from Super Singer to playback singer of hits such as ‘Rasaali’, ‘Nallai Allai’.

You have achieved so much in playback singing including hits with both AR Rahman and Ilaiyaraaja. What is next for Sathyaprakash?

Personally, I don’t feel I have achieved a lot. I have an aim. I think at least when I reach that I will have a certain amount of satisfaction. I have started singing and I have got a few good songs. So I am being recognised. But that is not enough for a singer.

I want to do something new every month. Since last year, I have been doing independent music. After that, we also started a collaborative band called Kriyaa. Many such things are happening and I am also getting more opportunities for movie recordings. There was a big gap because of Covid19, but now things are slowly opening up again. I am also focusing on how to stand out and what new things I can do.

During your Super Singer days, one of the things that was celebrated was the influence and strength of Carnatic music and your ability to distinguish it with playback singing. Do you consciously use the lessons you learnt in Carnatic music, or does it automatically help you improvise?

All I know is Carnatic music. I only know the basics of Carnatic music. So it was about how I approach the music in cinema with the basics I know. There have been many mistakes and corrections. The judges have helped me a lot, their inputs have made a lot of difference. When we incorporate those tips from judges and music directors, the song becomes better. That’s how things happened.

From reality show to movies, how did that transition happen?

When I used to sing as a kid, I never thought I would get into the movie industry. It is more like what God offers and what time holds for us, I just went with the flow. I completed Mechanical Engineering but I wanted to do Agri related courses. But then since everyone wanted me to do engineering, I did it.

In my final year, I got the opportunity to be participate in Super Singer. It wasn’t my plan. My Guru does not like me singing cinema songs. But it changed my entire path. In the final stage of the show, Dhanush and GV Prakash told me that my performance was their favourite. They also said they would launch me as a playback singer. They gave me the opportunity and slowly I started singing more.

Talking about your influences, you have given a lot of credit to the late great SPB sir. How much has his music inspired your songs?

In the Tamil music industry, SPB sir’s singing is a guideline. If one follows that, it will work well. We can learn new things in every song of SPB sir. Be it voice production or singing techniques, we have a lot to learn from him. Take, for instance, his ability to sing and act. No one can ever laugh and sing like him. I personally think that there is no one else who can sing perfectly like him in the Tamil movie industry. So when we try to mimic his techniques and try 10% of it, the output gets better. 

You have been singing songs in three South Indian languages but there aren’t many in Malayalam. Is there any specific reason for that?

Malayalam is one of the most difficult languages to sing in. I always ask my friends to teach me Malayalam and its pronunciations. Even if you take the biggest of the biggest playback singers in Tamil, they would have also had very few Malayalam songs.

Because when it comes to the Malayalam movie industry, there are very specific pronunciations. In the Tamil industry, we mix Tamil with Telugu, Malayalam, Hindi or English and sing because we take those as different styles. But how many people, except SPB sir, have sung Hindi songs with Tamil style.

Many people come with the influence of their mother tongue or a  predominant accent. When I sang in Malayalam, I felt that. So I worked on it and I sang two songs in Malayalam. I should definitely try because Malayalam melodies are of a different league.

When we talk about independent music, you have given repeated successes. There is a growth in independent music as well. What are the challenges though?

According to me, independent music is fully experimental. When we talk about singing for movies, there is already an existing situation and tune, we are finally giving our voice. But here, we are focusing from the beginning. In independent music, there is no pressure and we can do whatever we want. I think there is that independence which helps a lot.

One can experiment and learn many things. There are no rules or do’s and don’ts. We can do what we like independently for our satisfaction. I have been doing that and it is independent music for me. As a part of the process, there is also a lot of learning that happens. In that way, I like independent music.

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