Song sung true

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By TUNE IN TO THE LATEST FROM THE WORLD OF EDUCATION There's fame and money in music. But you need a good grounding to make it big as a singer. Tessy Koshy reports.
  • Published 18.01.06
Top guns: Last year’s Indian Idol Abhijeet Sawant (right) with finalists
Aditi Paul and Amit Sana

While 29-year-old Ravindra Upadhayaya left a promising legal career to take part in Channel V?s Super Singer contest last year, Ravinder Ravi, a house painter from Ludhiana, did not have much at stake when he auditioned for a Sony TV talent search in 2004. But their love for music scored over their professional allegiances. And today, their gamble has paid off well. While Upadhayaya has bagged a contract with Channel V, Ravi demands Rs 75,000 for a single stage show even though he didn?t become the Indian Idol.

The fame and moolah in the Rs 1,150-crore Indian music industry has started to lure music-loving youngsters. Adding to the frenzy is the spurt in the growth of talent hunt contests on TV channels.

Take Delhi girl Neha Kakkar, a 17-year-old wannabe rock star, who put her studies on the backburner in order to participate in the Indian Idol contest. Though she has had no formal training in music, she claims to have been singing bhajans at various religious programmes right from the age of four. On the other hand, 20-year-old Delhi girl Dilpreet has been trained in Indian classical music. ?I have always been passionate about music. My dream is to become a famous playback singer,? says Dilpreet, who was among the final 28 Indian Idol contestants, but was eventually voted out. A third-year student of Bachelor of Music at Delhi University, Dilpreet has also done a six-year diploma course from Prayag Sangeet Samiti, Allahabad.

For a long innings in the industry, a thorough training in music is definitely an asset. If you are keen on a career in music, ideally, the first step should be to go to a music institute or a musician to take a voice test. It will help you know whether you have the voice or the sense of melody to carry it further. You will then have the option of either training under a guru or enrolling for an institute.

?Before entering a contest, you should first prepare yourself. Do riyaz at home daily, package yourself well and please don?t make a half-hearted attempt at becoming famous,? says singer Pankaj Awasthi, who has recently released his debut album, Nine. Agrees Aditi Paul, who made it to the final 11 of the Indian Idol contest last year. ?Riyaz is very important and so is the need to listen to all kinds of music,? she says. Paul feels that in order to make a mark as a singer, one should literally eat, sleep and drink music. She knows what she is talking about, for, along with an MA and a BEd in music from Visva Bharati in Santiniketan, Paul has pursued her passion for music by getting trained in Indian classical music since her schooldays. And, in less than a year since her foray into television, she is singing for TV serials and is contemplating offers for playback singing in cinema.

Training in classical music gives one what is known as a strong voice base. It also helps a singer to develop a versatile style.

Most universities in India offer degrees in music. Beginning with a bachelors degree or a diploma in music, you can opt for masters and even a PhD. There are a host of other institutes that offer flexible courses in music. Prominent among them are Bhatkhande Sangeet Vidyapeeth, Lucknow; Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, Delhi, and Prayag Sangeet Samiti, Allahabad. The institutes have branches in other cities as well.

But the road ahead, Paul admits, is not smooth. If there is one Abhijeet Sawant, the Indian Idol of 2005, there are hundreds of other hopefuls who spend years trying to get a foothold in the industry. The stakes are big, and often, so is the despair. A contestant for the 2006 Indian Idol fainted on stage on hearing that she had been eliminated. It took 32-year-old Awasthi, who studied dentistry, almost a decade to release his debut album. Even Aditi has to sweat it out in Mumbai, away from her hometown, Calcutta.

Way to go: Calcutta girls (clockwise from left) Sandipa Dutta, Antara Mitra, Jolly Das and Saberri Bhattacharya made it to the finals of Indian Idol this year

A career in music is definitely a long struggle. However, besides singing, there are many avenues now open for those interested in music. Apart from being a music teacher, you could be a music composer, an artiste manager, a music critic, a TV show host or even a disc jockey. ?When I entered the profession at the age of 16, I did not have many options in this sector. Youngsters today have so many avenues to explore. Besides playback, you can form a band, do stage shows, compose music, do TV shows,? says music composer Anu Malik.

To be a composer, Malik says, one must have a sound knowledge of the ragas, English notations and should listen to the maestros. Composers can create music for films, TV serials, radio, albums, stage shows, etc.

To teach at the school level, you need a masters degree in music. For entry at the university level, a candidate is required to do an MPhil and he or she has to clear the University Grants Commission exam. ?Becoming a programme executive in Akashvani Bhavan or working in the Song and Drama Division are some options in the government sector,? says Geeta Paintal, dean and head of faculty of music and fine arts, Delhi University. The pay package varies, ? from the few thousand rupees that a teacher gets to about Rs 25,000 a playback singer earns per song.

So, what?s stopping you from striking the right notes?

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