Singer Hariharan on why he keeps revisiting Kolkata
The third wave of the pandemic has thrown singer Hariharan into a thinking mode. “Reinventing” is among his mantra. During a quick visit to Calcutta recently, he found time to talk to The Telegraph about the changes a singer has to make in current circumstances, among other things.
You have been coming to Kolkata quite frequently. Isn’t it?
Yes, I have been doing this album, Ishq (with Bickram Ghosh), and my visits over the last few months were in connection with the videos, which I did with director Arindam Sil. Of course, earlier, I used to come pretty often for concerts and to judge music shows. It has always been a pleasure to sing for an audience here.
What is it like to sing for an audience during the pandemic? How is the role of the singer changing?
Well, the pandemic has brought in the digital audience that you do not see live perhaps but only get to know through likes, views, comments and so on. You have to only imagine that you have a 1,000-plus audience and give that extra effort to the song — I have picked up that skill now. Yes, a singer now has to compose, write, record and upload and learn all sorts of new things. It’s time for the singer to reinvent himself. That seems to be working because there is a large following for it. It’s good because you don’t have to think about the commercial viability of every line. The word “hit” is out. It’s only important to sing a good song and this kind of scene will help musicians, especially young ones, to open their heart and perform.
Years ago, you had recorded two Bengali songs of which one was very popular — Bulbul keno bojhena. What happened after that?
Oh, that’s like eons ago. It was an EP record which had the song you mentioned and Jaar lagi churi kori on the other side. Ravindra Jain was the music director and it came out during the Pujas. I did sing a few for Bickram (Ghosh) but otherwise I would love to sing more Bengali songs.
A lot of trends are moving on with the years — disco, indie pop, ghazals and even playback are on their way out it seems. Where does that leave a singer?
I agree, a lot of trends are moving on. Playback singing is related to movies. As movies change, songs become fewer or more. Whatever the movie portrays, songs reflect by way of numbers — fewer or more. But ghazals still have an audience and I do believe, indie pop is on its way back. I feel if you are a creative singer and if you can keep reinventing yourself besides making sure your foundation is strong, there’s nothing that can stop you.
Do you want to reprise some of your popular songs from the past, say Bahon ke darmiyan or Kabhi main kahu or even Sa ni dha pa from Colonial Cousins days? Or maybe even a ghazal like Kuch dur hamare saath chalo?
Actually, no. I still sing them in the way they were originally composed. I have been spending time with musicians and working on new compositions and new trends. I am going to dwell more on that.
What keeps you busy these days? What are your long-term plans with music?
In December, I was busy doing shows and in January I am wondering where are the shows (laughs). Well, this pandemic has the upper hand and the only way forward is go back to the studio and record more songs. I joke in Hindi: “Jab sab bandh ho jata hai, tab hum band bajate hai (when everything is shut, we do music).” Music is my life and that’s what long-term means for me.
Any interesting singer you see on the horizon?
The new crop of singers is all good — sharp and they sing perfectly. I wouldn’t like to single out anyone in particular. They have also a lot of showmanship. Falsetto singing has been really studied by these singers. And they are using the third octave for the songs. The whole soundscape is quite different now regarding the pitch of the song. Each era presents a different sound. Male singers continue to sing very high while women sing the lower octaves and that’s a new trend.
• Tu hi re (Bombay)
• Log kehte hai (ghazal)
• Kaash aisa koi manzar hota (ghazal)
• Tum ho meri nigahon ke (unreleased)