Sathyaprakash is a renowned playback singer based in Chennai, India. For those well vested in Indian cinema music fraternity, you would be well aware of his extensive vocal capabilities, versatility and, not to mention, some of his hit songs that he has rendered for esteemed music directors and films. With carnatic music at the core of his ever growing musical personality, he has pretty much diversified and proven himself in different ‘genres’ from mainstream pop, to various types of regional folk, jazz, and carnatic infused light melodies to say the least. He continues to evolve as a musician especially with his recent venture into the independent scene.
He says he is passionate about creating relatable music that people can resonate with and recall in contemporary times. This lockdown has allowed him to experiment with production as a whole. He believes it is important to present a holistic experience to his audience wherein vocals/singing are one of many in the entire package.
To get a better understanding, check out his originals here:
Check out his divine series where to get a taste of his carnatic essence!
I wanted to use this opportunity to understand Sathyaprakash’s perspective of the general music industry, how he has had to adapt in the face of evolving technologies and increased use of social media and of course his personal and professional challenges.
I thought I’d start things off by walking down memory lane and reminiscing on some of his super singer (notable TV reality show in the south of India) moments. Of course, I was an avid follower back then so it was definitely interesting to get a small insight from the perspective of a contestant.
He began by telling me that he had never before sung film music. In fact, having grown up in Coimbatore back in the day, he was hardly ever exposed to the whole culture of music bands, competition and shows. This was his first time ever singing in the public eye and so he went in with a very casual approach to merely gain experience working with and under the guidance of leading talents in the music industry. Of course, this gave him his break with playback singing opportunities and essentially paved his path forward as a professional musician. When I asked him about his challenges and learning experiences back then, I was anticipating responses associated with performances, memorizing lyrics etc but instead he told me about how he learnt to manage the stress of multi-tasking - he had to travel back and forth from Coimbatore to Chennai, continue with his studies, and also manage this new limelight that was suddenly and constantly shed on him.
We also touched upon how the competition has changed ever since.
Back then, one season would extend for a gruelling 15 months and singers were required to prove themselves in all genres. However, these days, the seasons are limited to 6 months wherein singers have more of a freedom to specialize in one area even if it is extremely niche. Further, the dynamics of voting have seemingly changed wherein the power is amassed among the millions on specific social media platforms with a skew towards those that have built an empire of followers, views etc. The whole concept of offline bulk messaging, posters and banners is next to obsolete.
We then talked about his personal musical journey post Super Singer
As he initially started off as a carnatic singer, he had to make a conscious effort to understand and internalize the nuances of film music. One of his many strengths is his ability to seamlessly adapt to elements of film music when required whilst maintaining and preserving his carnatic rigor. In fact, his challenges these days are more to do with recording simple and straightforward, or so it seems, songs that do not have complicated ‘gamakas’ (inflexions), swarams (notes) etc. He sang me a little snippet of the famous Tamizh song ‘Venpaniye’ from the film Ko, which was essentially a mere combination of 4 notes and extremely simple on the surface level. However, in order to evoke the specific emotion requested by the music director, make it sound aesthetically pleasing and also fit the overall shot, he reckons that it would have taken multiple takes of the singing the exact same line!
We also talked about one of his biggest breaks in his musical career - a song loved by all types of audiences: Raasali.
Having sung the song as the initial track singer, he found immense joy in having the opportunity to sing the final version of the song over many other talented singers to whom the song was also pitched to. This song allowed music directors to better understand his voice and further make his stamp more prominent in the industry. I learnt that the relationship between a music director and a singer is very sacred, unique and takes years to define. A rapport and understanding between the two is critical and really dictates the time spent on recordings. That explains why we see music directors using the same singer for multiple songs or even why music directors may find it difficult to replace and offer opportunities to new artists. It may not be a function of skill or expertise but rather trust and chemistry. Both players have to intuitively understand one another. Thus, patience and perseverance is key. He told me that he has had spent hours and days with music directors, such as Vidyasagar Ji, to really understand the do’s and don’t and of course imbibe the director’s vision.
Of course, we had to discuss the changing model of music business, commercialization and ask him how aspiring musicians can stay afloat in the ocean of social media.
Mass investing in social media marketing, a contemporary luxury, can really help one gain traction and attention. However, this investment comes with an opportunity cost if undertaken by the artist since that time could otherwise be spent on the actual craft. He believes that it is important to stay true to your individualistic expression and music regularly putting out content and waiting for the inevitable day it gets noticed instead of focusing on viewership and setting expectations for yourself with respect to views, likes, engagement etc. He believes in staying open minded and testing the waters in all genres for one can never actually know with 100% certainty what may actually end up working. He suggests consulting experts in the field of marketing and promotion when needed as to not compromise on the time spent on the actual musical content. People should focus on what they are best at - simply put ,division of labor and working as a collective are ways to really ensure that quality is not compromised.
Check out his website: