M.J. Sriram’s rendezvous with retro has been drawing in listeners

One of the common woes of those looking for a quiet drink in the city is that there are very few places that don’t play loud music and there are almost none that host local musicians.

M.J. Sriram, who performs at The Black and White Resto Bar at The Residency, has been, over the last 200 weeks, filling this void. At the ‘Mind, Body and Soul Night’ Sriram sings some popular and many rare songs composed by Ilaiyaraaja and sung by S.P. Balasubramaniam.

Says Charles Fabian, GM, The Residency, “I recall the morning of September 14, 2009. I met M.J. Sriram in the lobby of the hotel. Over the next one hour, we had a plan. A unique performance featuring S.P. Balasubramaniam’s songs and Illaiyaraaja’s compositions.”

“This has turned into a one-of-its kind concept night and is popular in Chennai and Coimbatore now,” says Sriram who performed his 200th show recently.

“Lawyers, IT professionals and a lot of people from the film fraternity regularly attend the show,” he adds. In fact, Sriram says that film personalities such as Parthiban and Suhasini have been instrumental in popularising his show by bringing along friends. “We have had Mani Ratnam, Radha, Sarita, Radhika, Mohan, Poornima and Bhagyaraj come and listen.” For a lot of the actors, listening to the songs brings back fond memories of the 1980s. Sriram, who hasn’t trained in any classical form, has always had a fascination for light music. From his school days, he has been singing light music. He gets a lot of requests from fans for some songs such as ‘Unakkenna mele nindrai’, ‘Kamban emaandhaan’, ‘Nalam vaazha’, ‘Megam kottattum’. “I am never tired of singing them. I also try and sing a lot of rarely heard SPB songs like ‘Vaa ponmayile’ and ‘Thoduvadenna thendralo’ in live shows.”

The singer insists on choosing his songs at the venue rather than going in with a prepared list. “There are some songs that I just have to sing. But other than these I go to the venue, speak to people and then choose to sing,” he says.

The show is spread over two and a half hours and is non-stop. “When we started in 2009, I didn’t think it would be such a big hit but deep down I knew it had the potential. Once we hit the six-month mark the audience started growing and there has been no looking back," he signs off.