Meet Binu John Mathew, a Bel Canto singer. He will be giving denizens of the city a glimpse of his style at a concert on Sunday
“Not many in the city would enjoy listening to traditional Opera songs. That is why I usually choose Western classical pieces like Mozart’s Magic Melody and Handel’s Ev'ry Valley for my performances; this gives listeners a glimpse of my style. Sacred arias, the pieces by Mozart and Handel, are familiar to most so they are much better received by listeners. Opera music, on the other hand, is totally foreign and alien to our ears,” says Binu John Mathew, in a rich baritone voice.
A Bel Canto singer (a style of Italian Opera singing), Binu will be performing in the city as part of the 10th Bach Festival.
So how did a man from a remote village in Pathanamthitta tune in to Opera? “I was running a small time business in my hometown when I faced a setback. Not knowing what to do, I turned to music, something I enjoyed as a child.”
He started off his musical journey by learning how to play the keyboard and the piano at the age of 29 and by training in Carnatic music. Still thirsting for music, he went to Bangalore where a friend of his introduced him to Ken Henson, an Opera singer.
“I had a nasal tone, I could not reach high octaves, and had no depth of tone. Training with Ken helped me overcome all these problems. Western classical music singers learn to sing in a Bel Canto voice, which is characterised by full, even tones and excellent demonstration of vocal technique,” says Binu.
After a few years with Ken and a brief stint with voice trainer Jonathan Gold, Binu returned to his home town and started performing at various devotional music programmes in and around Kerala. “Listeners were amazed with what they heard and asked me the secret of my resonating voice,” he laughs.
With Dr. Jayakumar Menon, a vocalogist at KIMS Hospital, Binu started helping patients with vocal difficulties through vocal training. He also helps Carnatic singers and playback singers to “better their vocal tone.”
“I don’t want to take any names but quite a few Carnatic and playback singers are my students. Most Carnatic singers exert such pressure on their vocal chords that the delicate tissues in the throat get strained. This is because some teachers teach students to imitate them. The teacher may sing in a low octave whereas the student may have a high octave. The teacher then brings the student down to his octave. This results in wear and tear of the students’ vocal chords. Vocal training can do wonders in any type of singing especially Carnatic singing as it helps students develop a good voice range,” says Binu who held a voice workshop for contestants of Asianet’s ‘Idea Star Singer Season Five’.
Binu conducts vocal training classes in the city once a week at Sound of Music, Thakaraparambu in the city and in Ernakulam.
A keen musician, Binu has written, tuned and composed various Malayalam Christian devotional songs. With a strong voice hasn’t he considered entering the Malayalam film music industry? “Not really. I am not one to go knocking on doors for opportunity.”
Binu will be performing in the city at Vyloppilly Samskriti Bhavan at 6.15 p.m. on July 29 with a group of young musicians.