…And get on to the stage with a wee bit of help from Sunil Koshy. Bhumika K. tells you how
How many times have you sung aloud in the bathroom, loving the way your voice sounds, and imagining that you’re singing for a famous actor? Huh? Well apparently almost everyone has. Which is why Sunil Koshy’s From Mug to Mike workshops see so many bathroom singers come out of the closet. Many even make it to the stage.
What started off as a Facebook announcement in April 2013, has brought people together in four cities — Bangalore, Kochi, Chennai and Trivandrum — in over 50 of his workshops branded “From Mug To Mike” in an attempt to get shy bathroom singers on to the stage. “Many of these bathroom singers haven’t told anyone they like to sing,” says Koshy, a software engineer, who sang right from his school days but started learning music formally only after he finished his engineering course. “I thought I was good (at singing) till I started learning,” grins Koshy.
He’s trained in various aspects with almost 50 teachers, he claims. That helped because sticking to one teacher would have only taught him what that one person could teach, he says. He quit his job to live in a gurukul for a year and study music, he returned after sabbaticals to work, and again took breaks to learn and now, teach! Among his gurus he counts R.R. Keshavmurthy, Venkatesh Godkhindi, Faiyaz Khan, T.V. Gopalakrishnan, and Rajan of the Kannada film director duo Rajan-Nagendra.
“I always thought the more number of years you learn music, you’re a better singer. But that’s not true,” says Bangalore-based Koshy. “And you don’t need a classical music background to sing film songs, which is what most people want to do. The whole idea of my workshop is to send across the message that anybody can learn to sing well if they have the passion and some time,” he surmises.
Koshy believes there are a lot of people out there who like to sing, don’t have any formal training, but are willing to sing on stage, and like to be appreciated. He points out that there are any number of karaoke clubs dedicated to Kishore, Rafi, Vishnuvardhan, where people host fellow singers at their homes for karaoke sessions. “Very often there is no improvement in their singing, though they sing regularly, because they haven’t learnt anything. And they believe unless you learn complete Carnatic or Hindustani music, it won’t help.” Learning some technicalities can make you a better singer, he believes. Otherwise most people who sing film songs only blindly imitate the original.
Level One is a six-hour workshop! The question springs to mind, which Koshy says many ask him is “What can I learn in a day?” At his workshops, divided into three levels, he teaches students to recognise a note, improve their music appreciation nuances, introduce them to voice dynamics, how to express or emote while singing, where to pause, or end a now, how to build the stamina to sing, voice culture, how to improve breath control, develop a better voice range and so on. In Level One itself, you get a chance to record in a studio and Koshy analyses you strengths and areas of improvement. “That’s something traditional music teachers will never do,” he points out. “And unless you record your voice and hear it played back, you won’t know your flaws.”
Once you complete all three levels, you get to perform at a stage show he organises. “Most people want to be famous, they want more likes on FB when they put up a music clip or a photo taken in the studio…you may not become the next Sonu Nigam,” he says, talking of what people can achieve at the workshop. Many do come to his workshops hoping to become playback singers. He knew what his workshop wouldn’t be, based on his own experience. “Most workshops I attended assumed you already know something, and are more technical. And if I call it a class, people lose interest,” he smiles.
Such a concept works well in a time when we want instant gratification, where we don’t have patience for years of learning and practise. While musical purists may be appalled by his ideas, Koshy asks a question that will find resonance with people today: “How many people will practise music one hour a day to get better after 10 years?” Koshy says he’s worked with music directors, sung in Kannada, Tamil and Malayalam, and has been a track singer for famous singers like S.P. Balasubramaniam. He’s also made Kannada’s first, and India’s first audio film Reboot, which tells his life story.
Learn more at facebook.com/FromMugToMike or call 9845286308.