Madhu M., an enterprising Carnatic vocalist juggles his passion for singing, teaching and an IT job skilfully

The image of the single-minded classical musician is passé. The stereotyped image has been blasted and musicians explore multiple passions without compromising their musical integrity. It is now common to see musicians pursue dual careers. Madhu M., a young, enterprising Carnatic vocalist, effectively juggles his software engineer’s job with his passion for music.

Unlike other dual-career musicians, the path Madhu forged wound up rather predictably. It was a conscious, planned decision. “It was a toss up between a full-time or part-time music careers. What clinched the issue in favour of the latter was that a dual career was a bonus. Yes, primarily for the money, the security and also for the variety it affords,” says Madhu.

Music was part of Madhu’s childhood. He was initiated into Carnatic music when he was just six years old. Since then, even while he moved to Mumbai to do his engineering he kept this passion alive. “Competitions and winning was inspiration to keep going. Then there were my teachers, Parvathy Balasubramaniam, Sasikumar, Sankara Warrier and now Thamarakad Govindan Namboodiri who never let this interest flag.”

After his arangetam at a temple in Kakkanad, near Kochi, Madhu was a consistent winner in school and college level competitions in poetry recitation, classical and light music. He had even begun singing kutcheris at temple festivals and the occasional Sabha ones when he landed in Mumbai for his engineering. “That was a difficult period, especially the start. I had almost discontinued my music training. But fortunately I had some very encouraging relatives there who saw to it that I keep training in my hostel room. In fact, I soon managed to form a team and we performed at numerous venues in Mumbai. I even managed to win a couple of prizes at competitions there.”

The Mumbai stint helped Madhu a great deal. He returned armed with an engineering degree and a lot more experience as a performer. He went on to win two prestigious music awards – the Augustine Joseph Memorial instituted by the Sree Poornathrayeesa Sangeetha Sabha and the Swati Thirunal Gold Medal instituted by the Kerala Fine Arts Society. In between all this he also secured an MBA degree from Annamalai University.

Finding a job in the city, getting married, and singing whenever he got a call, Madhu was gradually falling into a comfort zone.

Madhu established Swaraganga Music School where he spent quality time teaching students. Has all this affected his career as a performer? “I’m trying to pull myself out of this zone, attempting to find the right balance. I know that somewhere down the line I need to spend more time as a concert performer.”

Madhu also composed and sang in three albums - Sruthi Madhuram (3 volumes), Lalitha Madhuram and Upadesa Geetham, devotional songs along with Madhu Balakrishnan. Does this mean he is veering towards albums and cinema, its naturally corollary? “Frankly, these albums that did fairly well did not create any new openings for me. And films, surely, if the right kind of songs come my way.”

Supportive parents, a caring wife and a young son, Madhu’s goal is to see that his school develops into a centre of excellence. “The number of students keeps growing, which is encouraging. We now teach classical, light music and also instrumental music. But if you ask me my first choice is the stage, the kutcheri,” says Madhu.