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Music that’s worth every Benny

Benny Dayal Photo: V. Ganesan

Benny Dayal Photo: V. Ganesan  

The hit singer talks about how tunes have ruled his life

Benny Dayal is figuring out his travel plans to Mumbai, even as his band is rehearsing hard inside Bay 146 on a sunny Friday afternoon. Once the Chennai gig is done — one that’s special to the singer because it features his band’s own compositions — he’s heading to Mumbai to perform at the Global Music Festival that featured Coldplay.

Later, on his flight to Mumbai, he’d bump into Superstar Rajinikanth and update his social media about the experience. For Benny Dayal, who’s been singing film songs for a decade now, life is on the fast lane even today: there’s still plenty of studio-hopping and concert-hopping.

MetroPlus catches up with the singer for a chat about his latest hits and life so far.

Chennai, to Mumbai, to recordings… life is chaotic, right?

It’s been busy, yes. I’ve also been shooting the past week for The Voice India, a show that gives a platform for budding singers.

Right now, there’s a round called battle pairing, where singers joust each other, and I’m having fun judging it.

From a boy who was rejected by many composers to actually becoming a judge for a music show, you’ve come a long way…

I have been asked to judge before, but I realised that I didn’t have a body of work then. Today, I’m proud to say that that I’ve worked hard and done something that people take note of. The Voice India has me as a coach, and not just as a judge. We’ll be coaching 12 singers. It takes me back to my training days and how my teachers taught me.

Singing inside studios apart, you are known as a performer. What’s the secret to working the crowd?

It’s about going with the flow. We do have a fixed set list, but after a point of time, things become very manodharmam… we improvise a lot on the spot, because my band gels well. All a crowd expects you to do is shower them with love. It’s not about faking dialogues like ‘Oh you rock’ when you’re thinking ‘This crowd isn’t even moving.’ If that’s the case, I’d say, ‘C’mon, I’m not continuing till you get up.’

Like the one in which you said, ‘Barricades are meant to be broken…’ and the crowd did so?

Oh yes. That was in Puducherry in 2008. We were playing the second half of the set, and I just told the crowd to jump the barricade. They all jumped.

When you came to Chennai from the UAE, you chose to enrol in Madras Christian College only because “it had a great cuturals scene.” How did your parents react to that?

They never knew! I knew I wanted to come to Chennai because I wanted to be in the music scene. I kept telling myself I needed to become a good singer; after a point, that became the sole focus.

Take us back to the day you first recorded for A.R. Rahman.

That day was really special — from a journalism perspective, you might have called it a news-filled day. That was when the Jessica Lall murderer was revealed. Ramadan was going on. Rahman sir and I had breakfast at his studio canteen, watching the news for the latest updates and the confession in the case. He was talking about the need for more good in the world. After breakfast, we went in to record a song with an Arabic flavour — the villain theme for Ajith’s Varalaaru.

You’ve had such an eventful musical career after that, with several superhit songs. But, there have also been times when you were away from the scene…

There’s no point in becoming famous overnight and vanishing after that. For me, singing is a bit like climbing a mountain without the purpose of getting right on top… because you have to come down sometime anyway. I like to go on top, come down and then go up. I’m not looking for hits or luck; I think good songs will always be hits. For me, what’s most important is that I’m doing stuff I haven’t done before. Now, ‘Ude Dil Befikre’ is doing well online…. that’s different from ‘Tamil Fever’. And that, in turn, is different from everything I’ve done so far.

What is the primary difference between the music scene when you entered 10 years ago and now?

Today, people produce songs very well and put them up online. I feel people spend a lot of time in the studios. But composers want to hear the honesty of your voice and not its studio quality. When you have honest singing happening with just a guitar and without a microphone, that’s when you can gauge the nature of the voice.

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Printable version | Apr 7, 2020 11:24:23 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/Music-that%E2%80%99s-worth-every-Benny/article16675177.ece

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