‘There’s a magical power in Rahman Sir’s studio’: Singer Nakul Abhyankar

Nakul Abhyankar

Nakul Abhyankar   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The 'CEO in the House' and 'Koode' singer talks about working with A. R. Rahman, how reality shows helped him and more

Nakul Abhyankar was living his childhood dream, two years ago. He was at AR Rahman’s studio, in front of the musical genius, to record ‘Neeli Kanumallo’, the Telugu version of ‘Mazhai Kuruvi’, sung in Tamil by Rahman.

The experience for Nakul was borderline-surreal despite a steady rise in his music career: reality show participant to reality show winner to graduate diploma in music at KM Music Conservatory to film singer.

“Whatever experience you have, counts for nothing when you are at his studio for the first time,” says Nakul. “It was overwhelming for me”. The realisation of a childhood dream can be for anyone. Nakul grew up listening to, and later playing on his keyboard, the tunes of Rahman. It was the latter who spurred his fascination for film music. So, to sing in front of his idol was a moment to treasure.

AR Rahman

AR Rahman   | Photo Credit: PTI

“On one hand, it was emotional for me. But at the same time, he is a music director and I am a singer. And, we had to work together to bring the song out.” Nakul was torn between his disbelief of working with Rahman and actually working with Rahman.

‘Neeli Kanumallo’ had several high-pitch portions. “Generally, with these portions, we tend to push a lot and we end up stressing on certain parts. But this song had to flow smoothly like butter. It was tricky.”

The song, ultimately, came out well. “Sir loved it.” After a brief pause, he adds: “There is a magical power that exists in that studio. You end up doing things you don’t expect yourself to do.”

In the family

Nakul moved from Bengaluru to Chennai in 2013, when he decided to quit his IT job and join Rahman’s KM Music Conservatory. But he didn’t realise his passion for music during his days of nine-to-five drudgery.

His isn’t that clichéd story that many upcoming writers and artists share. The IT job was just a detour. His pursuit of a career in music was organic. One of his grandfathers was a Haridasa (raconteur) and the other a Yakshagana artist. “All my cousins learnt music. My brother was greatly talented in singing. He taught me a lot. So, it wasn’t like someone had to tell me to learn music. I would just pick up the harmonium in the house and start playing the national anthem or rhymes.”

Nakul’s chartbusters
  • ‘College days’ from Rajaratha (Kannada)
  • ‘Neeli Kanumallo’ from Nawab (Telugu)
  • ‘CEO in the House’ from Sarkar (Tamil)
  • ‘Manase Manase’ from Are Marler (Tulu)
  • ‘Koode’ from Koode (Malayalam)

He was a part of the school’s music team, as a keyboard player. In 2009 and 2010, respectively, Nakul won the Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Kannada and finished in the top-nine of Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Hindi. Participation in these reality shows helped him immensely. “These shows aren’t just about fame. They help you get contacts and validation. For example, the judges of the show, like Hamsalekha Sir, are big names in the industry. When they evaluate your singing, you know where you stand. So, yes, [reality shows] opened a lot of doors for me.”

Nakul got his first song, ‘Kendhaavara Hoove’ (Kirataka) after composer V Manohar liked his performances in Sa Re Ga Ma Pa. “But the studio environment is completely different. It takes some time to get used to it. I had to sing my first song thrice to be approved by the composer.”

Despite getting to sing in films, he felt the need to learn more about music. Which is when he enrolled at KM Conservatory. “I already had some training in Indian classical music. And, Indian classical is melody-driven. But western classical has more to do with harmony. And, film music is a marriage of harmony and melody. At KM, I learnt a lot of western techniques, orchestration, opera singing, programming… My voice and style before and after KM are completely different.”

For someone who was always sure about a profession in music, Nakul’s still uncertain if he should specialise in one aspect of it — the education at KM broadened his scope. So, apart from singing, he also composes music -- he has so far scored for Unarvu (Tamil), College Kumara (Telugu and Tamil), Kannad Gothilla (Kannada), and Bicchugatti: Chapter 1 (Kannada), which is set to release later this year. When he has no singing or composing projects, he says, “I hang around Rahman Sir’s studio to program for him.” The studio where magic happens.

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Printable version | Apr 6, 2020 6:27:21 PM |

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