Notes of a Bohemian kind

Abhaya Hiranmayi Photo: Special Arrangement   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Her distinctive voice is helping Abhaya Hiranmanyi go places. After wowing music buffs with the immensely hummable ‘Kanimalare mulle’ interlude in the song ‘Thanne Thanne’ from Two Countries earlier this year, the playback singer does it again, this time in the ending notes of ‘Mazhaye Mazhaye,’ another duet with Karthik, from James and Alice. “Mine is not your typical Malayali voice; it’s not melodious and definitely not soothing on the ears! Perhaps that’s what helps me stand out,” says the singer, over the phone from Chennai, where she is based, at the moment. We come to a compromise that her voice is edgy more than anything else.

The edginess of her voice is, perhaps, never more felt than in her debut number in Swahili, ‘Naku Penta, Naku Taka’ from the eponymous film.

“I’ve been singing background vocals for music composer Gopi Sunder, for a long time [he composed the songs for all three films mentioned] and it was he who has given me all my songs thus far,” says Hiranmayi.

Her roomie was playback singer Anna Katharina Valayil of ‘Appangal Embadum’ fame ( Ustad Hotel ) and Hiranmayi used to accompany her for recordings whenever she had the time.

“I just love to hear people sing and enjoy the whole process of making music. Gopi knew that I too could sing and would, occasionally, thrust bits and pieces of background vocals at me. The only thing he would tell me about a particular song was the emotion behind it. For example, he’d say dredge up the emotion of a father dying or the feeling of a lover left alone... and we’d just have to sing it. He does the same to all his trainee singers. I think it’s his way of teaching us to pitch the right emotion to carry a song on our backs,” says Hiranmayi, who has also sung a club number that’s part of the OST of Telugu film Malli Malli Idi Rani Roju.

The 27-year-old explains that it was confidence she was lacking to come to the forefront.

“I must credit Gopi for encouraging me until I realised that I could be a singer if I put my mind to it. It’s only now, after I’ve had a couple of hits that I dream of a career in music,” says Hiranmayi.

A native of the city, Hiranmayi has had no formal training but music was always a part of growing up. “My entire family is creatively inclined,” she says. Her mother, for instance, has a postgraduate degree in music, and her father is a programme producer of a TV channel and her father’s elder brother was a professor at Swati Thirunal College of Music.

“My mom taught me the basics of music. She sings beautifully and she is still my biggest inspiration. All that I know about music comes from kelvijnanam (knowledge acquired through listening). I used to hang around and listen when my valiyachan conducted music classes in his home and picked up a lot of stuff. I listen to all kinds of music, am very observant about it and that has helped me a lot,” says the former student of Carmel School.

She studied engineering but did not complete the course [“too many supplements to clear; it was just not for me”]. Tamil kuthu songs, she says, is what she likes listening to [“I love the energy”] but her first love is classical music. “I am now learning classical music. One day I hope to sing all kinds of music,” she says.

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Printable version | Sep 23, 2021 8:03:54 AM |

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