He’s no stranger to concerts — Benny Dayal has come a long way from competing at college events to headlining his own shows across the world. “The best thing about performing live is hearing the audience’s reactions. There’s no rocket science to this: it’s only about going out there and having fun and making sure everyone who has come to watch has fun too,” says the 33-year-old musician, who has just landed in India after touring with AR Rahman.
Knowing what goes into the making of a concert only makes it so much more special when he gets the time to attend one himself. Dayal admits that it isn’t easy to make time for them, saying, “It takes a lot of planning. When on tour, you have to figure out if there’s someone playing close by, get tickets and work out the travel. I can take three days off if it works out; that’s all I get.” Earlier, he says, he used to attend concerts by himself, and rarely with friends. “Now that I’m married, I go with my wife,” he grins.
In the beginning
Dayal made a lot of decisions geared towards becoming a singer — moving to Chennai for the music scene, participating in the SS Music Voice Hunt that got him recognised, quitting a BPO job to focus on his music career. But years earlier, it was seeing AR Rahman live in concert at UAE that cemented this desire. “It was one of his first shows in the region, in 1997-1998. The most memorable number was ‘Dil Se’. It was the first big concert I had been to, and years later, I performed with him on stage at the same venue. It took me a while to wrap my head around what was happening; it was crazy,” he reminisces.
Since then, he has been to several others, the most memorable of which include Sting (where the haunting ‘Fields of Gold’ was a favourite), Bryan Adams, and Earth, Wind & Fire, whose performance of ‘September’ is fresh in his memory. The closest he has come to headbanging, he says, was at Swedish heavy metal band Opeth’s show in Chennai a few years ago. “The most recent was a Bruno Mars concert in Amsterdam in May this year. I completely geeked out: I was screaming at the top of my lungs. ‘Versace on the Floor’ was brilliant when he sang it live. He’s such a great artist,” gushes Dayal, adding, “I really want to watch Stevie Wonder live someday. That would be epic.”
Keeping it real
He says that things haven’t changed much now that he’s famous: he’s still just another person in the crowd. “Usually nobody really cares, because there’s a bigger star on stage. I’m there to listen to music and have a great time. Even if people come up to me and ask for pictures during a concert I’m at, I refuse. It’s pretty disrespectful to do that when you’re at another artists’ performance, so I ask them to wait till the show is over, move out and then I’m happy to take photos with them,” he explains. And while he could go VIP, he prefers to stay in the crowd. “I usually wear a hoodie, so no one recognises me. I would love to watch a concert from backstage; it would be like experiencing it from a different angle. Unless the artist knows me and invites me backstage, I don’t take advantage of the fact that I could make a request to be there. I enjoy the show and go back home peacefully.”
The indie life
Like most musicians, Dayal has a packed schedule: he is performing with Karsh Kale today, at the NH7 Weekender in Shillong, after which he will fly down to Bengaluru for a Nexa Music Lounge live show at Hard Rock Cafe on November 3. As part of The Hindu ’s November Fest, he will take the stage in Chennai and Hyderabad on November 12 and 25 respectively.
While these shows keep him busy, it doesn’t mean he’s not experimenting with music, the latest being Project Urvasi , which was released online on Wednesday. “The name does give a lot away,” he laughs. For the uninitiated, it references a Tamil song composed by AR Rahman for the movie Kadhalan . “It’s a collaboration with my schoolmate from the UAE, Jasim. We’ve been singing together since then, and he also produced my last track, ‘Rhim Jhim’. We hope everyone will enjoy it,” he says.
“My band, Funktuation, and I are working on a new video as well: it’s a Tamil funk track, with a fun, tongue-in-cheek song. We’ve made it really happy and groovy; can you tell we’re really excited about it? We’re playing it to people in the industry and want to get it out really soon,” says Dayal, adding that he feels like the time is right for such music, considering everything is released online.
But using the digital space to share content isn’t as easy as it sounds, he says. “I would say it has actually made our work more difficult! Because everything is on us now; not just the music. We’re supposed to be in control of everything: creatives, ideas, marketing… It can be a bit overwhelming. And we want to keep a balance and not go overboard on the marketing. When something is in your face, it gets boring. My MO is to roll out the work, and when people notice it, it’s great, and makes it all worthwhile.”
Dates and Venue
November 12, The Music Academy
November 26, Ravindra Bharathi
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- Associate Sponsor – Hindustan University & Nova Life Spaces (Chennai)
- TV Partner – Doordarshan
- Hospitality Partner – Taj Coromandel (Chennai), Taj Krishna (Hyderabad), Taj Westend (Bengaluru)
- Radio Partner - Radio One (Chennai), Fever (Bengaluru & Hyderabad)
- Sound Partner – Zebronics
- Instrument Partner – Furtados (Bengaluru)
- Water Partner – Aachi
- Mall Partner - Ampa Skywalk
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