Society

‘When I’m on stage, I don’t care if I can see or not,’ says Chennai musician Ryan Fernandez

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World Disability Day: From cub singer to manager for fresh talent — Ryan who has been in the music industry for 17 years now did not let disability stand in his way

Chennai-based singer Ryan Fernandez’s foray into music was a matter of pure logistics. He was 18, and needed money to take his girlfriend out on dates. “I am visually challenged, and back then, my folks wouldn’t let me go out of the house on my own. My father knew I was into music. I had been singing all of my childhood. So he offered me ₹50 for every song I sang for his band,” he recalls.

Today, Ryan is being awarded by the Rotary Club of Bangalore for succeeding in a challenging career. And watching him accept the award is that very girl he had hoped to impress — now his wife, Tammy, with their son and daughter.

In the music industry for 17 years now, Ryan’s first solo act was as a cover singer in the now defunct Duchess restaurant, in Alwarpet. Since then, the singer/songwriter has gone on to perform live at different venues across India and abroad as well, shuttling between genres like rock, jazz and country. His band, Ryan and the Undercovers, is now in the process of releasing its first EP.

“Music is a wonderful, beautiful thing that entertains loads of people. But when you’re making original music, especially Western music in India, it is difficult to make a living out of it, unless you get recognised by record labels,” he says.

The challenges in the music industry are what he wishes to focus on, rather than his visual challenges. “I consider myself an artiste, immaterial of whether I have my legs, my hands, or eyes... I could still do the job better than loads of other people,” he says, adding, “When I’m on stage, I don’t care whether or not I can see.”

In fact, interaction with his audience, he says, is his forte. “Even if I am performing in front of 10,000 people, I know how to get them moving and dancing.”

This is something he owes to his experience with his previous band, Second Coming. “I was a cub in that band. The other members really guided me on the kind of stage presence I should have,” he says.

While the rest of the band members had alternative jobs, Ryan chose to throw himself full-time into music. He now also acts as an artiste manager, employing other artistes on a monthly basis to perform for corporates at different pubs, hotels, and other venues. He recently opened a beachfront property in Ennore for hosting gigs, alongside camping and birdwatching. This, he believes, is his identity, refusing to be put into a box of ‘blind singer’.

“I want people to appreciate my performance not because I’m a blind singer, but for my talent. I don’t want you to give me extra brownie points... My career has nothing to do with my sight.”

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2019 6:49:45 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/when-im-on-stage-i-dont-care-whether-or-not-i-can-see-says-chennai-musician-ryan-fernandez-on-world-disability-day/article30149846.ece

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