With a career of over three decades and continuing, singer Hariharan never failed to impress music lovers across the nation and generations. The two-time National Award winner — who has several celebrated songs across genres, including Bollywood music, ghazals, khayal and fusion music — shares his opinion on how the business of music is going wrong owing to wrong marketing.
From shrinking opportunity to constant substandard music, over the past few years, the music industry has seen a huge change.
“I do not want to pinpoint on any individual but would want to talk about the trend that has been continuing for long and gaining commercial benefit. Over the past few years, when a song releases, it is not about its emotional connection with the listeners any more, it is about how many hits and clicks it is getting. For us, back then recall value mattered. Now, it is not like that anymore, and that is why some composers are taking old songs and presenting with new instrumentation. Why old song? Because these have recall value,” Hariharan told IANS.
He added: “If you are not a musician, and call music a product for selling, how will you sell it? You should have the knowledge of the product that you are selling. You should know how the product is consumed. How can the knowledge of a musician, who has been learning and practising music for 30 years, be lesser than the one who does not know music, and can market the music? They release one remix song and play them across all radio stations repeatedly. Obviously, people are forced to listen. Then they say, ‘see, people are listening’. New songs and new talent should be promoted. However, I think it is a topic that requires an elaborate and nuanced discussion. I won’t say more than this.”
Would he want any on his songs to be recreated? “No, please no. My songs are close to my heart and also close to the heart of all my fans. So, please, no!” he said.
Being a frequent collaborator of music directors like Ilaiyaraja and AR Rahman, and having delivered several hits, Hariharan started his career with the legendary composer Jaidev, and sung the song “Ajeeb saaneha mujhpar guzar gaya” in the film “Gaman” in 1977.
“You see, when I recorded my first song as a professional singer, I did not have a career plan. After so many years, even today I do not have a career plan. I never took pressure of building my career or gaining popularity following a marketing strategy. Being a student of music, the only laksh (target) I have is to sing exceptionally. In the seventies, we had no publicist and marketing team to promote a signer, like the way it happens today,” he recalled.
He added: “Honestly, even I believe that for a signer nothing can be a great strategy than to sing a song so well that it touches many heart, and listeners hum the song unknowingly. Also, I was learning music — as in various genres of music. I was engrossed in that.”
Asked who his favourite music director is, Hariharan replied: “I love them all not only because I have worked with them but their music is timeless. Their music holds archival value. Music has to be timeless. If you cannot go beyond time and generations with your music to touch many hearts, is it really music?”
“I think for a vocalist it is important to collaborate with music directors who can help you to grow as an artist. I was introduced to the world of playback singing by Jaidev ji. He was my guru, my guide and I have learnt from him how to compose poetry to a song,” said Hariharan.
“That is when I started composing ghazals, and I along with my music partner Lesle Lewis in Colonial Cousins, was creating a new sound,” said the singer.