Working with AR Rahman is the dream for most aspiring or professional singers in India. At 24, Sanah Moidutty has already realised this. Get more familiar with the wonderful voice behind three songs in 2016’s most anticipated film, Mohenjo Daro.
Before Mohenjo Daro you had already worked with AR Rahman in regional films. How did that opportunity come to you?
I had sent my voice demos to Rahman Sir through a source. After almost two years I got a call from his office. That was when I started recording for Mohenjo Daro. 24 (Tamil ) happened later on. I was called to Chennai to record for the same.
Given the strength of Bollywood and the fact that Ashutosh Gowarikar’s film has been highly anticipated for sometime now, obviously singing in this film has got you more fame and your name is known to a wider audience. Are you happy with the reception you have got?
The opportunity is huge. I’m new to the industry. I couldn’t ask for more. Getting to sing for and with Rahman Sir, for a movie directed by Ashutosh Sir who has given us movies like Jodha Akbar, Swades and Lagaan, I just feel blessed more than anything. And I’m overwhelmed by the reception. I’m receiving so much love and appreciation. The kind I’ve never experienced before.
Tu Hai is a beautiful song and you have done a brilliant job here. How do you feel lending your voice to a track that has gained so much love even before the release of the film. How is AR Rahman the singer different from AR Rahman the composer? Is he like any other co-singer or being the composer of the track make things different while recording it?
As I said, I feel really grateful. This wouldn’t have been possible if not for Rahman Sir and Ashutosh Sir. They believed in me and my voice. That’s what makes me feel happy.
AR Rahman Sir weaves complex elements into his music beautifully. The picture that he has in his mind about a song is beyond our comprehension. The end product is a pleasant surprise not just for the people who listen to his music, but also for an artist who works for him.
I love Rahman Sir’s singing. There is so much soul in his voice. According to me Rahman Sir’s singing is synonymous to the soul of a child, because there’s so much innocence in it. And Rahman Sir’s compositions are synonymous to the soul of a globetrotter who has seen and experienced everything, because there’s so much wisdom in it.
It’s obvious that, being the creator of the song he knows what’s best. The song would definitely sound different if it was another co – singer. How would it sound, that’s something I can’t imagine. All I know is he has infused a lot of love into it, but with a divine touch and that’s his style, love with divinity.
You have a considerable presence on YouTube. Considering the time we are living in, do you think Indian singers will continue to give social media as much importance as playback projects? How much do you value that?
I regularly post videos on my Youtube channel. And that will continue. I think artists in general have become more open to the idea of expressing themselves openly on social media platforms making the whole scene more interactive. Playback definitely gives you fame but the real personality of an artist comes out through his/ her personal work. I personally enjoy doing my Youtube projects because I get a chance to understand everything from the scratch. From the pre production to the post production. So the biggest advantage is the knowledge I get out of it. And the outcome of knowledge is the ability to appreciate things better. And that’s extremely important. You cannot be a good artist without having the ability to appreciate the right things.
What are your views on the current Bollywood scene? The time where singers, especially female singers, could maintain monopoly in the business is gone. Is this more encouraging for singers wishing to make it in the industry?
Bollywood is in a good space now. There are many new talents making good music. Bollywood has opened up to new kind of voices. I won’t call it monopoly, but what we saw in the olden days was an effect of the social culture we followed. Back then, girls were just expected to be feminine and cute. So the voice that would go with such an image would probably be a sweet sounding, high pitched voice. Hence, that was the only kind of voice that worked back then. But today as a society we have opened up more. Women are also being acknowledged for being powerful, sexy, bold or anything that they wish to be. This has led to the acceptance of voices that align with that image. This is a great thing.
What are your views on the Independent music scene in India currently? Do you keep a track of it?
The independent music scene is definitely booming now. From a musician’s point of view, it is easier than before to produce music. A basic home studio setup can help you produce your ideas roughly. And listeners have become more open to experimental and no- film music. With the advent of social media, independent music has become more visible. This a great phase for independent musicians. But I also believe there needs to be quality control. It’s great that there’s a rising effort put by new artists to produce new songs, but just because it is independent it does not always mean that it’s good music. I hear a lot of people criticizing every Bollywood song and promoting anything that is independent just because they think it’s a cool thing to do so. But we need to understand that good music is good music. Whether it’s a part of some high budget Bollywood film or a low budget independent production.
It’s important we keep prejudices away so that we appreciate the right things. That’s how we will have a good independent scene in the future.
And yes, I follow the independent scene too. There are so many amazing artists out there. I follow anything that helps me learn.
Do you collaborate with other people in the field? Who would you love to work with as a singer?
Oh yes! I have collaborated with some amazing artists. I have collaborated with SANAM, Keerthi Sagathia, Arjun Kanungo for YouTube projects. I have also collaborated with an independent producer, Achint Thakkar for a television show called SoundTrek.
Collaborations help you grow. Who would I like to work with? The list is huge!
Who have been the biggest influences in your life, music and otherwise?
Music wise, Rahman Sir, Ashaji have been huge influences. My mother has been a big influence too because she is a singer herself. Other than music, some of my school teachers have heavily influenced my thinking. My sister has been an influence too. Just watching her grow into a beautiful woman has had a huge influence on me.
Was breaking into the industry a struggle personally or did you have the support of your family all along? Was there a backup plan in case things didn’t work out?
I am lucky as my family has always been supportive. My mom, who used to sing too, put me in singing classes when I was 5. She used to travel with me for all shows. My sister is my biggest critic and also a part of my core music video making team. So the support from my family has always been immense.
Because of which, I didn’t think of it as a struggle. There is no doubt you have to work really hard but when you have a support system sorted, things become easier. I didn’t have any backup plan. The only plan I’ve made is I want to make a lot of music. Breaking into the industry can happen in two ways. It can be through playback or through your independent work. I’m thinking about things that are in my control now – my YouTube channel, collaborations and original music. I wish to build on these things so that I have a solid base if things get difficult.
Do you think aspiring musicians wanting to make it big in India should keep a backup plan or they should go all out pursuing the dream?
I personally feel it’s difficult to have a backup plan when you really want to do music. Even a lifetime isn’t enough to learn, to create and to experiment when it comes to music. The more concentrated your thoughts towards a goal are, the better it is. Whether from India or any part of the world, anyone who dreams to be a musician, should have the insight to understand what it really means to be one. You have to constantly question your drive, your passion. You have to constantly look for inspiration. You have to know your dark side, your shortcomings. Once you understand these things, then nothing can stop you from reaching your goal. The inner battles have to be won first.
Who are the other music directors in Bollywood you would like to work with?
I am open to working with anyone who makes good music.
What are the short-term and long-term goals for you?
My short-term goals are building my YouTube channel and putting out as much work as possible on my channel. I am learning to play the guitar. I play the keyboard a bit. I intend to use these skills for songwriting. My long-term goal is releasing original songs with amazing video concepts. I would also like to have a live show which has a great production value. Some are both short term and long term goals, like updating myself with improved vocal techniques, collaborating with other artists and evolving as an artist.
What do you think should be pursued and brings more happiness – commercial success, or a cult, devoted following.
Whether it is the commercial success or a devoted following, I’ll be happy as long as my work is understood and appreciated in any way. My YouTube channel is still growing. I have always believed that even if the following is less, those many numbers of followers know what they can expect as far as music and quality of work are concerned when they come to my channel. And that’s what matters to me the most. The belief they have in my music. The quantity of followers is something that follows. I only think about the quality.
Do you perform live? How is the feeling of singing to a live audience?
Oh yes, I do live shows. Some of them are unplugged gigs. Some are upbeat shows. It’s a great feeling to be on stage. And to immediately see people connecting to your music.
A quick rapid fire
–Essential tracks on your playlist: The list keeps changing. But these three are on the top of my mind now. Fast Car (Tracy Chapman), Saathiya (from the movie Saathiya), Beautiful flower (India Arie)
– Favourite Indian musicians: AR Rahman, Kailasa, Asha Bhosle among others.
–Favourite International musicians: Beyonce, India Arie, Michael Jackson, Sia and many more
-When you’re not making music, you are?: Thinking of new places to visit, clicking photos, watching funny videos and daydreaming!