This new year marks the beginning of a new section on ibelivetoday! Introducing Passion Speak that features interviews with famous personalities who have made it big, following their passion.
Here’s presenting a heart to heart with a 28 year old Carnatic Classical Guitarist- N. Abhay!!
# 5 words synonymous to Music for you
GOD, LOVE, LIFE, BREATH, SACRED!!
#Hmm – Sacred?
Today who I am, for what I am respected is thanks to Music. Everytime I hold my guitar, I bow down to it with gratitude in my heart. I have a gift & I want to make the most of it by honing it, mastering it.
# Music = Life, isn’t that a bit too much?
The sound of the elevator, the beeps of the washing machine and the creaking sound of my door, there’s music in everything. I wake up with music, I sleep listening to music. Music is more than just a hobby, it’s my life! I guess this applies to all artists.
Music is – being able to touch the hearts of the audience. There’s nothing else the audience takes back from a concert other than a sense of pure, absolute bliss!! And that’s the main responsibility, duty and job of a musician.
# You’re devoting a lot of your time for Music? Seems like a lot of sacrifice!!
I always chose Music because it made me very happy. Mastering music, practicing & perfecting it – all of this gives me a deep sense of fulfillment. Music is always on my mind. If I can’t play something right, I’m unable to sleep, until I get it right!
It’s like any other profession. A person dedicates time for study, research and eventually masters it. It works in the same way for musicians too. Some mistake it for a hobby, but a lot of time goes into study, research, perfecting…
# So when did this passion start following you?
As a child, I’ve always been around music. I still remember the songs, my mother would sing to me when I was 1 – 1 ½ year old. I would never go to school without listening to my favorite music album. At 4 ½ – 5 years, I started playing the keyboard and tabla.
Whenever I listened to Western Classical music, I tried to imitate my favorite music, trying to reproduce it on my keyboard & then checked, how close I could get to the original.
# Which means ‘MUSIC’ was the obvious choice for you?
I love other things like photography, film making , motor racing & I’ve researched a little about them as well. But where I actually belong as a human being & as a soul is Music & I’ve always known that, always..
I’ve never been a 9 to 5 person. Only once in my life, I tried it & I miserably failed. I had accepted a job as a music teacher in Bangalore, when I was 21 years old & it didn’t make me happy !! I couldn’t work under any authority or timelines. It just didn’t work. One fine afternoon, it simply occurred to me that this job wasn’t for me. I needed to follow my heart. Immediately I quit my job, picked up lock, stock and barrel & came to Pune.
That day, if I had not left, I would’ve never got here!!
# So you’ve had your share of rough patches?
Obviously it wasn’t a cakewalk!! Very few concerts came my way. I would even do them for free sometimes to get publicity and attention. I would end up performing for concerts that didn’t really appeal to me. Even though I didn’t connect to the music that I was asked to play, I still would perform.
An artist always has this fear of rejection. And especially when the music that you play, can be played by millions of others, you always think about – What If I’m never called to any concert?
There was a time when even my maid made more money than me. I saw my non-artist friends getting degrees followed by highly paying jobs!! They were settling down, owning a house –all of them moving ahead of me.
This feeling was unnerving. I’ve had sleepless nights. I felt, will it be too late for me to realize that I failed.I needed to take risk & only when I fell flat on my face that I learned to get up. If I would’ve stayed in my comfort zone, I would’ve never got here.
Risk is very important for success.
# Is that one of the reasons why today you’re among the very few musicians in this world, who are playing Carnatic Guitar?
Yes, this was a catalyst & off course my guru’s blessings! All thanks to him!! He didn’t teach me music as good as he taught me how to learn music.
I always wanted to do something different! I wanted to create something unique about my identity, about my music.
If you listen to Prasanna, who also plays the Carnatic guitar & listen to what I play, we don’t sound alike at all- even though we both play the same instrument!
I’ve tried to create my own unique identity, my style. My guru- Padmashri Mandolin U. Srinivas played this style. I’ve adapted it for the guitar.
# How did you arrive at this unique choice! Of playing the Carnatic Guitar?
However much I may like listening to western classical music, I am an Indian! And I feel the need to preserve my roots, my music –It’s so rich!
Especially now there’s a strong need after music maestros like Pandit Ravi Shankar, Vidwan M. S. Gopalakrishnan & many others have passed away. Youngsters have to take it forward else slowly our music may die. I have a role to play too.
The western world has given us their instrument, the guitar. Its a very tranquil and spiritual instrument, a point which often goes unnoticed because of the rock and metal kind of image that the instrument has earned. I intend to show this other side of the instrument and popularize the guitar as capable of something so beautiful,serene and contemplative yet so energetic and vibrant.
And believe me, when I play this instrument, it’s really amazing how well designed and perfectly suited it feels for a traditional carnatic classical treatment. I’ve never had to make a single, not even a minute alteration to this instrument to be able to play classical on it. Everything remains the same on it except what I play.
I want to give back our music on this instrument & hence I chose Carnatic guitar!
# Any negative side effects of being in the music industry?
People think artists play music as a hobby. Artists are treated very unfairly, believe me! No one dares to negotiate with doctors, lawyers, CAs yet with an artist they will always crib- Budget is very less. And this seriously hurts. Even now it does.
# Any tips for youngsters who opt for making a career out of one’s passion
There has to be a vision & one has to know where he chooses to be 10 years from now. What kind of recognition, money , public image does one desire? Write down all that you can do with your passion & then narrow down your choices based on your needs.
Even though I had offers coming in for various other types of music concerts, I had to turn them down. I knew if I did any other music, my image would change. Though that image would have been appreciated, I wouldn’t have been taken seriously for my Carnatic music.
So one has to choose accordingly.
# Any message coming straight from your heart?
I totally dedicate whatever I am today to God, my Guru & my parents!!
My parents have been completely supportive of my passion but I know of people who will not allow their child to pursue it, cuz they themselves look down upon it.
Especially in India, if a child / youngster shows interest in music or any kind of art, we shouldn’t put him down & disgrace him. To this day, music is never looked at as a profession. Believe me- It’s a very dignified job.
If your child grows up showing a strong inclination towards arts /music, please support and encourage him to make it financially viable. Please don’t curb his interests , forcing him to be a good for nothing! It is when the natural gifts in people get wasted & they end up being someone else- that they tend towards alcoholism, drugs cuz they’re frustrated..
The kind of education system that we are bringing up our children in is so ‘Academics Centric’. It’s not fair for our younger generation to face this kind of pressure. This pressure has caused so many school children to commit suicides. If we end up comparing our children with others & criticizing them, they will also end up doing the same with their children.
Children / youngsters need to know- If they have a passion, it has to be honed, mastered, perfected. One’s natural gifts must be polished!!
# Any words that you would like us to leave with?
It’s extremely important to believe that YOU CAN MAKE IT!!! Whatever you’re imagining yourself to be, you’ll always be that!
If you start off half heartedly, you’ll never succeed.
One must take a leap of faith & jump out of their comfort zones, like that guy who dived from space!!
Here are links to some of Guitar Abhay’s performances!! Enjoy 🙂