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Getting the song right


Melodious numbers.

PLAYBACK SINGING isn't just a matter of wearing a pair of headphones, adjusting the mike sensitivity, and then breaking into faultless song. There's a lot of practice and determination, and loads of effort that go to create the melodious voice on the film music track.

``A singer's voice is precious and can't be replaced,'' says Annupamaa, the singer who made it big in film, after doing a lot of work with ad jingles. "You have to practise 45 minutes to an hour everyday to keep your voice in good condition.''

There are Carnatic musicians who practise 18 hours off and on everyday, in order to keep their voice in peak form for three-hour classical concerts. Even if they skipped practice for a day, it showed.

Did she record and play back her own songs in order to spot the high spots and the low spots? "Recording a song is probably the best way to gauge its effectiveness. I used to do it earlier, but not now.''

Would the electronic gadgets flooding the recording scene spark off significant changes? "Nothing can replace the human voice,'' Annupamaa said. "You have to be able to sing reasonably well, for you can't change the basic character of your voice. You can increase the depth or tenor of the voice, or alter the timbre, but you can't replace it altogether.''

Though Annupamaa studied Carnatic music, she found there was no proper school for Western singing. She counts herself as one of those who "grew up untrained, but learnt by listening''. That enabled her to develop her own style.

Having stayed nearly 15 years in New Delhi, she listened a lot to Hindi film songs and "got enraptured by Western music'', but now fancies a mix of Indian and Western. All this experience she puts to good use when rendering "July Maatham'' in "Puthiya Mugam'', and "Konjam Nilavu'' in "Thiruda Thiruda'', two of her favourite hits.

Voices of different singers sound best at different times of the day, and Annupamaa feels her voice is better late at night.

"I sing when I feel like it... I sing everyday... whatever I feel like singing. Even when you're not singing, it's good practice for your voice to keep murmuring inside... humming to yourself without straining.''

Playback recording was most challenging because you might have to sing the same lines again and again until you got them right. "Recording instruments are very sensitive, and even small imperfections come to light.''

There could be a variation of a couple of semi-tones up or down. Even atmospheric conditions, or sweet or cold food and drink, can affect the voice.''

She found out through a process of elimination what was good for her voice, and what was unsuitable.

"I try to eat natural food, and drink hot water mixed with honey, when touring. There's a special juice... an ancient recipe of my grandmother... consisting of seven or eight herbs mixed with honey. It prevents you from getting a cold and keeps your immunity high.''

By A. A. Michael Raj
Photo: K. Ananthan

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