The relative newcomer, fresh off releasing his excellent solo album “First of All”, Abby flew under the radar with his quintessential showcase of 73 ragas in a Vogue parody.
There’s little doubt the music world will be hearing more from him as people start picking up on his latest mashup with his dad. Spinning tales of love, both inward and outward, with a distinct rawness, Abby’s brand of soulful music should easily melt into the hearts and minds of music lovers. Abby is certainly poised to join the distinguished group of new-gen crooners so before the inevitable success comes charging towards him, we thought it’d be a good idea to grab some time with him this World Music Day.
Read on to find out what Abby loves about Kochi, his pet peeve, the city that he is in love with and more.
How did you get started and what was your training like?
I am from Toronto and I started off the non-traditional way of learning music due to the limited possibilities to learn authentic classical music here. Growing up, I was into pop, R&B and Bollywood music. My inclination towards classical generated mid-way and I went deep into it. This approach of not branching out from classical music to other forms helped with my perspective; I wasn’t bombarded. In Canada, I only get a birds-eye view of music, but I have exposure to all forms, and I am grateful for having that diversity in my music.
What are your thoughts about online platforms for music, especially in times like these?
It works both ways. People are on their devices more these days and artists are acknowledging the value of that. There is great demand for online content, however, it poses a lot of limitations for artists. This is the case when they must collaborate with people outside the industry, getting hold of a video team, getting necessary equipment and gear. The challenge and beauty of the situation is how we do it now, with no live instruments played. The acappella trend is kicking back in and my series is doing very well too!
As an artist, I have learned to work within my limitations and adapt to such circumstances. I thrive on such challenges.
Technical brilliance is difficult to attain without practice. How do you impress the audience with your ease?
Music never feels like work or hard work. When I did 73 ragas, I didn’t perceive it as difficult at all. It was a very organic and blissful process. I started by exploring the ragas like Naatakurunji and Desh and before I knew it, the ragas were a part of me.
Naming ragas should be no different than naming your cousins because there is fondness and love in both. It is also a sign of having mastered it.
Let’s talk about your voice. How much of it is a God-given gift and how much of it is training?
My dad sings beautifully, so there is a “gift” factor in play. Music runs in the family and I have had varied music training. Classical music training helped with good pitching and honing the voice while Hindustani uses my voice in a different way. Learning different styles and forms helps the voice take shape, so training has helped tremendously too.
You are a songwriter and a composer. Have you written any Ghazals that you have sung?
I write lyrics, produce music as well; my dad is also a composer. Initially, learning classical music helped because 90% of the time you are composing. It comes naturally to someone who has learnt Indian classical.
It takes someone very scholarly to write Ghazals. I write more contemporary, pop songs.
Creativity in music. How often do you add in your own elements and what’s your creative process when you are making music?
There is a galaxy of creativity in artists and the process of truly internalizing a piece of music and recreating it is extremely gratifying. I like to have my signature in all the songs/ covers I recreate.
With a sheer fondness for composing, and with my own music, I discovered that the recreation process is completely me. I am totally pro-creativity and I find that my listeners are responding well to that. The process should be very organic, and it should come from an internal and organic space.
I won’t do an improv on a song just to sound masterful. If I feel it has the space, if it has room and I feel 100% about it, that’s when I know it is organic.
We loved the Father’s Day + World music day tribute you did with your dad! How did that idea come through?
I got this idea just 3 days before it was released on World Music day and Father’s Day. I was very unsure because we had just 2 days after the idea was conceived to create it. Dad and I had a few different ideas and we brainstormed some of our favorite songs. I chose an AR Rahman song and dad chose his favorite Illayaraja sir’s song. We managed to release the song on Father’s Day which was very quick. I think this tribute resonates with the audience because of the dad- son sentiment. My dad is a huge inspiration to me – I believe you noticed how many times I have mentioned him already.
Do you have a muse for your music?
Music itself is a constant muse. However, the inspiration for each song varies a lot. Timeless musicians like AR Rahman inspire me in inexplicable ways. Great music from a spectrum of people in the industry, hip hop artists, R&B artists like Usher inspire me and not to mention my dad who is my constant.
Your first solo album – Tell me more about it.
My first solo album is multilingual, it has original songs composed, sung and produced by me in English, Hindi and Tamil and it is called “First of All”. I wanted it to reflect my music in a pop space, so the album was purely pop. It is a representation of the kind of music I have come to love like R&B, Classical and quintessential Bollywood melody.
Two things that comes to your mind when you think of Kochi?
Banana chips and Chakka (Jackfruit) !!!
You won an international music reality show in 2015 and you are on an award-winning streak from then. Talk to me about some of it.
Yes, the universe was kind with awards. It was a television singing reality show called Astro International Superstar. Participants representing different countries were part of it, I represented Canada and we won the show. I also won a fully paid 2 years music scholarship award from Metalworks Institute in 2016 and I had a phenomenal time there.
Name two covers of yours you like most?
- Father’s Day tribute – I love it for the sentiment it reflects and because it is very close to my heart
- Kuhu kuhu – A Capella cover I did with Aishwarya Majmudar
Which is the most difficult form of music to sing?
I try to understand and know any form I take up as deeply as I can, and I always internalize them. One form of music that might be difficult for me is operatic music because a lot of falsetto goes into it.
How is the moment right before you start singing?
It depends on the environment. I started doing live performances and actual concerts very young. So, going up on stage and performing is a great feeling for me. In the case of playback singing, that moment is a mixture of excitement and nervousness, more of excitement indeed.
I love playback singing, it is a fascinating style of music. I have done some tracks for Gibran Sir and some composers have gotten in touch for home recording recently.
What is your pet peeve?
Mediocrity in any sense – I don’t like the whole notion of settling for something that’s “good enough”. Even during these times, change is enlightening and whatever content I create, I give it my all. I have high expectations of myself and aim for high quality in the music I create. I’d imagine if someone else did it, what is the level I ‘d like it to be. That helps me zero in on the optimal quality level.
Which is your favorite city?
This or that
- Did you choose music, or did music choose you?
- Music chose me. I was born into a family inclined to music
- Spontaneity or preparation?
- Spontaneity, but mostly it is a mix of both
- Humanity or Spirituality?
- The interconnectedness of human and spiritual experience works for me
- Classical or light music?
- Both, there is good and bad in both styles
- A capella or instruments
- Instruments – because it is easier!
- Bollywood or Kollywood –
Finish the sentence: This world music day, I wish …
for music to be welcomed and appreciated beyond geographical boundaries and that Indian music becomes more popular and prevalent just like K-pop, Chinese and Latin while staying true to its roots.Abby V
Abby’s inspiring journey continues…
Abby was recently invited as a guest in the second season of the show Expressions Espresso, which is, the singer extraordinaire Sudha Raghunathan’s musical talk show.
She introduced Abby as a powerhouse of talent and a youngster who literally breathes music. The interview starts with a beautiful message where both the host and the guest talk about humble beginnings and hard work in the field of music. The session highlights how Abby’s popular Carnatic repertoire covers have been picking up and how this is exactly what the young audiences of today can relate to. They talk about how ragas uplift emotions and how versatility helps bridge the gap between pop and Carnatic music.
To know more about Abby’s millennial-style Carnatic and his ways to viral stardom, tune in to their refreshing and fascinating conversation here