Abby V: There are no barriers to appreciating classical music

Singer Abby V discusses his latest song, Neelorpam, from Indian 2, musical inspirations, working with Anirudh Ravichander, and more
Abby V (left), a still from Indian 2 song 'Neelorpam'
Abby V (left), a still from Indian 2 song 'Neelorpam'

Singer Abby V, who crooned the lone melody in Indian 2, titled ‘Neelorpam’, with Shruthika Samudhrala, is not new to doing live shows. Yet rendering the song to a jam-packed audience at the audio launch of Indian 2 made it extra special for him. “It is like presenting your baby in front of the whole world. It is different from singing in the studio because here you do not have the option of retakes. Besides, you had all these legends of Indian cinema in attendance, with the entire team of Indian 2, including Shankar and Kamal Haasan. My parents also flew all the way from Canada. All of this made the whole experience slightly nervous yet very exciting at the same time,” says Abby.

On how his perceptions of the film industry changed after working in Indian 2, Abby says, "I spoke to Shankar sir after the audio launch, and he was very sweet. While working with Anirudh, too, there is a great sense of creative liberty, and he does not act like the composer telling you how to do it. So this all goes to show that, despite reaching such heights, they are encouraging new talents, which explains why they are where they are." The live performance at the Indian 2 audio launch was also a case of life coming full circle for Abby, whose first stage performance was with his father, Venky Venkatachalam. “My father has always been performing. When I was about nine, I said I would like to sing, and he took me along with him for one of his live shows. This is how it all started. Now, I do many shows where he and I perform as a special act. I love performing with my father. He is my greatest musical influence,” reveals Abby.

The singer first caught the eye of millions around the world with a video titled 73 Ragas with Abby, in 2020. In the video, Abby shifts seamlessly from one raga to the next. This habit was inculcated in him at a young age by his father through fun and games. “When I was a kid, my father used to recite a particular raga and ask me to sing any film song in it. And then, when I started learning music more seriously, he used to make me recite ragas one after the other. Now, I can sing a raga for 20 minutes. But the challenge is to condense one and render it in a matter of seconds.”

Listening to Abby discuss ragas is like attending a crash course in Indian music. Arguably, he is the torchbearer of classical music for Gen Z. “Fortunately, I have the resources to record a recitation on the fly and put it out on the internet, and people also enjoy it. I think this is how music should be made and consumed. People think of classical music as very formal and that there is a barrier to appreciating it or getting into it, but this is untrue. For me, ragas are everywhere. However, I do not consider myself a torchbearer of classical music as such. There are many brilliant musicians who do this better.”

However, the singer has also found the learning curve in music slightly intimidating. “It can feel like that sometimes because there are so many different subdivisions in each style of music. For instance, when it comes to Hip-Hop, there is the Eminem or the Post Malone style. There is no end to it. Growing up in Toronto, I wanted to tap into all these different types of music but did not know which direction to take. But the key is to not let those negative thoughts affect the execution of your work and, like the Nike slogan says, just do it,” signs off Abby.

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