Versatility is her middle name. More than 15,000 songs over a 30 year career, collaborations with international artistes, performances with the London Symphony Orchestra and Beijing Symphony Orchestra among others, a host of awards and global acclaim – Kavita Krishnamurti Subramaniam is a legend in the true sense of the term. Having worked with a gamut of composers –- from the likes of Hemant Kumar and Manna Dey to AR Rahman and Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, Kavita has had an incredible journey. We caught up with the singer, who played Dubai on 8 February, for a very special chat.
This is a concert where you paid tribute to the legends you’ve worked with. How do you ensure that you do adequate justice to them all in three hour concert?
Well, it’s not like I am writing a book! Mostly I will be singing my own popular numbers interspersed with stories and memories of the people I have worked with.
Do you feel the pressure to give into audience tastes at such concerts?
I am sure I won’t face that problem in Dubai for audiences here are very receptive to all kinds of music. Of course I will be expected to sing a Hawa Hawaaii or a Pyaar Hua Chupke Se but I’ve also got a lot of applause for some really slow and melodious old numbers. So it goes to show there are takers for all kinds of songs and not just fast-paced songs.
Do classical musicians have to make compromises to adapt to new styles?
If you have chosen the path of Bollywood, you must deliver what the composer wants. It’s team work after all! Let me give you an example. Years ago Laxmikant Pyarelal, gave me a beautiful song Surmai Andhera Hai... The song was based on a particular raaga and I rendered it in my own way. However, LP made me change it simply because it was supposed to be a sensual number and couldn’t be sung in a classical format. So you have to surrender to the composer’s vision.
What prompted you to launch your own App this year? Are you tech-savvy?
It was my daughter’s doing (laughs). All I know is that it’s an App that gives you access to my files, pictures and other things related to me. Otherwise I am not good at tech stuff! I do know how to message, use Whatsapp and send music files though!
How did your approach to music change since you started exploring fusion music?
It was mainly due to my husband’s (L Subramaniam) encouragement that I started doing fusion, but it doesn’t involve technology! My collaborations with international artistes are also primarily as a vocalist. But fusion music keeps me on my toes and makes me think differently as a singer. It helps me think beyond a three-minute film song. Also, it keeps me interested in it like a student. I still consider myself a learner; I still have fears about singing anything new.
Do you still have fears? It’s hard to believe!
Yes I do! Earlier I had far too many fears about my music. It was my husband who pushed me to do new things. Even now, he encourages me to stretch my limits.
How do you keep your voice so young?
Practice! And yes, there is need for discipline too. I am very fond of food but on the day of a concert, I take care to see that I don’t eat anything wrong. I have to be extra careful as I am prone to bronchitis. Music demands a lot of sacrifice and struggle.
Do singers today have a short shelf life?
Partly. But there are singers like Shreya Ghoshal and Sunidhi Chaudhan who are really good. These days the media attention, especially with reality shows and programmes is so high that it’s easy to get swayed. But while media focus is great it’s necessary to be rooted. Look at the lives of artistes like Manna Dey (an artiste who I was associated with for nearly 18 years; they always try to better themselves despite being legends. Machines don’t make you a good singer. Music should be such that it elevates your soul and spirit. Then you can claim to be on the right path.