“I was born to be a musician”
Hariharan is one of those singers who broke the barricade of states as well as musical genres. He chats up with our correspondent after his performance at Children’s Book Fair in Kolkata on Sunday night
Tell us something about your childhood.
I was born in an orthodox, musical family…literally. My father H.A.S Mani and mother Alamelu Mani both were Carnatic musicians. So, you can safely say that I was born to be a musician. Though born in Thiruvananthapuram, I grew up in Mumbai. I lost my father when I was eight. My educational career is also a mixed one…I studied Chemistry and Zoology at an undergraduate level, and then pursued law.
How did your musical journey begin?
I got my first lessons in music from my mother. But it was under my Guru, Ghulam Mustafa Khan that I realized my real passion lies in Hindustani Classical music. It was then I realized music comes from heart, it can’t be taught. One can perfect your gharana, your diction; teach you voice modulation….but you have to sing from your heart. For example, when you sing a khayal, you have to create the notes from your imagination…you can’t follow a script there.
You were into pure Indian classical music. So, what made you take interest in western genres?
When you grow up in a multi-cultured city like Mumbai, automatically you are exposed to all genres of music. And I was no exception. So, I grew up listening to all forms of music-Beatles, Abba, Pop music and even Marathi Natya Sangeet.
When you decided to take up music as your career, how did you plan to go about it?
I never planned anything. And because I didn’t plan anything, I am very happy with whatever I have achieved today. I have a satisfying musical career that covers almost all forms of music-from Indian classical and ghazals to Indipop and film songs.
Despite being a South India, how did you perfect your Urdu diction that is inevitable for singing ghazals?
I settled down at my Urdu teacher’s residence for days till my diction got perfect. (Smiles)
Is it true that you met your wife (Lalitha) first time in Kolkata?
Very much true. Ours was an arranged marriage. She was born and brought up in Kolkata. So, when elders decided that we should meet once and see if we are good for each other, I flew down to Kolkata. We met over a glass of orange juice and she bowled me over with her intelligence, simplicity and modesty. She still is the same person even after almost 26 years of marriage.