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Three sounds of music

Sruthi Dhulipala

It is still tough to survive as an independent musician in India

By Sukant Deepak

September 30, 2021 (IANSlifeAt this junction, she is figuring out her sound and the kind of stories she wants to share with music. As 25-year-old Sruthi Dhulipala, India-born, US-based singer and songwriter gets set to release her musical explorations in Sanskrit, Telugu and Hindi for the next three releases, she recalls her next single ‘Madhuram’, a semi-classical fusion set in Sanskrit, but with an original spin of English lyrics that she penned. “I learned Madhurashtakam as a kid and would sing M.S Subbulakshmi’s version often in concerts. It was only recently that I was humming it and suddenly decided to give it an original spin,” she tells IANS.

Her upcoming Telugu original, ‘Ee Parugu’, talks about a city girl engrossed in her nine to five life that she decides to take a breather and experience the world afresh in her hometown/village. This, the singer says, is a parallel from her own experience as well. “The third one in Hindi, still in production - is a story of someone who is in the process of coming out of their sheltered cocoon and slowly looking out to realize there's so much out there to explore and live. That they have to step out of the safe shelter and experience.” This she says has been inspired by the moments of apprehension in her own life - fearing the move to the US, standing up for her passion, starting a new career and stepping into music.

“As you can see, while my work is diverse and in different languages, it has a common string - taking my background in Carnatic music and the foundation in songwriting and turning my experiences into relatable tunes. And, I continue to do this in my independent journey - to share my authentic stories through music.”

Stressing that despite working in different languages, Telugu is closest to her heart as she can immediately connect to the lyrics in that language and emote with them effortlessly, Dhulipala recalls, “My mother would always say ‘Mathrubaasha Maravakodadhu’ - which means that no matter what you do or where you go in the world - never forget your native language, be proud of it, and don’t be afraid to show your cultural streak to the world. That stuck with me somehow.”

Singing has always been a part of this youngster’s life. Born in a musical family, and as the daughter of Dr D.S.R Murthy, she got the opportunity at an early age to accompany him for concerts and learn by observing stalwarts such as Dr L Subramaniam, Bombay Jayshree and Balamurali Krishna Garu.

“I have been learning Carnatic Vocals since the age of four under the tutelage of Hyderabad Sisters besides completing a Level-5 Carnatic Certification with IndianRaga. Then, moving on to learn contemporary vocals and playback singing at the Shankar Mahadevan Academy.” 

While through the initial 18 years of her life, she performed extensively across India -- in Hyderabad, Vizag, Chennai and Mumbai, etc, and was part of Indian fusion and pop bands, she move to the United States at the age of 20 to pursue a Master’s degree in Public Relations it did not really put a halt to her passion for music. One month into a new country, she found herself performing at Boston University’s fall concert, and was selected as a fellow at IndianRaga, an international music community that fosters art and cultural representation in the US, where she released two productions with them in 2019, both videos successfully garnering 50k and 100k views respectively.

Talk to her about a volley of new names in the independent music scene in the past year and she thanks the empowering social media for the same. “More artists are now confident that they can take the step with the resources online, and put their music out there for people to listen and love!

Amidst the pandemic, many communities have emerged in helping the independent artists find the right resources and answering the important questions - for example, how do you distribute music, how do you compose, how do you find people to collaborate, etc. These are the major hurdles someone has to become an independent musician.” 

Agreeing that it is still tough to survive as an independent musician in India, she smiles that it can be tough explaining Indian music or South-Asian music to her circles in Los Angeles, as it is only the typical Bollywood hits that are familiar to them.

“And, it’s tough ice to break for an indie artist to make a listener move from a Bollywood playlist to listening to their music. Bollywood music is in monopoly even to this day and I don’t know how we can break that. People prefer Bollywood at the end of the day -- no matter how many sub-genres we have in this country. And, as a South Indian musician, it’s even tougher to choose between composing a Telugu independent original versus keeping up with the trend and sticking to Hindi to keep up with the Bollywood crowd. That’s a question that keeps me in a constant dilemma,” says the artist whose music is a balance between Carnatic style singing and interspersion with pop and alternative genres.

She is however confident that independent music will rise as a facet of its own - with more artists emerging and taking charge of their music careers. Seeing the growth and success of artists like Raghav Meattle, When Chai Met Toast, Anuv Jain, and many more, she believes all hope is not lost for independent musicians.

 

 

 

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Sukant Deepak can be contacted at sukant.d@ians.in