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Scaling heights


His tryst with rock music band as a college student in Chennai set him on a different path in life.

“Music filled my life like never before. What happened was magic and sustaining it is the real challenge,” declares the dance-loving singer, Benny Dayal. He’s refreshingly without any pretensions though things have come pretty easy to him ever since he announced his arrival on the music scene. Benny has handled the challenge with prudence.

When ‘Maduraikku Pogadhadi’ from Azhagiya Tamizh Magan (ATM) became his career-making hit, Benny made sure that he was not consigned to oblivion as a one-hit wonder in playback singing. He proved his mettle by doling out handful of juke-box hits – be it ‘Taxi Taxi’ and ‘Chinnamma Chilakkamma’ from Sakkarakatti or ‘Pappu can’t dance’ and ‘Nazrein Milaana Nazrein Churaana’ from ‘Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na.’

“You can’t ask for more when you start your career with A.R. Rahman and other ace music directors. But what is important is I need to keep that going,” he says conscious of his grooming. A bit of Carnatic training in the UAE, where he spent his school days, attuned him to the “tala and raga” sense. Western music caught his fancy when he entered his final year of schooling. A year later, S5 music band at Madras Christian College was born. Friends with similar interest joined to give a great presence to the band on stage of, virtually, all top colleges in the State.

Career choice

Rahman spotted him soon after that. “It was one of those moments when you decide you can be a singer. I still can’t believe that it all happened so fast.” But what he does believe is his passion to belt out music in a way people love to hear.

“I can’t say no to singing. I’m game to perform songs for anyone anytime.” Like any wannabe singer, he signed for a music talent hunt show for corporate employees, before his first album hit the stores. As fate would have it, he became an unstoppable force in the show’s finals, even as ATM’s audio release took place on the same day. “Since both happened on same day, it was quite misleading. People thought I got the chance only after winning the show. The shoot took place days before it was telecast,” he clarifies.

Setting aside his bread-and-butter job, Benny took stock of his cushy launch pad to scale up the career ladder as a playback singer. His band schedules quite a few live shows even now and Benny splits his week between recording and shows. Besides his voice of course, his on-stage boogies are a rage. His break dance moves have never let him down during hi-wattage performances.

Passion

“I love dancing, it is my other passion. It’s fun to do jigs while singing at shows. It adds zeal to performance.” Like it did at his recent JIPMER Puducherry concert, where mammoth barricades stopped the audience from spilling on to the stage.

“I needled the quiet crowd saying, ‘barricades at the colleges are meant to be broken. But you guys seem to be so docile.’ Minutes after that, one guy jumped over the fence. Soon the whole college came closer to stage, jumping over the blockades and helping each other to move forward. We danced through the night,” he says with a glee.

Among other things, the success of being both an on-stage performer and a studio singer, rest in having a signature sound and most importantly, a signature look. Benny made sure he had his. In harem pants and cotton kurta, he classily carries his French beard, shaven head and a studded ear.

His band, primarily belting out western music, doesn’t have much of contenders. “That’s quite unfortunate. There are quite few bands like ours that perform music part-time. But western bands doing whole-time concerts are hardly any. They are unable to survive.”

Optimism

A streak of optimism, however, peeps out: “Popularity of bands may be thinning. But films can rebuild it. Now, western music is more of a desi mixture. Soon, people will be able to enjoy hardcore music of that genre.”

Raised in Dubai during his school days, Benny finds Chennai exciting to hang out with friends. “Also, there is a lot of raw talent out here, which, if spotted can be the best voices in the industry. Learning music might give certain amount of knowledge. But there are singing sensations in this industry who never had any formal training. It gives them a sense of modesty. And that matters when success comes your way.”

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