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Whenever There Was Music, I Felt at Home and I Knew it was a Space I Wanted to be – Darbuka Siva

“I realised music can just transport you completely to a different zone when I played the Roja cassette in 1992”, says the musician turned director.
Whenever There Was Music, I Felt at Home and I Knew it was a Space I Wanted to be – Darbuka Siva
  • Baradwaj Rangan

  • Film Companion

Last Updated: 05.30 AM, Mar 15, 2022

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Off the success of his directorial debut Mudhal Nee Mudivum Nee, Darbuka Siva talks about the musician in him. In this interview with Baradwaj Rangan, he shares his music journey, his first memory of music and his experience working with GVM for ENPT

Edited Excerpts Below:

What is your first memory of music?

It might be like romanticising a little too much. But I have heard my mother say this a lot of times, and I am also someone who believes in these sorts of things. I was the third child and there were some complications while my mother was pregnant. The doctors had advised her not to stress out much and asked her to do something that she loves. 

My mom loves music and she used to sing a lot. So my mom spent the whole of that time, for seven to eight months, listening to K. Viswanath’s Sankarabharanam cassette. She said that because she was worried and she had to relax, she just overdid that and became too indulgent. She even bought like three cassettes as they were worn out, which explains how many times she had played those. So maybe that’s my first memory. 

How could that be your memory? You are getting into Abhimanyu territory. 

Maybe I could hear those. That is why I gave the disclaimer that I am going to romanticise a bit. But growing up, I think I cannot point out specifically what is my first memory. I think it might have been some film music on television or radio. In the evenings, we had the stereo and walkman, so we will connect those and listen. We had Tamil cassettes and also pop music cassettes like AABA and Michael Jackson. Maybe those are the first memories. 

Roughly, at what age did you first want to become a musician?

When I was like six or seven years old, I knew that I was hearing music differently from my peers, I had only that awareness. When I was in like eighth standard, if I heard a song, I would play the music on benches. I thought it was a very natural thing to do. 

Only when I saw that my friends couldn’t do the same thing, and when they asked me to teach how I did it, I realised and that’s how it started. Then, I knew this was something that made me happy. I felt at home with music. Whenever there were songs and music, I knew it was a space I wanted to be. 

I didn’t think much about going to music class or making it a profession. Till about twelfth standard, it was all about just listening to the songs. But in my head, I was a musician. I didn’t even approach it rationally. I am listening to music and feel so much about it, so I thought I am a musician. 

When I joined college, I understood what it takes to become a musician. There were some interesting independent bands like Paul Jacob’s and a Bengali band. So I used to skip college and see what they are doing. That’s how it started. 

On the other side, I always enjoyed listening to film music, all greats of the time. Many might have said this, but I also very vividly remember when the Roja cassette was out in 1992. I wondered how everything looked different about the cassette. I played the cassette and for the first time, my head exploded with sounds that I have never heard before. That’s when I realised music can just transport you completely to a different zone. 

So you never thought of it as a career?

No, not that way. I didn’t think I could do anything else other than music. In classes X and XI, I was very sure I was not going to take the usual road. I am going to do what I want to do. I was very clear that I will do only what I enjoy and I knew I enjoyed the music. At that time, we used to see shows where musicians go abroad for tours and play. So I wanted to just play an instrument, go around the world and perform live. 

The songs that made you really famous was when you decided you wanted to be called Mr. X and did Maruvaarthai and the song is spectacular. So is it true that Gautham gave you a brief about the kind of song he wanted and you went back home and said, ‘I prefer to work alone and I will come back to that thing’? 

I have had some kind of interaction with Gautham at every phase of my life. When I first met him, I was playing Cajon for one of his film’s audio launches. He was very intrigued and asked about the instrument. At that time, no one knew about the instrument. 

The second time was when Gautham came to release an album and we did a live performance that day. He loved the whole thing and asked if I was interested in film music. I told him I was not. At that time, I was very scared that I would not be able to do what I want in film music. 

The third interaction was when Gautham released Kidari music. I think he heard that I was doing the music but he didn’t have any major impression. On that day, he heard all the songs before release. After listening to each song, he asked me the process and I also told him how I approach. 

A week after that I got a call and GVM wanted to meet me and talk about making music for a film. I thought Kidari was a one-off. I didn’t even know there is going to be a follow-up and I will do more music. So when I got the call, I felt that it was like a proper film and so I should be ready for all that. 

He told me the idea when we met. I asked him if he was sure I could do it. But he told me not to worry and just work as I used to do in Independent music. The next day, he showed me glimpses of the film and explained the film. I said, “We will just try out one song, between you and me, if it works, we will see”. So he briefed the situation of Maruvaarthai and asked me to try it differently. 

I came up with the concept and told him we will kind of set up the whole bitter-sweet matter in a super industrial sound. He said it was superb and asked me when we could sit and compose. I said, “I can’t do it that way, I will just go home and I will sit by myself and I will make a song and send it to you”. So that’s where it started.  

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