As a singer known for his profound knowledge of music and an exceptional style of rendering, Sooraj Santhosh is the most appreciated among the young crop of singers. The winner of the Kerala state award for the best singer for the song 'Thaniye' in the film 'Guppy' is the lead singer of the band Masala Coffee. Sooraj has been learning Carnatic music from a very young age and has several prominent people as mentors. Born in Kollam, Sooraj lived mostly in Thiruvananthapuram and has been staying with his wife in Chennai for the past ten years. A serious student of music, Sooraj prefers to call himself a 'full-time musician' and has a slightly different view of things. He turned to playback singing through the Telugu song 'Inka Edho' composed by GV Prakash for the film 'Darling.' Sooraj talks to Onmanorama about his music and work.
There is a surfeit of singing talents now. Is there increased competition too?
No. I think there should be more singers. Only then will there be more experiments in music. It's a common belief that more singers will accelerate competition and rob the chances of many. But I think, on the contrary, more singers will open up more opportunities.
Should Malayalam cinema change its approach to cinema?
Malayalam cinema has grown to a level where it can compete with international films, with regard to the technical aspects. Yet, I don't know why novel experiments are not happening in the field of film music. After A R Rahman, Sathosh Narayanan is trying something new in sounding and music. I don't know why that experiment is not happening in Malayalam cinema. Who is influencing it? That is a question, which needs to be addressed.
Your style of rendition is noted for the emotional intensity. How do you execute it?
Not all my songs are intense. It depends on the kind of songs that I get to sing. Sometimes, I get songs which give me the room to get deeply involved. Nevertheless, I feel that except for few songs like 'Thaniye... ' in the film 'Guppy,' most of the songs are of a lighter vein.
In India, music is basically affiliated to cinema. Do you think it needs to flourish independently too?
Cinema is a popular means of entertainment and hence the music in films has the maximum reach. That is why film songs are so popular. Meanwhile, independent musical creations too happen a lot in the form of album songs. But they reach the masses slowly as their means for promotion and propagation are not as strong as that of films. But doing independent music doesn't mean to create any song for the sake of making a video. There should be a genuine effort to produce something meaningful, valuable and marvellous.
Is your band Masala Coffee planning something on that front?
Yes, of course. We are in the run up to releasing our first album. There will be eight to nine songs in the album, the first of which will be released in a month. They will be made available on social media and other platforms like iTunes, Gaana and son on.
About the band
We are twelve in all on the band, including eight musicians and four crew. All but one are from Kerala. We are located in different parts of south India and usually converge for programmes and live shows. Apart from the cover versions of popular Malayalam songs, we have our compositions in our programmes.
Your favourite singer
It's really tough to point out one or two. We have a number of talented singers. However, as any Malayali, I have grown up listening to and getting awed by the legend, Yesudas.