Introduced by AR Rahman he started his career exactly ten years ago, for a Tamil film called Sivaji and has gone on to sing songs in several other languages, including for the Hindi film industry more popularly known as Bollywood.
His songs such as Ude Dil Befikre, Badtameez Dil, and Tu Meri Dost Hai have gone on to be smash hits with millions of listeners worldwide. After obtaining a Masters in journalism, disappointed with career options in music, Benny nearly gave up on his dream by taking on a job, until music maestro AR Rahman came calling…and the rest as they say is history.
We caught up with the new generation, versatile Indian singer, Benny Dayal ahead of his UK tour with music legend AR Rahman to chat about everything music.
By FATIMA PATEL
Fatima: Lovely to be speaking to you. So, my first question to you is, AR Rahman introduced you as playback singer in films how did the introduction actually happen?
Benny: Actually, even I don’t know, it’s been a miracle, actually to be very honest. I was actually looking for work when I did start like exactly 11 years ago and I used to be like asking and approaching a lot of composers in Chennai when I was in Chennai and no one had any work for me or taken an interest in my voice. Nothing was working out for me so then I took this job and was wondering if my journey in music will ever happen. Then three days into my job I got a call from his (AR Rahman’s) studio which was extremely ironic but I think it was to happen the way it was meant to happen.
A dream came true for you then?
So how important do you think his (AR Rahman) role has been in the shaping of your musical career?
Oh, definitely what can I say sometimes I feel I am not worthy of talking about him, what he has achieved, in this time and space, taken his music globally and made a mark for the industry. At a time in an Indian society when nobody believed music could be a lifelong career, there was a time in India where parents used to tell us to keep music as a hobby and get a job. So, when he came into the industry in 1992 with Roja, he started to introduce a lot of new singers who weren’t there in the industry besides, SP Bala Subramaniam and Hariharan. Even Hariharan sir was introduced at that time. And so, it was incredible to see that he (AR Rahman) had brought out a lot of new singers that gave us youngsters in India to have the hope of taking music up as a career. And so not just musically, but technically and sound wise, in terms of composition, in terms of tune, in terms of musical arrangements. It’s everything that he has showed us, the simplicity and intensity, you know so many things. So, there is so much and you can keep going and talk for 48 hours on him and it still wouldn’t be enough on Rahman Sir.
You’ve definitely left your mark as well, I mean your background is from an Indian Indie scene you’ve bought a lot of soul RNB and Jazz in your music that wasn’t seen before in Bollywood but now has been accepted
I could probably say I was one of them first singers who started singing a lot of RNB and Soul. I could see there were singers like Shaan and KK, you know they was also there. I should say thank you to composers like AR Rehman for giving me the opportunity to take that genre forward and bring new flavour to and give it the flavour of Indian music
It’s fantastic to see that these new genres of music are being explored in Bollywood but more that it has been accepted. Where do you think the Bollywood industry is heading now with all these new genres coming forth and the fact that people are experimenting with music?
Every musical industry, or every musical society would have to evolve. Because that’s exactly how we go ahead it’s important to progress. I meet a lot of journalists who say music is not like how it was and I am sat at a press conference and I’m saying hey your shooting pictures from a digital camera and why aren’t you using a still camera, so you like shooting from a digital camera now. So, you see what I am saying? So, it’s same with music. Music can’t stay analogue and it’s not just for radio, but digital platforms too. There are so many social media platforms nowadays. So, you have to evolve and that’s exactly how life should be. There are many platforms, many ways to listen to music according to people’s affordability.
So, which Indian musician apart from AR Rahman sir has inspired you over the years?
From Indian definitely, everyone has played a vital role in my career. I have worked with Vishal & Shekar and they have definitely helped in my career giving me the right songs.
You’ve recently celebrated your first wedding anniversary so congratulations on that….
Thank you thank you so much.
Does your wife have any influence on the kind of songs you sing. For example, does she prefer you to sing more romantic songs or maybe the songs like Badtameez dil?
(Laughs) She loves all my songs. She doesn’t mind, she never says you should sing songs like that. Whatever comes.
You’re coming to the UK for the 25 years AR Rahman concert. How are you feeling about performing live at the concert?
Extremely incredible I can’t tell you we’re celebrating 25 years of AR Rahman music, as I have been such a hard-core fan of his and to be a part of his celebration and to be on tour performing with him I just can’t explain how I feel. He’s the reason why I got into this industry. To be a part of his twenty-fifth year anniversary nothing can get better than that for me
Thank you so much for speaking to us and we wish you all the best with your tour in the UK
Thank you very much Fatima