Arya Dhayal, who earlier shot to fame for her rendition of the poem ‘Sakhavu’, is known for mixing Carnatic ragas with popular western songs.

Young woman with black hair rests her face on a wall and looks at the camera sideways with her short hair left loose falling across the shoulder There is a red tint to the picture
Features Music Monday, July 27, 2020 - 18:13

The ukulele, ordered online, came home a month ago. Arya Dhayal has not kept it down since, except perhaps when she goes to sleep.

The little instrument, which looks like a miniature guitar, has become a constant presence in all of Arya’s new videos, which have been attracting comments from celebrities everywhere. Arya’s mix of western music with Carnatic swaras has struck a chord with musicians and music lovers. Her raw voice, very unlike the celebrated high pitched voice of female playback singers, has won her several hundred thousand followers on her YouTube channel.

In a few days, she has done too many media interviews, Arya says on a Monday afternoon. One of the latest compliments coming from Amitabh Bachchan has doubled the attention on young Arya.

“I have already told all the stories,” she says with a tired laugh. Arya switches between Malayalam and English in the interview, just like she does in her popular song mixes.

Before any of this, it was, however, her rendition of a Malayalam poem called Sakhavu that first made Arya a popular singer online.

She is from Kannur and after her Masters in Statistics, has moved to Bengaluru for another course. That has been a well-thought choice, she says.

“I have seen many struggling musicians, and I have been very sure about being financially independent. I want to take music forward as a performing art while I earn from another profession. My family and I thought a lot through this,” she says.

She cannot remember the first time she took part in a music performance. There are kindergarten photos of her singing in a group performance. The first memory of being appreciated is in a staff room of the St Teresa’s school in Kannur. Suma Miss, Arya’s teacher, called her there and asked her to sing. “I sang ‘Kandu Kandu Kandille’ (song from the film Ishtam) that day and everybody liked it. Suma Miss told my father that I should be trained in music,” Arya says.

Hers is not a musical family, Arya says. No one else in the family sings. But recognising her talent, Arya was promptly sent off for music lessons from a young age, had her first kutcheri while she was still a child, and attended every kalolsavam (arts fete) on the way. By the time she was finished with school, she had won many prizes and recognitions and Arya also found a new love for western music.

“It happened accidentally when I got an iPod in my Plus 2 days. There would be these default songs in it that I listened to and liked. It made me want to explore music from every place in the world. I started doing that and enjoyed it a lot,” Arya says. She ended up writing and composing a song called 'Try myself'.

During her college days, she found herself singing the classical swaras of the English songs that she listened to, while coming back home from college. The idea to then sing it intermittently was only the next step for Arya.

“I began doing that some three years ago. It is a very strenuous exercise. There are physical restrictions too. My throat was used to singing Carnatic music. To suddenly switch between the two kinds of music is very difficult. I will need a few takes to make it perfect too. Once it is done, I get very exhausted. One time I ended up having throat pain for a whole day,” Arya says.

Music teachers advise her to focus on one genre of music but so far she has persisted in her fusions, not wanting to leave either behind. “I sing in a low pitch so there are songs that I find hard to sing. Certain movie songs especially,” she says.

That is because she seeks for perfection. The song mixes may look effortless on YouTube but there is a lot of work behind the making of it. “I take about a week-and-a-half to do one such video. Friends help. I need to see someone’s face when I perform so I can innovate while watching their reactions. My roommate in Bengaluru or some other friend would patiently sit before me. We will have many takes before it comes out good,” Arya says.

One of her mixes – of the Carnatic raga Shuddha Dhanyasi and Ed Sheeran’s Shape Of You – caught the attention of Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan who is under treatment for COVID-19 in Mumbai.

“My music partner and dear friend sent me this .. I do not know who this is but I can just say “You are a very special talent, God bless you .. keep up the good work .. you have brightened my day in the Hospital like never before. Mixing Karnatak & Western pop.. amazing!" (sic),” Bachchan tweeted.

Arya has been excitedly sharing all the new attention on her social media pages. She cherishes the comment from singer Srinivas. “True talent cannot be hidden. It will burst through.. The beauty of this generation is that they are truly exposed to every style in its authenticity and when one loves art without prejudices, this is what you get,” the musician wrote.

Singers Hariharan, Sithara Krishnakumar, actors like Rima Kallingal and Parvathy have all hailed the young singer.

Also read: Meet Captain Priyavignesh, whose in-flight announcements in Tamil are viral

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