The Garden City of Bangalore is filled with talent- thespians, artists, cricketers, dancers, musicians, and vocalists. Music Central had the joy and privilege of talking to Bangalore singing sensation Danny Ravindra. He is a vocalist in the popular band Firebrands, mentors youth passionate about singing, and has organised many music events in India and abroad. Here is a peek into his musical journey.
Q: How important was music in your early years?
DR: I started singing when I was five. My siblings – Lucy, David, and Anita, loved singing and playing the guitar as much as I did so we had our own act. Even though I knew the guitar, I chose to focus on singing. We loved doing harmony. Back then we did not have any formal training in music. My brother and sister learned the guitar while watching other musicians playing. My sister Lucy was one of the few good guitarists in Bangalore back then.
I was in the school choir and we used to perform in church and in events held in Townhall. I also took part in many singing competitions.
My parents were very supportive and encouraged us. They painstakingly bought us one guitar which we cherished and enjoyed for many years. Though they loved to hear us perform, there were times they said, please stop.
Q: What kind of music did you like and which artists influenced you?
DR: I grew up listening to good music. Perry Como, Dean Martin, Pat Boone, Beatles, and then the popular bands and singers from each decade. My favourite style is ballads. I liked listening to John Denver and found his songs easy to sing. Once I found songs I was comfortable singing, I focused on that style and range. Once in a while I experimented with other styles as well. Gospel singer Steve Green was a big influence. He wrote his own lyrics and I could connect with them and also could feel and understand the emotions he expressed in his songs.
Q: How important was/is practice to you and did you train professionally?
DR: I am a self-trained vocalist. We didn’t have voice coaches and music schools while growing up. I knew when I was young that singing was my special gift. I made time to practice, which at that time was listening to music, learning the lyrics and then imitating the singers exactly how they sang on the cassette. I was disciplined and saw to it that I spent at least two hours practicing every day. In my late 20s, I had a friend who was a voice coach. He gave me a few vocal exercises to follow.
Today I practice with performance tracks. I have invested in over 400 tracks. Once I find a song I like –in my range and style, I keep practicing it. Breathing exercises are an important part of my practice sessions. I go for a walk to open up my lungs.
I enjoy singing but I don’t sing for entertainment. When I sing, I like to connect with the audience. As a musician you need to sing the song and express it the right way.
Q: Any special routine to protect your vocal chords?
DR: I keep myself hydrated. I stay away from coffee and have tea. Coffee is bad for the vocals. Screaming, shouting and even whispering is hard on the vocal chords so I stay away from exerting my voice.
Q: What are your thoughts on the past and current music industry?
DR: Bands in the 70s, 80s like Damn Yankees, Aerosmith, Toto had their own distinct style. Each band member had to be a good vocalist as well as a good instrumentalist. Bands like Abba’s customised their sound themselves. Bands in the 90s and 2000s had a huge respect for their predecessors, as the standard was so high back then. Today musicians are talented but there is nothing new or unique. They all sound the same. They use gadgets and software to enhance their voice.
There is a lot of competition out there. As a musician I feel sad that no one is trying anything different. There is no shortage of talent around but very few want to develop their gift.
7) Any words of advice for aspiring musicians/vocalists?
You need to have the right attitude as a musician. If you are an instrumentalist or vocalists, you need to respect your gift. You have a decision to make – what do you want to do with your gift – use it to give life or use it to destroy life because that is how powerful music is. You need to love and enjoy what you are doing. You should have a sense of pride. But keep your ego in control. When you discover someone better than you, spend more time learning from that person. No one can ever master music. You will find new things to learn and you will never be the best as there will always be someone who is a little bit better than you.
If you are just getting into music, choose a style; rock, grunge, pop, metal, rap and stick to it. Don’t try to hog the limelight. As a musician, know what you are doing, love what are you doing, and be confident as you are doing it.
Invest in your gift. Join a music school, train with a vocal coach. Once you make a commitment stick to it. A friend of mine invested over six hours a day in practicing the guitar. I never saw him without his guitar. Today he is one of the better guitarists in South India. He reached the level of proficiency because he invested and was committed to his gift
Find out your style and range. Keep trying new things and us your gift to express yourself. Be generous with your gift. Focus on your own strengths and always appreciate others.