Carnatic music as a career

The intention of this post is to just summarize the views expressed by a few practising carnatic musicians on taking up carnatic music as a career. Like a Solomon Pappayya pattimanram (debate), there isn’t any conclusion 😉

The following are extracts from interviews. Please read the sources (which can be viewed by clicking the artist names below) to get the complete context in which these views have been expressed.

J. Vaidyanathan (mridangam): “I would not suggest to young people to take classical music as full time profession. Especially when you are an accompanist. Please have a job to fall back”

Savitha Narasimhan (vocal): “It is paying. But it takes time to get to there. It is not like other jobs where you are assured of a certain sum after you put in so many number of years’ of service. You are not offered a basic pay for the qualification. In fact artistes like us are working towards something unknown. But definitely if you put in sincere efforts, you be rewarded”

Rohan Krishnamurthy (mridangam): I am planning on a double major. While music is my passion, I am also very interested in Chemistry. I do well at school in many areas. On the practical side, taking up music as a career is a risky business. I hope Chemistry can also provide me with a safety net”

Sikkil Gurucharan (vocal): “I was confused seeing my friends attending interviews and taking up jobs. I too applied to some companies for a job. When I got a call from one of them, my father asked me whether I was doing the right thing. I went ahead and attended the interview, which was over in a minute. They asked me if I could do night shifts and I opted out because that would have affected my singing. When I came home, my father said, `Make music your future’. My mother, who works as a lecturer at the Music College, is also my guru”
Bombay Jayashri (vocal): “Children want to take up music full time. But parents are a bit reluctant. They want them to have an engineering or some degree in hand. The reason is that there is opportunity to make music a profession, but there is no code of discipline or guarantee that will encourage people to take it up as a full time profession. Not everyone can make it as performers perhaps, but there should be at least a good chance that they can get jobs as teachers or something. The system does not offer that”

Deepti Omcheri Bhalla (vocal, dance): “There are multiple avenues. Twenty years ago, the industry was confined to singing and composing. But today, the scene is completely different. From sound recording to composing and from music ensemble to teaching, there are many roads leading to music. However, one should have excellent training. On the Internet superhighway and in this age of multi-media, technology takes precedence over music. If one has an academic degree or diploma and hands-on training, one can find a foothold in the industry”
K.N. Ranganatha Sarma (vocal): “….. there’s a widespread misconception that classical music offers few job opportunities and they also pay poorly. Actually there are opportunities galore for teachers at the graduation and PG levels in several music colleges. One can even make it as a playback singer where a Carnatic music background has tremendous advantage. Private music teachers also seem to be doing well for themselves. Lastly, with the proliferation of sabhas and NRIs sponsoring foreign trips for artistes, besides recorded music opportunities, a career musician has never had it so good either in terms of exposure or payment”

4 thoughts on “Carnatic music as a career

  1. This is such a common dilemma for many aspiring artistes. Some people are brave enough to take the leap, some cannot gather the guts to take the risk. Some people seem to be excelling in both! But we all hear that you cannot be successful in two careers at once. I really dont know what to think about such beliefs. What do you think?

  2. It is very difficult to show high degree of involvement in each of more than one career tracks that a person might want to pursue. It of course requires a lot of time to study and practise Carnatic Music and emerge as a fine artist. Add to that the difficulty in getting the opportunity to showcase your talent and it becomes really difficult to come up.

    I know for a fact that many of the peforming artists in the past who had a job to back them up either had bank jobs or govt jobs where they wouldn’t anyway contribute much and would more often than not spend very less time at office or go on a loss-of-pay leave if the situation so demanded. To think of having an illustrous corporate career as well as a parallel one in music and yet do well at both places is very difficult, but manageable in my opinion, if one is able to keep up his commitment and is somehow able to emerge victorious through all kinds of dirty politics that may be prevalent at both places. Of course, one might have to choose one path instead of the other in the long run.

  3. Indeed a true dilemma! However this is true for any profession -like sports or cinema – besides being in a profession by virtue of academics. There are examples however of people balancing both and doing admirably well. A Sadasivam (the very next post in this blog features a post on his concert) is also a Chief Operating Officer in a bangalore based company and is an AIR A grade artiste as well!

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