Benny Dayal was told by a music director that he would never become a playback singer
His entry into the Bollywood music industry hasn’t been easy. He started his career by working at a BPO, and then worked as a journalist to support himself, till music could finally earn him a livelihood. “But the taste I had of the real world [during my struggle] was quite an eye opener,” says the singer, who has songs such as ‘Rehna tu’ (Delhi 6; 2009), ‘Daaru desi’ (Cocktail; 2012) and ‘Badtameez dil’ (Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani; 2013), among others. He says he hasn’t had a “cushioned” journey in the world of music, but he seems to have made a place in the industry today. Excerpts from an interview:
AR Rahman discovered you so to say, what is your equation with him today?
I share a very beautiful equation with Rahman sir. We have a teacher-disciple relationship, and he has been an inspiration to me in my nascent years as a singer. I feel lucky and grateful that I can perform with him and tour with him. He’s my godfather in the industry and someone who inspires me to be a better musician. He taught me how great success comes with great humility.
How has your journey been so far?
Well… what can I say; life has been a great teacher. With the grace of God, it has been an exciting and enriching journey. Initially, every single music director I met had nothing to offer me. I would plead to get a chance to sing, even if it was in the chorus, but I got no breakthrough. My father had just undergone an open-heart surgery and my parents had to shift back to India from the UAE. I couldn’t ask for money or tell them anything. My brother was just settling down into his job. There were days I didn’t have money to pay rent or to eat three meals a day. The one turning point in my life was meeting Rahman sir in 2006. I had been three days into a news desk job when I got a call from Rahman sir’s office. They wanted me to sing harmony later that night. I was hoping it was not a prank. I ended up recording the same night in his studio, and I met him in person. I had no words to utter, I was spellbound.
What has been most challenging for you?
The most challenging aspect of my journey was to stay positive despite all the hurdles that came my way as I got rejected from studio to studio. In the beginning, an established music director told me, ‘You will never be a playback singer’ and he slammed the door on me. I didn’t retort but I couldn’t sleep for nights and I slipped into depression. Sometimes well-wishers would betray me and I didn’t know whom to trust. But I took a call to shun away all the negativity and only attract positivity into my realm. I’d run away from anything or anyone that made me feel that something wasn’t right at that particular moment. My story in the world of music isn’t a cushioned one, I have seen the downs, and therefore, I value the ups even more.+
You have sung in several languages apart from Hindi. Has language ever been a barrier?
I believe in the universality of music. Music knows no language and it somewhere sets you free from preconceived notions. I grew up in UAE, and therefore, Arabic, French and Hindi was part of our curriculum. I picked up other languages during the course of time. There are instances when you do a corporate show and perform for a Korean client and you have to learn a Korean song. I have done that. So language has never been a barrier. I’ve sung in Telugu, Kannada, and recently I’ve been approached to sing in Gujarati as well. I also happened to learn a little bit of Assamese while I was singing with Papon for Coke Studio. People keep approaching me with songs in different languages because they think that my diction is okay and they are happy with the way I sing in their languages. They don’t regret their decision so that is satisfying.
Watch the full video of ‘Tauba’, which Benny sang in collaboration with Papon for Coke Studio Season 3 here:
What are you currently working on?
I’m doing a series of singles called Swag Anusaar. I’ve been working on it for more than two years with indie producer Dub Sharma. The reason I’ve dedicated so much time to this series of singles is because working on it is more interesting and innovative. I want to invest myself into making more music. And when I’m doing singles, the focus on every track is 100%. I can write, produce, sing, record and shoot every single, focusing on one song at a time; hence attaining complete efficiency. It’s a very enriching process. Apart from that, I am doing a few live shows. There is film music also happening on the side.
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