Singing a dream

Dubai's very own upcoming singing star Preethi Kamath, who will soon launch her first pop album, chats to City Times

By Vijay Dandige (Contributor)

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Published: Sun 13 Apr 2008, 10:43 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 2:43 PM

SHE WAS just a wisp of a girl, barely five years old when she walked confidently onto the stage, sat in front of a well-versed audience and sang in a clear voice. Her solo performance that day at the Tyagaraj Utsav hosted at the British Council in Dubai - a Carnatic classical music festival - drew a standing ovation. Sitting in the audience and watching, her parents had tears in their eyes.

Today, about two decades later, that wisp of a girl has morphed into a confident singer and songwriter ready to shake up the music industry. With a voice that is melodious and mesmerising, Preethi Kamath will soon launch as the 'Arab World's First Indian Pop Star' who sings a variety of musical genres: dance, break-beat, hip-hop, folk, semi-classical, and in three languages, Hindi, English and Arabic.

Perky, high-spirited and versatile, Preethi is poised to launch her first pop album, initially in Mumbai followed by Dubai. Together with her maiden album, her two videos, the second one shot in various locales in Dubai, would also be released to all TV, music and entertainment channels both in India and the UAE and Gulf. Her music, very diverse yet conjugated, transcends international boundaries.

Born and brought up in Dubai, Preethi completed her schooling and did a Bachelor's course at the American University in Dubai. She went on to do a Masters in Music Technology from New York University, which has helped her gain a sound understanding of music and its many technical aspects.

Musical journey

"Both my parents are avid music lovers. My mother has a beautiful and touching voice whereas my father used to sing for All India Radio. They always encouraged and inspired me and this made me passionate about music from a very young age," she said.

When she was only five, Preethi enrolled in music classes and was trained in Carnatic classical music. Later on, she branched into Hindustani classical music. She learnt from several well-known gurus such as Sharda Subramanian, Madhuri Risbudh, Milind Chittal and Bhavna Kahduskar. "It was in high school that I first began to dream of being a singer," she said and added that since then there has been no looking back for her.

In college, she performed musical gigs and had her own band, Jazba, a fusion rock band that played regularly to packed audiences in colleges and other venues across Dubai.

Chasing her dream, she went knocking on several doors in Mumbai. Her first real break came when music directors Ajay-Atul recorded a song for their Marathi movie, 'Bandh Premache', a duet that she sang with famous singer Shankar Mahadevan. Ajay-Atul loved her voice and instantly agreed to compose the music for her soon-to-be-released first album.

Although she had trained in classical music she decided to make her debut with this album in commercial music. "Training in classical gives you a very strong foundation. If you learn classical, you can pretty much branch out to any genre of music," she explained. "Of course, commercial or pop is much easier than classical. And I'm glad today that my parents gave me that foundation."

Crossing cultural boundaries

She also points out that she has a sort of cross-cultural mentality, living away from her home country and being surrounded by Arab and Western culture.

"With the classical background, I can sing anything from pop to alternative to soft rock. Currently the trend is towards R&B or reggeatone influences in music. And Hindustani classical, by itself, would not work as a genre of music for the varied kind of audience that I'm trying to cater to," she said. "I wanted to go with the times and moreover cater to a larger audience base initially. That's why I decided to get into the pop, semi-classical genre as a start." Which is also why, besides Hindi and English she developed the skills to sing in Arabic.

Preethi has written all her songs herself, except the Arabic ones. "As a musician I feel it's important to have your own train of thought, apart from the singing," she said. "If you write your own lyrics, your music becomes more subconscious and natural, because it comes from your heart." And this aspect will set her first album truly apart.

The album, whose name she cannot divulge at the moment, has eight tracks, featuring different flavours of music: hip-hop, break-beat, semi-classical, folk, soft rock and others. Her first video, a hip-hop inspired club song, was shot in Film City in Mumbai in November. And her second video was shot in and around Dubai, against the backdrop of various landmarks like Dubai Media City, Jumeirah beach, Dubai Festival City, Hatta and others.

Vijay Ravindranathan, a veteran director from Mumbai who specialises in music videos and has directed such chart busters videos like 'Neele Neele Amber', 'Deewana Hua Badal' and others, has directed her second video.

Although she is the first Indian pop singer to sing in Arabic, Preethi is aware of the challenges she is likely to face. "This market predominantly comprises singers originating from the GCC countries. So for someone who sings music that is not completely Arabic in flavour, it might seem kind of hard at first to find one's own ground," she said. But I'm from Dubai, born and brought up here, and which is why I want to cater to all the audiences across the Middle East apart from India."

Favourite music

Preethi has her own favourites among established singers. In Indian classical music she likes Hari Prasad Chaurasia, Pandit Jasraj and Parveen Sultana Begum. In popular music she likes Shreya Ghoshal and KK and she is big fan of Jagjit Singh. Among Western singers her favourites are Beyonce Knowles, Justin Timberlake, and Celine Dion.

When asked what she thinks of popular TV music shows like 'American Idol', 'Indian Idol', 'Sa Re Ga Ma' and others, she said, "They're fabulous programmes that give unknown singers a chance to become big stars. At the same time, I think they are not completely fair because of the voting system. The best singer doesn't necessarily always win."

She said there is one major difference between the pop scene in Western countries and the one in India. "In the US and European countries, there are no playback singers. They have only pop, which is why singers are kings and queens there," she explained. "But in India there are two channels, playback and pop, and neither gets its fair share."

Future options

Since she has already sung for movies in Mumbai, she realises that she could also be a playback singer. "So, I'm keeping my options open," she said, adding that she recently recorded a track for a forthcoming Hindi movie called Pathshala, starring Shahid Kapoor and Nana Patekar.

At present, however, she is the first Indian pop artist from Dubai. "In the UAE, the pop music culture is in its infancy. Everything is an influence, either from India, from the West or from the Gulf," she pointed out. "I'm hoping that I'll be one of the few people who can change that. If I can, I can be Dubai's own pop singer." In just a few weeks, the spotlight will be on Preethi Kamath, who could be the music industry's newest star.

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