On A High Note – A Candid Chat With Sayanora Philip

The first lady Music Director of Mollywood talks of her childhood, her work and ‘Davai Davai’

As a four year old, she detested the long hours of practise and never understood why she had to undergo this ‘torture’! Her father was a musician and a relentless taskmaster when it came to training. He insisted that she learn singing – western, Hindustani and Carnatic styles and also master instruments like guitar, violin, veena, sitar, tabala, drums and keyboard. Through the years, although she tried to be patient, there were times when she almost gave up! Little did she know that her father had recognised the spark in her and was fervently nurturing her latent talents! Sayanora Philip has today, become not just a renowned playback singer, who has worked with top musicians like A R Rahman, but has also become a music director herself – the first lady music director in Mollywood who confidently crafts music not just for songs but for the background scores as well! RITZ catches up with the bubbly musician who is rocking the charts with the World Cup Anthem by the Orfeo Band, ‘Davai Davai’!

Interview: Riya Sonny Datson

What was the turning point in your life that made you choose music as a career?

As a music teacher, my father was very insistent about my training but I never dreamt of taking it up as a career. In fact, there were times when we had arguments about it! But as fate would have it, on the very same day that I had to appear for my MSc Marine Biology interview, I had to go for the music recording of my very first song in Kamal Sir’s movie! I had to make a choice and it was my father who encouraged me to go for the latter! From then on, there has been no looking back and I am grateful to him for all the musical training he gave me as a kid!

Tell us about any memorable experience while working with AR Rahman.

Most of his recordings are during the wee hours of the morning. After a busy day at work, I was asked to come for one such session and I literally had to drag myself out of bed. During the recording, I just couldn’t get the notes right and Rahman Sir was very upset. But when I explained that I wasn’t used to the odd working hours, he was very understanding! To my pleasant surprise, he sat me down for a friendly chat over a cup of coffee! We restarted recording after that and everything fell into place! After ‘Sivaji’, I toured with him for almost four years and it was an amazing experience!

How did Baahubali happen?

I have never been scared to take up new challenges and whenever I have been at cross roads, the choices I have made have always led me to explore new venues. Baahubali was an opportunity that happened unexpectedly and am glad it turned to out so well. It’s been a beautiful journey and I feel I am really blessed! I see my experiences as a palette of beautiful colours!

How was your first project as a music director?

When my close friend was attacked recently, I was very disturbed and going through a very difficult phase emotionally. I even considered quitting my career in the film world. That’s when Jean Markose, called me and asked me to take up the opportunity of being a Music director for his movie, ‘Kuttanpillayude Sivarathri’. I initially said ‘no’ but being my friend, he kept encouraging me and telling me not to give up. Eventually I agreed and said, ‘I will try’ but on the condition that if it didn’t work, we would rope in someone else. I worked really hard for the project and although doing the background score was a nightmare, once it was all complete, it was wonderful
listening to all the great reviews. Every single day was a great learning experience!

Whenever you work, what is the one thing that you focus on?

I feel you should always be aware your strengths and weaknesses. While it is important to be versatile, I feel it is equally important to have your own signature style. Otherwise, in a competitive world, people would fail to recognise you. Be it singing or composing, I always try to see how best I can contribute.

The world cup anthem that you sang, ‘Davai Davai…’ is trending now…

I got the opportunity to sing the World Cup anthem for the Orfeo band. I was invited to sing for them by Carol George. Initially, I was not confident about taking it up but they were insistent about my singing it and am overwhelmed that it has been received so well.

What’s your biggest inspiration?

My father. He opened up my horizons in music and made me equipped to share my passion with the world.

Being based in Kannur, how do manage to balance work and home?

It is all in the game! I have always wanted my daughter to be independent and that is the training that I try to impart to her. Thankfully, I have a good support system in place and she is pampered a lot by her dada and both her grandparents. I share a great bond with my daughter and am very much a part of her life, be it school or home! When I am required to travel, it gets difficult emotionally sometimes but we make up for it.

Interests outside of music?

I love traveling and my husband and I love to go on road trips. He had a Harley initially and recently, he just got a BMW. So, we are looking forward to some fun adventures soon. I also enjoy cooking and trying out new recipes.

What was the most difficult part of dubbing for Trisha in ‘Hey Jude’?

It was after singing two songs for ‘Hey Jude’ that Syam Sir asked me if I could dub for Trisha. As always, I said ‘I will try my best’. The most difficult part of dubbing was doing the romantic scene between Nivin and Trisha. I was so embarrassed that I remember asking Syam Sir to switch off the lights while doing the scene.

What’s next?

I am composing music for Director Soumya Sadanandan’s next movie and also working on music for an ad project.

Rapid Fire:

  • I love: Food
  • I detest: Fake People
  • My Obsession: My daughter
  • Guilty Indulgence: Snoozing all my alarms
  • Music is: An Eternal journey
  • Dream Holiday: Kilimanjaro with my sweethearts.