Singer Priyadarshini documents 100 years of Tamil and Kannada film music

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The first Indian playback singer to present the longest doctoral thesis on “100 years of film music”, also considered a reference book for the study of film music

Priyadarshini’s reading career began in 2004 with the Tamil film Kadhal Dot Com and was followed by opportunities to sing in the Hindi, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam film industries. A graduate of AB Tech in Electrical and Electronics from Nanyang University in Singapore, Priyadarshini’s interests in music and academics ran parallel. His 5-year research in film music earned him a PhD from the University of Mysore at his 101st graduation ceremony recently.

While pursuing a master’s degree in music in Chennai, she realized that there are many books on Indian inema, but only a handful on film music. On what sparked her PhD, Priyadarshini said: “As a playback singer, I didn’t want to limit myself to singing and performing, but also to contribute to the film industry by creating an indigenous resource to preserve, make know the heritage of Indian film music. . “

Under the guidance of CA Sreedhara of the University of Mysore, Priyadarshini continued his research studies from the period 1917-2020 in the Tamil industry and 1931-2020 in the Kannada film industry.

A lassic singer by training, she handpicked songs from different periods of cinema, classified and analyzed them according to different lines such as folk, carnatic, Hindustani, western, mass numbers and dance. Her thesis briefly explores background music and studies music creation, recording, production, marketing, commerce and consumption.

Getting a nod from college to go ahead with a 1,000-page thesis that created a reference book was no small feat. “I have a lot more data and resources, so I plan to include them in my post later, in different volumes,” says Priyadarshini.

Overcome the challenges

Despite being a playback singer in the Kannada and Tamil film industries, establishing communication and interviewing artists – from then to today – has posed a challenge. “It was difficult to match their schedules with mine because they were in different parts of India, some were overseas. To collect information on late film artists, I had to establish contact with their sons / daughters / grandchildren who are not in the cinema.

She used her break time during recording sessions and music shows to engage in conversations to gather details and gather information related to her study. “I have been fortunate to hear many living legends share their experiences with me.” she smiles.

As his subject is relatively new and rare, no reference was readily available for Priyadarshini. Collecting data from songs from the early talkie era was a challenge due to the missing reels. “I had to find old songbooks to extract song titles from movies. Another difficulty encountered was obtaining details of the technology used in musical recordings at this time, as the equipment was phased out. No old newspapers are available, so collecting the posters and advertisements from the audio releases was also difficult, ”she adds.

Priyadarshini believes that the industry is now on the cusp of a technological revolution that has improved the quality of film music. “I think each period has its own style and trends. There is a decrease in live recording sessions, but we can see that many composers are still using them in their songs. “


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