Hariharan Subramani Curated

Indian Playback Singer


  • When do you think that you will retire from the music industry?

    “When I feel like, I will say ‘That’s it’,” said the singer, known for crooning songs like “Nahin samne”, “Mere dushman mere bhai”, “Vidu Kathaiya” and “Vennilavae”.

  • What do you want to do in the future?

    Hariharan wants to pursue his khayal singing with more vigour. “Also, I would like to present Indian culture in my way to the Western world. I never really focused on being a composer – I was so busy singing. Leslie and I have done a few films but one needs to pursue it very thoroughly which I never really did. Of course, all my ghazals are my own compositions, so maybe that’s the channel through which my composing creativity got an outlet. I would also like to open my own music academy one day.”

  • How did you master different genres in music?

    “I would say it’s like speaking different languages,” chuckles Hariharan. “You speak English in school, Marathi and Hindi to people you interact with, Tamil at home. I was at ease with the notes; I never felt the strain of using them differently in the Carnatic tradition or Hindustani or in light music. Instinctively, I could deal with it. I never felt scared or overwhelmed.” He explains how his training in different idioms finds an expression. “In my ghazals, there will suddenly be a nuance which is so Carnatic – out of nowhere! Or a typical “khayal barhat” phrase…I feel ghazals are easy to relate to, the lyrics appeal, there is drama. As Mehdi Hasan sahib used to say, ‘suron ke madhyam se hum log ek tasvir banaate hain.’ (we paint a picture through notes.)”

  • Who were the different gurus that moulded you?

    Initially, he learnt Carnatic music from his mother Alamelu Mani. “She is 83 but still performs in full-fledged concerts. She has taught over 1200 students all over the world. She has been a one woman institution who has been teaching since 1963, when my father died in Mumbai. Usually every child of South Indian origin learns from 6-7 to 17, and my mother has taught so many people; today her disciples are teaching. I, sometimes, get a call from a stranger, simply asking me, “How’s teacher?” And I realise then that the person is amma’s disciple! I am so proud to be her son; it’s a wonderful legacy she has created.” At the age of about 16, he heard compositions in an album of Ustad Ghulam Mustafa Khan (from the Rampur Sahaswan gharana) in Bageshwari and Nayaki Kanhra. “The album just blew my top! I started learning from Ustad Ghulam Mustafa Khan; traditional khayals. He was very open about my singing ghazals and for films. He would always say you do riyaaz, and you sing as you sing. He was not really a strict guru, but if I hadn’t done my riyaaz of the day before, it would be like ‘achcha baitho, pehle ek ghanta gaao, and then I will teach further.’” Very calmly, the Ustad would insist on his riyaaz. “Though from the Rampur gharana, he came from Kanpur to Bombay. I used to go to his house to learn. He is like a father figure to me; I definitely feel I have a past life connection with him. I feel so completely at ease at his home; there is so much love there.” His soul guru is Mehdi Hassan, the master of ghazals. “I was completely smitten by his music. Years ago, my album was playing in my friend’s car in Canada. She, of course, switched it off when Mehdi sahib got in, but he asked her to continue to play it and asked, ‘ye kaun hai’. It seemed he liked it, and heard a couple of songs twice and asked who I was. Later we met when he came to India and I felt like I had known him for years. He was not aware of his national identity at all, had no thought of India and Pakistan at all; he was only a musician. During his visits, he would go to his village in Jhunjhunu and meet.” On his 50th birthday, Hariharan recalls his three gurus were all together at his home and he sang for them and got their blessings. “It was a big thing for me.”

  • How did you get into Carnatic music?

  • What do you think about classical music?

  • How did Ghazals help you in films and fusioons?

  • What do you feel about the two songs(Hindi and Marathi) that got you National awards?

  • What was your first experience with A R Rahman and doing your first Tamil song?

  • what are your memories of your first song with Jaidev?

  • What kind of training would you suggest for young budding musicians?

  • What can of advice ca you give for young budding musicians in the field of fusion

  • How was learning music when you were a kid with you mother

  • what is colonial cousins?