An open terrace. A cold breezy night. LED strings strewn across as the canopy. Steaming cups of authentic filter coffee. 25 voices singing from the heart in perfect unison. Fast forward 1.5 years. A large auditorium with scattered lights on the ceiling. 1200 voices singing from the heart in perfect unison.
The rise of Motta Maadi Music (MMM) is the story of how an individual’s vision and love for art can bring a huge number of diverse people under one roof and guarantee them a night of heart-warming harmonious, musical bliss.The founder, Mr Badhri Narayanan Seshadri, a civil engineer turned sound engineer turned musician, says that he only wanted the audience to believe that they could be performers in a show and this established the foundation on which Motta Maadi Music so strongly stands upon.
Excerpts from an interview with Mr Badhri:
Motta Maadi Music is more about the audience and less about the musicians. Going to a concert is one thing, but MMM is like a family gathering where people come together to sing, dance and have a good time. How surreal was it when you witnessed this for the first time?
I started to notice that this was working in the initial three months, but the very first time that I felt emotional was in the Music Academy, Chennai, when roughly over 1500 people sang together to our music, and I could see gleaming eyes that loved music. I remember telling myself that I had achieved something. Also, there was a show where we had autistic kids. They ran around my house, played with equipment from the studio, laughed and enjoyed the music. Seeing them so content moved me to tears. We recently came to know that a doctor suggests MMM as a therapy to help patients with depression. I have seen people crying in the shows. I realised that the show was their release point and that is what art is for me, a heal.
How did being a sound engineer help you in this journey?
The show is a success only when the music is pleasant and on the pitch. So, according to physics, when people sing together, it sounds like they are on a single pitch, while not everyone might be singing pitch-perfect. This has helped MMM find perfect sound balance. My friend and I set the sounds for the show and it is very different from regular sound settings. For a musical scene, the master volume has to be high but for MMM, we keep it low. We are also very particular about what instruments should be louder and what should not.
Do you assign vocalists for each show to support the crowd?
Yes, we do and they sit among the audience and sing, so they are barely noticed. They only provide support to the audience. During a song, you can almost hear them giving cues in the speakers but you won’t know where they are because we position them that way.
What thought goes in while curating the playlist for a show?
Before having shows in auditoriums, we used to have themed shows and we only went impromptu. But with the shows getting bigger, the audience started coming in several varieties – from a 75-year-old paati to a 16-year-old kid. What interests one will not interest the other. So, we started mixing all genres of music because we hold the responsibility to satisfy everyone. So, one moment we’d be singing Jimikki Kammal, and the next, we’d be singing a melody.
Tell us more about the “Oru Kutty Kadhai” series on your Instagram handle.
I do a lot of original music and that is how my music career began. I don’t do covers at all and have never really been a fan of the trend. I could put up my music online, but the question was who will listen to it. So I kept them unreleased for 4 years. When I started gaining some Instagram fame, I decided to give it a trial run. When you start becoming popular, you can’t give out opinions, they can become controversial. I am a very vocal person and I was forced to remain quiet. So, I found art as a way of expressing myself and my thoughts. Kutty kadhai became my voice for ideas, views and thoughts and also served as a space for original music. I can talk about love, lust, happiness, sorrow, politics and so much more with music.
Will we see more of your band “Hrudhaya” in the forthcoming days?
Yes, in July we are going live with our music. In 2014, when I started the band, I told my team that we would be getting recognised at least within the next 5 years. I promised them that when we play, people will listen to us. I hope they do and that I have kept my promise.
How important was the role of social media in the rise of MMM?
We haven’t spent on promotion or any form of publicity at all. It always has been word of mouth. One is the quality of the show and the other is the kind of memories people make here. They sit with friends, sing aloud and have a solid good time. 2-3 years later they would still cherish the memory when they stumble on any of the songs. And that makes the art successful. The big shots of Instagram attended the shows and be it Aravind SA or Amrutha Srinivasan, they just were really happy! We were not great friends when they first shared about MMM, but now the entire fraternity of performing arts is close. We support and give shout-outs to each other to keep the spirit alive.
What does the future hold for MMM and what can we be expecting from it?
We are registering MMM as a company now and from April, we will be producing our shows. We are also building our original stage/studio collaborating with some big names. Apart from this, I have a dream to see MMM as a music label in 5 years where musicians can trust us and give us their music. Our Youtube channel is a small step towards this. Along with the auditorium shows, we are keen on continuing with the mottamadi shows as well. The terrace shows will always be free of cost. This April, we are hosting a mottamadi session called “Bring your parents” based on M.S. Viswanathan’s music. As the name suggests, you can visit only if you come with your parents.
We’d like to thank Mr.Badhri Narayanan Seshadri for taking valuable time off of his schedule to give us this interview and most importantly, the organizing team of E-Next for making this interview possible