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Meet Aarya Ganesan – The 19 yo. Creating Musical Waves At Berklee!

Posted: June 22, 2020

Ever wondered what it is like to actually pursue a career in music? Well, Aarya Ganesan is the person to know of. Read on to know more!

Ever wondered what it’s like to be a female musician, especially someone who’s performed with Shankar Mahadevan, Farhan Akhtar and Aamir Khan? Well, meet Aarya Ganesan. A singer-songwriter from Bangalore, Aarya was a part of Berklee India Exchange’s rendition of Dil Chahta Hai.

Female musicians in India are a rarity. But a female musician interested in singing in English and composing Western music is a novelty. All the female singers who work in the industry have created waves and are still going strong.

But ever wondered what it is like to actually pursue a career in music? Well, 19-year-old Aarya is the person to know about. The YouTuber and Berklee student told me about the trials and tribulations of a young female musician. According to her, all you need as a woman in music, is a good support system, talent and a little luck to succeed.

The first steps to pursuing music

I realised I wanted to pursue music when I won the Kawaii Junior Piano competition in 2014. At that time, I was 13 and it was an eye-opener for me. It was the first experience that gave me confidence in my art and it drove my passion as I began to study it more critically in school.

Fortunately, I am blessed with parents who want nothing more than to see me succeed in what I love doing. They were supportive of my choice to pursue music and are doing everything to help me music. But of course, it was shocking for friends and extended family who could not fathom this, as pursuing a career in music is a rarity in India!

Many people approached my parents and I, and told us how ‘risky’ the field is and how music is just a hobby, not a career. Our society is still trying to branch out from a close-minded view about music, so such unconventional paths continue to be difficult to digest for everyone. There were definitely a few people who did not approve of my career choice, but for the most part, I was lucky enough to be surrounded by a wonderful support system.

 Her family is her biggest support

Like any other family, mine just wanted to make sure that I know what I am doing, and I am certain about it. Never once did my parents disapprove of my choice! They just wanted to understand the reason behind my choice, learn more about the world of music and they heard me out. My parents wanted to know what challenges lay ahead of me, and what a future in the music industry would be like.

Ultimately, all parents only want what’s best for their kids. So all they really needed was for me to explain my choice to them, and how I plan to go about it professionally. My brother has also been so supportive since the beginning. Actually, he is the reason I started learning music! So, my family didn’t just give me the freedom of choice but also gave me the chance to introspect these decisions to make the most out of it.

The stigma around music and performing arts!

The stigma is very much real, of course. And it has prevented so many musicians in India from displaying their talent. I do believe it is true that a career like this comes with its own set of challenges. It is highly competitive, difficult and unfair. But then again, which career isn’t?

It is a mix of talent, family support, financial support, networking and luck that determines how successful an artist is. Luck and support, play a really big role in determining your success in some cases. And unfortunately, both aspects are beyond our control. But, that does not mean it’s impossible!

We live in a bubble and forget the kind of opportunities that are out there. I believe, we can always find a way to make it happen! It is up to us to rise to the challenge or live the rest of our lives filled with regret, because you didn’t give it a shot.

The judgement from all around and how she battled it

Some family members and friends have tried to convince me that I am wasting my parents’ money. They told me ‘this kind of career path’ requires connections or parents from the film fraternity, which I don’t have, so it’s not worth my time.

Unlike many other professions where you just get a degree and apply for a company, there is no direct path to enter the music industry. Someone even told me that being a woman in such an industry will force me to do things I don’t want to do (I got what they were hinting at)

But it just comes down to their word versus mine. I strongly believe that there is a way, because there is. Hard-work and passion can get me to the place where I want to be. And sometimes, having people like this who discourage me boost my determination, to make a life for myself with music and prove them wrong.

The challenges of being a student of music

One of the biggest challenges has been finding resources. Growing up in India, I struggled to find some equipment that I needed and would have to wait for someone to come from abroad to bring me what I need. And this slowed down the learning process. Although I had the internet, I wished that there was someone who could have advised me on what to buy and what not to buy, since these are big investments.

Another challenge was learning Western Music and not much of Indian music. I grew up listening to AR Rahman, R&B, and Sid Sriram and western classical music. Lots of family members would always say that they don’t understand what I sing when I sing in English. This would always frustrate me because that’s the kind of music I am trying to excel in.

Everybody has their favourite type of music, and Western Music maybe a niche market in India, but that’s my area of interest. So, I’m venturing into something new. Although I learnt Carnatic Music briefly, I was more inclined towards western music. But now, I am learning some nuances of Hindustani music to incorporate it into western music for a unique sound.

As years have gone by, I have come to realise that their remarks are valid. They haven’t grown up with this kind of music at all. So it is understandable that they don’t really understand what I’m singing about.

It is not so much the language, but the style and topics that I choose to sing about. As I came to college, I started mixing Indian Music with Western Music and tried to create something any audience can enjoy. So, this apparent negative experience actually challenged my art, and pushed me to create something new and fresh.

Challenges are often followed by achievements

I think my biggest achievement so far is releasing a song on my own. It took me a long time to learn how to produce and navigate a music software. I completely self-produced it, sang it and recorded all the required instruments for it. When it released, it was one of the happiest moments in my journey with music.

It is something I never thought I could do. Releasing a song was a goal I had kept for myself before I turn 21. And to have accomplished it at 19, makes me feel so grateful for everyone and every experience that has contributed towards it.

To the ones who don’t think music is a ‘safe’ option

I think a lot of my achievements came from my parents trusting me. So, I would like to ask Indian parents to trust their kids. Show them that you trust them enough that they will succeed and will stop at nothing to make it happen! All your kids need is your moral support, and trust.

My parents’ trust in me is what drives me to do my best every day. It encourages me to show them that all the judgement and scrutiny we faced, all the money and time spent on my choice, was completely worth it.

All parents want is to make sure their kids are happy and successful. Even their disapprovals only come from a place of love and concern. After all, they want what’s best for you.

But to all the parents out there, a career driven by passion guarantees happiness and success, sooner or later. There is a sense of fulfilment kids feel when we follow our passion. Give us a chance to do it, and when this is combined with family support, there is no reason why a talented individual can’t earn a living.

It is important to remember that there is a big world full of opportunities waiting to be taken. We won’t see it unless we have the confidence to explore. And this confidence can only be provided by supportive parents, so you  must choose to be that provider for your kids to help them succeed.

And to all the young hopeful musicians out there

I say do it! There is always a way, somehow. We just need to have enough belief and confidence in ourselves. For the longest time, I let myself crumble under the pressure of society and being the black sheep of every social group I was in. But I realised that it’s my responsibility to choose how I want to let it affect me.

I found a way to channel all the negativity into determination and hard work. To all the young girls who dream about a career in music, despite the external pressures, they have it in them to make it happen!

They already have what it takes to chase these dreams and all they need is belief in themselves. You cannot get by in an industry like this by settling to be the second best. And you will have to fight for it and take thousands of rejections before you get one single opportunity. Please remember that, and don’t be disheartened by the rejections.

You need to have the willingness to keep going despite the many downfalls. And keep reminding yourself why you chose music to begin with, and it will give you the strength to bring you success. So go for it!

What about her future?

I am pursuing a degree in Film Scoring so I would love to compose music for visual media, whether it’s film or advertising. But I haven’t set a clear goal yet since I am letting my life take the course it’s meant to.

In terms of the future, I would love to move back to India and share everything that I have learnt. I enjoy teaching, so I see myself teaching music and helping the next generation of talent have a platform to showcase their abilities and give them the confidence to pursue music. So we, and our country can grow and develop more as a society.

Picture credits: The author provided those

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