Morning Stars | Grammy winner Shankar Mahadevan: Mornings are a time for gratitude

Debarati S. Sen writes:

Singer Shankar Mahadevan on how he gets his best start for a productive day, compositions and chants he listens to in the morning and why he doesn’t miss his hour-long morning walk for which he has a special playlist.

Shankar Mahadevan got his first Grammy earlier this month when his band Shakti won the Best Global Music Album award for ‘This Moment’. A well-known singer, composer, and musician, Mahadevan has an impressive repertoire spanning classical, folk, and contemporary music. He is also a prominent member of the acclaimed trio, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, known for their Bollywood chartbusters.

Over the years, Shankar Mahadevan has been loved for his vocal prowess, as well as his compositional brilliance and ability to seamlessly blend traditional Indian melodies with modern arrangements. In a conversation with Moneycontrol, he talks about his love for mornings, his family, his work and more. Edited excerpts:

Are you a morning person? What do you do first thing in the morning?

Yes! Even if I have slept really late, I like to wake up in the morning and experience it. Later I might go for a nap but I never let go of the morning. It is a very beautiful time when you just feel gratitude for all that you have got.

How do you motivate yourself to get out of bed when you have slept late the previous night?

I don’t need to motivate myself because I am always motivated. When I wake up, I am 100 percent fresh! My family also wonders sometimes that even if I sleep late, how am I that fresh in the mornings! When I wake up, I walk straight out and never sit on the bed grumpy or lazing around.

What do you like to see on the breakfast table?

I love a good breakfast. Top of my list is all the South Indian breakfast items like idli, dosa, uttapam, upma, and of course it all depends on day to day. But yes, there are also many instances where I have skipped breakfast.

What are mornings like after an achievement, like your recent back-to-back concerts globally and in India?

The next morning is very beautiful because you think about the previous night or the previous concert. And the love and positivity that is brought in from the audience and your near and dear ones is precious and you just sit and introspect on the beautiful feelings with a cup of coffee.

When you were a child, what were mornings like for you?

Like every other child, we also had to get up early in the mornings in those days. I remember the early morning Akash Vani, and the beautiful signature tune. We would listen to the Vande Mataram on the radio, while getting ready to go off to school. I did not enjoy going to school that much in those days, just like any other child. Many times, when I didn’t feel like it, I was allowed to not go to school that day. My father was one of the most lenient persons on this planet, so I had to just tell him, and he would not put pressure on me for that.

When you are on a holiday and have no work – what is your favourite thing to do on such free mornings?

For me, every day is just like a holiday. When I don’t have to go to the studio for work, I plan my day. For me, it is a very precious day because I am completely free. I plan what to make for breakfast with my staff and for me. Spending time with my wife, Sangeeta, is the most precious thing for me. Spending time with my sons, listening to music, just chilling at home and planning lunch, watching a movie or a TV series – every minute is important.

Do you have a favourite morning song?

I have got a devotional playlist which I created and which I listen to in the mornings. Sometimes I just listen to a lot of chanting in the mornings by traditional pandits who are singing the rudram, chamakam. Sometimes I listen to Atharva Shirsha, these are these beautiful Sanskrit writings that were written possibly thousands of years ago, and I am just fascinated in the way it is written, the metering, the writing, the emoting, the diction is just fascinating and shows how wonderful our country is.

What is your preferred way of getting the news – phone or newspaper?

Nowadays you can get all the news easily on your mobile handset. But there is nothing like holding the newspaper, the smell of the crisp newspaper in the morning – that is a different feeling. I like to read general news, not into Bollywood news at all. I am very selective about what I read.

Is there something that you absolutely can’t do without every morning?

I just can’t do without greeting my family to have a wonderful day. That is something I need to do, first thing in the morning.

What’s your favourite fitness activity? What’s your least favourite workout?

I love to walk in the mornings and I have an hour-long playlist that I listen to. My least favourite workout is any kind of sport.

What else takes up your mornings?

A lot of thinking takes up my mornings and also a lot of singing and recording and my work. My calls to morning people, who prefer to discuss stuff in the morning, takes up my mornings. There are people like Gulzar sahab who is an early riser, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, my partner at my academy, Sridhar Ranganathan, they are morning people. A lot of discussions, thinking, ideation happens in the mornings.

Please tell us about anything you’re reading or watching right now that you’re excited about.

I am trying to read and trying to learn some compositions of 17th century Indian classical Carnatic music composer Oottukadu Venkata Subbaiah Iyer, he has some amazing works. I read all kinds of things right from Phantom comics to lots of varied books.

Read the full interview in Money Control.