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Shabir: Kollywood Music Director and Independent Musician

#TTAstories is a series of stories from Tamil musicians – from aspiring to well-established – brought to you by @thetamilaura . Find more music-related content and stories on Instagram - @thetamilaura

#TTAstories - "Four years ago, I got a call from a film director from India. He said that he had listened to my independent songs and wanted me to be the music director for their next film - Sagaa. This felt really big to me - especially at a time when people were trying to land opportunities in Kollywood, here I had a director reach out to me on his own. I was exhilarated with this prospect.

But I’ve come to realize that the happiest moments don’t lie in the destinations or milestones. They are everywhere. And as cliche as it sounds - It is about the journey, not the destination.

There is no single thing that will be your “it” or your “break” in your career. Opportunities that I initially thought were really great, didn’t turn out to be that good, while things that I didn’t think much about, turned out very well.

I’ve learned that my happiest moments lie in what I love to do the most - sitting down in front of my workstation and actually making music.

However, I do constantly doubt myself. All the time.

In order to get rid of the doubt, you have to earn your own confidence. Being overconfident doesn’t solve anything. Another problem is doubting yourself so much that you are unable do anything new or become afraid to step outside your comfort zone.

My advice is to divert all the doubt into your work. Look at what you need to do in order to get that confidence.

My recent music scoring job was for a film with a lot of CG/VFX. It’s a genre that I had no experience in and I wasn’t sure if I was capable enough to take on the project initially. But one thing I never doubted is my ability to work extremely hard with sincerity. I knew that if I took on a project, I’d give all that I got to do my best for the job. So I took it.

I started accelerating further learning. I watched several films - like Sherlock Holmes - both on mute and with sound on to observe how the entire scene's dynamics change with music. I took a Masterclass with Hans Zimmer and kept pushing myself.

When you do the homework, all uncertainties will eventually resolve and you’ll have earned the confidence. Every single doubt will eventually turn into assurances.

My dream is to give thousands of kids free education in the music arts field. Whether it be in Singapore, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, India or anywhere else. I want it to be my contribution to society and humanity. Today, many Tamils give importance for jobs. Math and sciences are prioritized while music, arts & humanities aren’t prioritized as much. This needs to change. In Nietzsche's words, "Art is the highest task of life". I truly believe that. Not all people have the same opportunities. I believe that people in a better position are obliged to create opportunities for the less fortunate. It's the rent you pay for your space on earth as a human being.

I have a pilot-project running right now in Singapore, where my music academy gives free music education for three kids in need. I want to multiply these numbers and hopefully, it doesn’t take too much time to reach my dream.

My advice for aspiring musicians is to keep learning, keep trying, keep failing and keep your costs low. Don’t invest too much money and emotions into a project unless it won’t burden your creativity and motivation. But do invest spiritually in abundance. Get organized and keep working!

I recently got signed as a music director for a third film. My challenge is to find a balance between making film music and independent music. I am an independent musician at heart who is also doing film music and not the other way around. Yet I haven’t released any independent music these last two years due to a busy schedule working on commissioned projects. And it will just get harder when I get more offers from the film industry in the future. I’m currently working on balancing both and transitioning. I am trying to create as much as I can. Being conscious of my mortality is a daily catalyst for me to create as much as I can, given the short time we have on earth.

The Tamil independent music scene is booming right now. Yet, I feel that the essence of independent music is forgotten. Artists must have the urge to create more freely, pick topics that can bring about social change and also provoke thought, apart from entertaining people. Examples include songs regarding the internal and external struggles of embracing LGBT movement in a conservative Tamil society.  Or maybe music about the conflict that ensues when a religious person starts doubting their religion? Music is a way to portray stories and emotions. We might as well use this opportunity to become a better alternative to Kollywood and not be afraid of trying new things. After all, we don't have a box office to fear. That should make us independent, in the true sense of the word.

Follow my story on Instagram! @shabirmusic

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