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7 Questions with "Bombay Dreams" Star Manu Narayan

Manu Narayan, graduated from the Carnegie Mellon School of Music, and impressed A.R Rahman with his classical music training to land the lead in the hit Broadway musical "Bombay Dreams."
BY Uttara Choudhury |   05-04-2016

Manu Narayan arrived on the scene as a trained performer. He spent years honing his skills at Carnegie Mellon University, and graduated with a double degree in vocals and playing the saxophone. Today, Narayan serves as a Trustee on the board of Carnegie Mellon, his alma mater.

In 2004, Narayan caught the eye of English composer Andrew Llyod Webber and A.R Rahman. He impressed them with his classical music training, singing and energetic dancing to land the lead role as Akaash in their $14 million Broadway musical "Bombay Dreams" where he lit up the stage with his singing. Set to a bhangra beat, "Bombay Dreams" was as big and as splashy as the 32-nozzle fountain that showered Narayan and the cast during "Shakalaka Baby."

It was "exciting" to be doing Rahman's  music, Narayan reflected. "It’s world pop. It’s beautiful, lush, cutting-edge and catchy," added Narayan who is a singer, songwriter, saxophonist and actor.

Narayan has toured in "Miss Saigon," and appeared in "Les Miserables," "Two Gentlemen of Verona," and "Glengarry Glen Ross." Theatre audiences drawn to Narayan's singing on stage have gravitated to his albums. Critics say Narayan’s fusion music will please fans of Trilok Gurtu and the recent works of Peter Gabriel. There is a jazz-rock-world music fusion sound behind his band Darunam's albums. The band combines the rhythms and melodies of America, India, and the Balkans to form Neo World Rock unique modern rock with a world beat.

Narayan’s 2007 single "All that's Beautiful Must Die," was a blockbuster hit on U.S. radio stations. Narayan is also man-candy in TV shows like "The Sopranos" and "Law and Order" and has appeared in the film “99 Homes."

Narayan talked to about following his passion for singing and acting.

  1. Did you plan for a career in the performing arts?

    It was something that life planned for me. The story goes that when I was two-years-old, I used to walk around the house with a pretend microphone in my hand singing the "Brady Bunch" theme tune. My parents saw something in me and fostered my talent from a very early age.
  2. Everyone loves the idea of being a rock star, but making it as a recording artist has always been the longest of career long shots. What would you tell a young person looking at a music or acting career?

    I would say to young singers and actors that if you want to do this as a career, go the full mile. Most of us have really educated ourselves, built a foundation either through university programs or through attending classes. The idea of being discovered is a fantasy, the reality is that all the desi guys and girls that are consistently on American TV and film today have paid their dues. If you’re talking about building a career, you need the tools to give you the versatility to go the long haul.
  3. How did Carnegie Mellonhelp prepare you for your career?

    It is a Top Twenty school. Carnegie Mellon University's College of Fine Arts has a music school which has all the strengths of a professional conservatory program. Like any important school, it's also what you make of it. My own experience at the Carnegie Mellon School of Music was fantastic. I enjoyed being surrounded by musicians and performers of the highest ability, it challenged me to work hard.
  4. What was your most memorable (good or bad) experience while studying at Carnegie Mellon?

    As a freshman, I won the Concerto Competition and performed the Glazunov Saxophone Concerto with the orchestra at Carnegie Hall, Pittsburgh.
  5. You are a classical saxophonist steeped in western and South Indian Carnatic styles.

    I have lived in India and studied with a guruji so I am familiar with the guru-shishya practice. I studied the saxophone for a year in India with Dr Kadri Gopalnath, one of the pioneers of Carnatic music on the saxophone. It was an incredible experience.
  6. Can you talk about your band Darunam's distinctive sound.

    Our band Darunam brings Eastern melody with Indian melody. My partner Radovan Jovicevic is a Serbian rock star who founded the multi-Platinum selling group Zana which toured all over Eastern Europe. We have this Balkan gypsy rhythm, Indian melody and Western beats. There is a jazz-rock-world music fusion sound behind our albums like The Last Angel on Earth. It's a soundtrack of our life.
  7. What is the best advice you've received as a musician?

    Keep as many of your talents in the best shape that they can be in by practicing an hour a day which will get you further than practicing three hours every three days.
Uttara Choudhury is Editor, North America for TV 18’s Firstpost news site and a writer for Forbes India. In 1997, she went on the British Chevening Scholarship to study Journalism at the University of Westminster, in London



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