We all know of her brother, Mr. Thaman SS – a leading and trending Music director in Kollywood and Tollywood, but how many of us know of his very talented and down-to-earth sister – Yamini Ghantasala who is blessed with a beautiful voice and is in the process of making her mark in the music industry. Well, I had the wonderful opportunity of speaking to her and getting to know her personal and professional stories which were nothing short of motivating and inspiring. All you aspiring women out there, read this interview about her and do not be afraid to find your calling and follow your dreams, because it is never too late to do what you were made for!
SU: Can you tell us a little about your family, education and career?
My father Late. Mr. Ghantasala Shivakumar was a fine musician and a drummer. My mother is an amazing musician and a singer too, She is my first guru. Unfortunately, I lost my father at a tender age of 7, and that time my brother was just 13 years old and had become the breadwinner of our family. Although he is very passionate about drumming, it so happened that he had to take up his hobby as his mainstream profession at the age of 13. Today, he is 100 films old and made his mark in the industry.
Having come from an art family, a lot of my inclination was towards music. I did act in skits and a film as a child artiste, but my mother believed more in the importance of academics, good education and a disciplined upbringing and that’s why she chose to enroll me in a boarding school in Puttaparthi called Satya Sai Higher Secondary School. For my entire academic life, I spent in this school and visited my family only for a brief period of 1.5 months every year. Even there, I took every opportunity to be connected to the world of music and began winning many competitions. Soon, I became the go-to person for anything music related in my school. My friends came to me for music advice, and the best compliment I received was when one of my teachers told my mother that I was the “Nightingale” of the school! When I was in the 6th grade, I started learning a Scottish instrument called “Bagpipe” and was the lead player in my troupe. Although I haven’t practiced the instrument since schooling, I can make music with it even today if given one. Since the school was a Gurukul, utmost importance was given to discipline and we weren’t allowed to listen to film songs. I remember taking in cassettes of Jism, Taal and Devadas into the school and used to listen to the songs on repeat mode although it was not allowed in the campus. Such was my love for music.
After finishing my 12th, I returned to my family in Chennai and pursued my Bachelors in Information IT from MOP Vaishnav College. After graduation, I began my professional career as an HR in many good companies such as Virtusa and Raymond for almost 9 years. There are a few very close friends from school, college and the corporates who always knew and encouraged me to follow music. Throughout these 9 years in the corporate world, I was sure about following my passion, which is music one day.
I began taking Hindustani Vocal classes from a revered Guru Shehnai Pandit Ballesh in Chennai while I was in the corporate itself and I go for these classes even today.
SU: Your first recording was a surprise to your brother. How did he react after listening to it?
YG: My brother is the most important member of our family and there is nothing he doesn’t know about my life. But when it came to me pursuing my passion, I wanted to be sure of what I was doing and going to do before telling him and my mom about it. So, during the last few days of my corporate life, I started throwing hints to my brother about my music classes and my preparations for a demo cover video. This is because I wanted him to be aware of the fire in me to become a singer. During the initial days of my music career, I was associated with Guberan, who is the nephew of Drums Shivamani, along with few other individual artists and we formed a band towards the end of 2015. We decided to start off by making a cover video and putting it up on a platform which was accessible to people. For the cover, I wanted a song which was very unique and different compared to the other cover videos that was trending at that time. That’s when we decided to do our version of the song “Aatach Baya” from the Marathi film “Sairat”. The original being sung by my idol Shreya Ghoshal, I wanted to make sure my rendition of the song at least partially matched the way she delivered the original, with the same feel and emotion. For this, I prepared hard, and my Marathi friend helped me by comprehending the lyrics of the song line by line and also taught me the pronunciations.
I found a recording studio that would accommodate my needs and I began putting together everything for our first ever recording, which took almost a month’s time to materialize. A good friend of mine, Vikarnan, suggested that I get in touch with Madhan Karky sir to feature my cover on his music platform – Doopadoo. I reached out to him and he loved my cover version that he immediately agreed to feature it on Doopadoo.
A day before the launch of the video, I was travelling in the car with my brother and that is when I revealed to him about my cover video efforts and made him watch it. He was genuinely so happy that he immediately picked up his phone and dialled Shreya ji’s number and informed her about my tribute. That was the biggest ever moment in my life – blessings from my brother and my idol!
SU: Tell us about your relationship with your brother.
YG: My brother, having become the breadwinner for our family at a very young age, is like god to me. But much more than that, I respect him as a musician, his talent and his perseverance. There are two important things he keeps telling me;
- Treat every day as a new day.
- Work hard and harder till you succeed.
SU: How was your first experience in the recording studio?
YG: although I have had a lot of experience in the studios, my first ever recording for a film song did make me quite nervous and excited.
SU: How many songs have you recorded so far?
YG: my first cover song from the movie Sairat was an important milestone for me. It was trending all the time on youtube and has reached a million plus views today. After that, I did a few other cover songs and started approaching many music directors. My first call for a recording came from Music director Achu Rajamani sir. He is a phenomenal musician and I really admire his knowledge in music. I was asked to come to his office and I randomly sang a Bhajan for him. He immediately said, “tomorrow we are recording your first film song!!” And that is how I began my career in Kollywood with the song “Aagayame” for the movie “Yaanum Theeyavan”. I have also performed as a backing vocalist for many music directors but the most memorable was when I did backing vocals for the movie MOM and Mersal for ARR sir. I literally had goosebumps when I entered his studio!
In Tamil & Telugu, I have sung for many commercials and short films as well. Sricharan, one of the busiest and a trending music director in Tollywood gave me my first break. I have sung a few songs for him and one of the song “Sakhiya” for the movie “Goodachari” went on to become a massive hit. Post that, I was approached by a young music director Ganesh Chandrasekhar for the song “minmini kootame” for his movie “Ezhumin”.
SU: Who is your dream music director to work with?
YG: I would like to work with every music director possible because there will always be something to learn from each of them and I do not want to miss that.
SU: So, when can we listen to your beautiful voice in your brother’s tunes?
YG: I know my brother and his policy very well. And I believe he will give me the opportunity to sing for him when he feels it is the right time and the right song for me. He always knows what is best for me and I trust him blindly to do only the best for me when the time comes!
SU: What is your latest recording?
YG: I have recorded a few songs in Chennai and Hyderabad in the last few months, But the one that is recently released is “Yen aala” composed by Imman sir. Imman sir is my favourite musician and I am very drawn towards his music. I have also done a few backing vocals for him and am always in awe of his rustic and earthy tunes. I have started my own music channel online and as a first, I wanted to do a song of his which was very close to my heart and hence chose to do a very different cover version of a song from the Tamil film “Kayal”. The song was launched a week ago in my channel and I was truly overwhelmed to receive a compliment from Imman sir himself.
SU: What would you like to tell the readers as a final note?
YG: For a singer, working with every music director is an altogether different journey by itself and it is a never-ending learning process. The last 4 years have been a roller coaster ride for me with all the studio hopping, meeting music directors and exploring the musician in me! I would like to tell all the wonderful women out there that do not stop learning just because you finished your academics and acquired a degree. Keep exploring by learning new things and gaining knowledge from all sources possible because I strongly believe there is no limit to the knowledge you gain through learning. Always listen to your heart and follow your calling and celebrate your life.
To listen to the beautiful renditions of Yamini Ghantasala, visit her YouTube channel