Pravin Saivi has a superpower. He has the ability to turn people into music lovers. It is not because he talks about music so passionately, not even his mesmerizing voice as he strums his nylon guitar. It is his hypnotizing love for performing that seems to seep out of his pores and into his audience.
Pravin is one of the few Singaporean artists to have broken into the Tamil music industry. Following a stint on Vijay TV’s Super Singer, he has now become a household name in the Tamil music fraternity
Pravin opens up to Varnam about going from a Singaporean audience to the Tamil music industry, and finally having the world be his oyster.
He was a pub singer, before he reached the legal drinking age
“I grew up in a musical household, my dad was a composer and flautist. He founded one of Singapore’s oldest Indian orchestras, Febra Music Party, before being invited to run the SBC (now Mediacorp) Indian orchestra,” Pravin tells us that he only decided to go into music full-time after his dad passed on.
“Performing has always been my thing. I started off as a pub singer when I was 17, and the legal age to enter the pub was 18! The late musician Rishi Kumar was my mentor at the time,”
“Performing has always been my thing.”
Pravin then went on to work at the Armed Forces Music and Drama Company, during his National Service.
“While I was in Singapore, I managed to make ends meet with music. I was very active in television and theater. Won a few competitions as well. In fact, I was the first Tamil artiste to cross over from the Vasantham, the Tamil channel to the English Channel 5,”
Pravin also worked with Singaporean legends, Mohd Raffee and his brothers Mohd Bashir Syed and Mohd Noor. “Mohd Noor was the one who brought me into this whole artistic journey, really,” he shares
He was the dark horse of Super Singer
The year was 2010. Sivakarthikeyan could only dream of being an actor, and he was hosting Vijay TV’s Super Singer. The reality singing competition featured international contestants in addition to Indian singers.
Pravin reminisces, “I had no idea what Super Singer was! My mum and sister asked me to audition in Singapore, and I decided to give it a shot, and ended up being selected on the spot,”
“In Chennai, I saw the talent that I was up against, and I knew that I couldn’t compete musically. That’s when I went all out as a performer,” Pravin says it was easy for him, as he was already comfortable in front of the camera.
“The producers of Super Singer also knew that I had all this experience, so they allowed me to express myself with my guitar,” Pravin’s boisterous, modern renditions of Tamil songs earned him an overall 8th place in the singing competition. He also won the Best Overseas Contestant and Best Entertainer awards.
He moved to India to make music
“This is my 8th year being based in Chennai. I married my beautiful wife a year after Super Singer, and we moved here. I tour with my band, Pravin Saivi and Friends, and do collaborations with other artists, it really is something I love.”
“Moving to Chennai really was a culture shock. And honestly, it was just the little things that got to me, like there isn’t a 7-11, and you can’t just go out at 2am to have an iced Milo. That was hard initially,”
“…like there isn’t a 7-11, and you can’t just go out at 2am to have an iced Milo”
On the flip side, he has mastered his mother tongue. “English has always been my first language, I think in English. So it took a while but I began to speak more Tamil after moving here. I have sort of mastered the mother tongue enough to speak to people of all walks of life,”
“Lifestyle wise, it was a big switch. I literally went from please don’t horn to please horn. But you know, Chennai grows on you. It is fantastic to be living here doing what i love to do.”
He is happy to pursue his passion in Chennai
Nevertheless, Pravin is happy. “Growing up in such an economically driven country like Singapore, you tend to focus more on the economics of living life, than pursuing your passion.”
“After Super Singer, I realized there is some potential to be on an international scale,”
“I can live a much better lifestyle in chennai than in singapore as a musician”
But does it make monetary sense to move to India from Singapore? Pravin is honest, “Funnily enough, a third world country pays artists better than a developed nation. I grew up thinking that life in a Singapore HDB (Housing Development Board) would be enough to lead a normal life. But here, I can live a much better lifestyle. I have a beach side villa, a cook, a domestic helper, and I don’t need to take public transport. Life is good,” he smiles.
“The crucial difference is that here, musicians are perceived differently compared to Singapore,” We couldn’t agree more.
He doesn’t think he’s in the music business anymore
“I’m not in the music business, I’m in the feelings business,” he says. “Best part about all of this is that people are very accepting. They know who you are, and they embrace you for that, it’s very reassuring. I work with emotions and feelings. You’ve got to feel good before making others feel good!”
“It’s really special to do what you love to do AND be able to take care of the people around you.”
He has worked with some incredible names, but remains humble
Pravin has performed for AR Rahman as well as Illayaraaja. He has worked with Harris Jayaraj, Chitra, Malgudi Suba, Mano, Jithan Raj, Premgi Amaren and his good friend, Sathyaprakash among many other established musicians. “I work with Rajesh Vaidhya when he wants harmony arrangements or a guitarist. The man is brilliant, everything he touches turns to gold!”
Pravin also toured with SP Bala, and performed in London’s Wembley Arena where he was called out by the veteran singer for his spectacular work. He works closely with Simbu and he’s been actively involved in the composing and background score work of Oviya’s 90ML.
Pravin was the music director and composer for the 2014 film, Puthiathor Ulagam Seivom. He also acted in the film. He has composed the music for two upcoming films, Peiku Mariyathai where he features ADK and Sri Rascol, and Saavadi.
And yet, he is that exact same guy you would see on the television. No airs, no uppity celebrity aura. He is just an extremely talented chap who genuinely loves making music.
He loves A Cappella thanks to the diversity of Singapore
Pravin can be dubbed the King of Tamil A Cappella. His arrangements have been performed on Super Singer, and he even did one highlighting AR Rahman’s 25 year musical journey that went viral.
“Vijay TV reaches the villages of Tamil Nadu, and the people there are not exposed to any A Cappella, so they thought I discovered it!” he says, bewildered.
“Harmonies are close to my heart, I grew up surrounded by diversity. It is how we unite in spite of all our differences, how we all belong that really appeals to me. We all are different but we sound fantastic as one,”
He has his own A Cappella ensemble, just like Pentatonix!
Because of his intense love for A Cappella music, Pravin scouted for talents to form his own A Cappella team. “I shared a casual video about 6 months ago, saying that I needed 20 passionate singers who want to do A Cappella with me. I wanted to get my arrangements out there,” Pravin tells us that he was overwhelmed by the response he received.
“About 400 people responded from all over the world. They were willing to come and stay in Chennai just to be a part of this!” Pravin finally narrowed it down to 20 people and the Pravin Saivi Vocal Ensemble (PSVE) was born.
The team plans to shoot 3 music videos and release them over the next couple of months. “PSVE is really an avenue to share, and to get our arrangements out there,”
He strongly believes that music is a full time job
He opines, “I don’t believe in exploring the art form part-time, how do you explore the ocean part-time? Would you ever want to be treated by a part-time cardiologist?”
“Music is a full-time job. It is a passion that you need to work towards. I am so lucky to be able to do this full-time, to share music and continue learning,”
He wants more indie Tamil music in the scene
“For close to 100 years now, the commercial Tamil music industry has been solely driven by cinemas. Some people from rural areas still refer to songs by the actors who lip sync to them,”
“Music should not be defined by cinema. Artists should be free to express themselves with indie music, alongside cinema songs. Only in India are we still adhering to film soundtracks,”
“Having lived and worked here for the past 8 years, I’ve come to realize that playback singing is the least of my priority. It is important to be a part of the fraternity, but I don’t want to limit myself to just cinema music,” Pravin goes on to say that while the Tamil music industry is definitely on the right track to support independent artists, it will still take time.
“Ultimately, if you make good music, people will find it. People know what they want and with this market, they will definitely find it,” Pravin himself has gone from being known for Vijay TV, to Super Singer, and then Airtel, and then labelled Singaporean. “I am glad that now I have grown past these labels, and am just Pravin Saivi,”
His heart is on the stage
At his core, Pravin identifies himself as a performer. “I have always been on stage, taking songs apart and injecting my own arrangements. And mind you, this wasn’t very well received back then! This was before covers of songs became a thing,”
“I am a musical whore, i just do anything, as long as i have the time for it!”
“It is such a surreal feeling to get calls from people who you have watched on television, saying that they want you to perform for their private events. I take on shows where I am given the VIP’s favourite songs and I have to covers of these tunes. It is a very niche job in the music industry, and I always put quality before quantity. I absolutely love it.”
He tells aspiring singers to be the best version of themselves
“I always try to be the best version of myself, and that’s what I will tell budding musicians too.
The only constant Pravin’s life has been music. He urges everyone to look for that one thing, “The one thing that you do but you lose sense of time, focus on that. And I don’t mean music, it can be anything! Know that you’re on the right step when you’ve found that, and work towards it,”
The one thing that you do but you lose sense of time, focus on that. And I don’t mean music, it can be anything!
His newest tune, Kaathaley, has just released on YouTube.
Pravin’s Valentines Day treat is Kaathaley, a beautiful tune that he wrote, composed, arranged, sung. The song features Aalaap Raju on bass and vocals as well as drum virtuoso Kumaran SS. Kaathaley also has Pravin on the nylon guitar.
“Being able to inspire and make people feel good about themselves, that’s what i live for,” You certainly do, Pravin Saivi.