Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Here’s to a bright new Day

Rapper Billy Day delights fans with his thumping beats and energetic performances

By Shevlin Sebastian

Billy Day was in Chennai when the tsunami struck on December 26, 2004. "I saw Ambassador cars floating about and people clinging to trees on Marine Drive," he says. "It had a huge impact on me."

A few days later, when Billy was walking towards a restaurant for lunch, the words, 'Maybe we cannot bring back the lost lives, maybe it's easier to die than cry' came to his mind.

He thought to himself, 'Oh man, a song is coming!' Billy started working on the lyrics and, within two months, the song, 'Waves of compassion' was released, to critical and popular acclaim. It was ranked No. 1 for four weeks on numberonemusic.com and received airplay all over the world.

Here are a couple of stanzas:

Where do we turn when the tide has spoken?
What do ya say when the silence is broken?
The day the waves became a watery grave
The sun went black and our lives turned gray.

The weeping, the wailing, the terror, the screaming,
Tsunami hit ... and we all come crashing down.
We really need another wave - a wave of compassion,
Sweeping across every tongue, colour and nation.

Billy also sings songs of love and happiness. "I make positive music, because there is a lot of negative stuff going on," he says. "Music can change people's moods. I try to inspire hope, goodwill, and compassion."

Billy, who sings a repertoire of hip-hop/rock and pop, was in Kochi recently to give a concert to numerous youngsters. Asked why he mixes up the genres, he says, "It increases my creativity and gets me a wider audience."

IT consultant, Santosh John, 29, who attended the concert, says, "Billy's performance was electrifying. Since he was singing hip-hop, we could relate to what he was singing."

Chartered accountant, Ruth Susan Stanley, 22, found that the words of the songs were very meaningful. “I liked 'I Found Love' the most," she says.

Most of Billy's songs are popular with young people and he has a keen insight into their psychological make-up. "What I have noticed among youngsters these days is that there is a lot of hype about being false, or trying to act cool, so that you are accepted," he says. "I always tell them to be authentic."

Billy grew up in Nagercoil, Chennai and Bangalore, the son of Prakash Yesudian, who has composed Tamil songs. However, he only started learning the guitar when he was in Class five.

"I started late, but I developed a deep passion for music," he says. "My parents encouraged me. I had a personal tutor to teach me." After graduating in English from Madras Christian College, he struggled for many years. "There was a lot of frustration," he says. "However, the bottom-line is to be faithful to your talent and follow your dreams."

His first break came when his song, 'I Found Love' was featured in the album 'WoW India' in 2002 (www.billyday.in). Thereafter, in the next few years, Billy did numerous concerts across the length and breadth of India.

Billy experienced a creative turning point when he met John Schlitt, the lead singer of the multi-Grammy award-winning group, Petra, who had come on a tour of India in May this year. Billy was supposed to be the master of ceremonies; however, when there was a delay during a concert at Kohima, the organisers requested him to play. "I did a couple of songs and John was listening in the green room," says Billy. "He immediately said, 'I want this guy to open at every concert.'"

Thereafter, Billy travelled with John all over India and imbibed songwriting wisdom from the master. "John said that when you write, you should keep your target audience in mind," he says. "If a song has to be a hit, the lyrics should complement the music, and vice versa. The song also has to connect with the listener."

Billy is excited about the craft of writing. "You can bang wood together and make a chair," he says. "Or you can do it in a calm way, and concentrate on style and texture. I really work hard on my lyrics." He is now working on bringing out his first album, which will contain 15 of his best songs.

Surprisingly, for a rapper, Billy is based in Kodaikanal, where he is the web master of the Kodaikanal International School and lives there with his wife, Beth, and six-year-old son, Micah.

Asked why he changed his surname from Yesudian to Day, he smiles and says, "Two reasons. Firstly, I was born on May Day. Secondly, people found it difficult to pronounce Yesudian. The new surname is easy to remember - like Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Billy Day."

(Copyright: The New Indian Express, Kochi)

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