‘Privileged to dream’, Qatar girl hopes to become international music name

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Focused on her passion, Gayathri Karunakar Menon, is thankful to her parents and relatives for supporting her journey as a musician and feels on top of the world on winning the prestigious award for song-writing at the Berklee College of Music
By Lakshmana Venkat Kuchi

Young and talented, Doha girl of Indian origin, Gayathri Karunakar Menon, thanks her grounding in Qatar and the facilities in schools she attended there to her blossoming as an award-winning song writer. She has recently won the ‘2020 Songs for Social Change’ contest held by the renowned Music Conservatory – The Berklee College of Music. It was her lyrics for the song, ‘Privilege to Dream’ that helped her pip contestants from across the globe.

Gayathri’s parents moved to Doha, Qatar in the 1990s and she is very happy for the opportunities she got in the country, as also the chances her parents gave her to pursue her passion – of music.  In an exclusive interview with 24x7qatar.com, Gayathri says she wants to grow as a musician and would love to tell her stories in the form of lyrics for popular songs and singers from the West. At present, she is a doing her double majors in Songwriting and Contemporary Writing and Production from the Berklee College of Music, Boston, USA.

Excerpts from the interview:

Lakshmana Venkat Kuchi: Congratulations on winning the prestigious award. Who is your inspiration for turning to creative pursuits rather than the traditional route of tried and tested career options?

Gayathri Karunakar Menon: Thank you! Apart from multiple musical influences, I am inspired by my dad, and my aunt and uncle, who are musicians themselves. They encouraged me to choose this path.

LVK: How important was winning the contest for you? And what, specifically, were you thinking of when you were scripting the lyrics of the award-winning song?

Gayathri: My family moved to Qatar from India in the 90s. This song is about our experiences as expatriates. It’s an honor to win this contest among many talented writers, and to have my story heard and acknowledged. It is a sign that our community is open-minded and willing to listen to those with diverse stories.

LVK: Who according to the existing set of musicians or solo artists can do perfect justice to your song? Or, would you be also singing it? As your own?

Gayathri: I would love to hear the artist H.E.R perform this song. I have a version of my song on my SoundCloud, but I don’t think I’ll be rerecording another version.

LVK: Have you written more songs?

Gayathri: Yes, I have! I’ve been writing regularly for about four years now, so I have quite a few songs in my catalogue.

LVK: Now tell us a bit about your schooling and education and what encouraged you to take up the creative pursuit of music?

Gayathri: Around the 9th grade, I realised that every career option I looked into seemed to be a backup plan for a career in music. My mom encouraged me to go for it and study music because she thought that it wasn’t worth spending money on something that I’m not emotionally invested in.

I’m currently a senior at Berklee College of Music. This is my final year at Berklee. I am a dual major in Songwriting and Contemporary Writing and Production. I did their five-week summer program during my final year of school, and auditioned for their degree program. I was accepted with a scholarship, and enrolled in 2017. Berklee has connected me to a lot of wonderful people and given me some great opportunities.

LVK: How are your parents and folks back in Qatar taking your achievement? And what about your friends and relatives in India?

Gayathri: My parents, friends and extended family are always very supportive of what I do, and they are quite proud. I am very grateful to all of them.

LVK: How much of Covid-affected are you and your pursuits? How do you intend to get over and move ahead in your chosen field, once you graduate from the Music school?

Gayathri: I am fortunate to have an extended family in the US, so I have been able to stay with them during the pandemic. Therefore, the pandemic hasn’t impacted me financially. I am very grateful for that. As far as work is concerned, things are slower because we’re all isolating. But I have been doing writing sessions over Zoom on a regular basis. After I finish school, I hope to move to New York and grow as an artist and songwriter.

LVK: What is next for Gayathri?

Gayathri: I would love move to New York next year after I graduate. I hope to apply for my artist visa so I can continue to live here in the US. I would like to build a career as an artist and a songwriter, and write for other artists as well.

LVK: What are your other interests? Do you see yourself as writing songs for Indian films? Or in the western entertainment industry?

Gayathri: Writing is a huge passion for me, and a huge reason for that is my love for the English language. It is how I best express myself. I don’t think I can write in Indian languages as I feel like I wouldn’t be able to do justice to it. So as of now, I see myself working in the West.

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