50 glorious years of recording “surile” artists
Meet the man who completed 50 years as a sound engineer in 2019 – Mr. Daman Sood. What an amazing feeling it must be! Daman Sood (popularly referred to as Daman-ji) has recorded over a 1000 albums in his career, and is one of the most known names as a sound recording engineer in India.
In 2014, he was also awarded IRAA (Indian Recording Arts Academy) Lifetime Achievement Award at the PALM Expo 2014 in Mumbai for completing 45 years in the music industry.
Here are some excerpts from the converSAtions with him that went on for almost 3 hours! Well, when you a work experience in sound for 50 years, there is still a LOT more to be covered. And it will be in the future parts.
Since we all belong to a very “insecure” industry, where our next project determines if we will survive or not, i’d also like to add a disclaimer here that there is no denying that we have several other talented and senior engineers (including my own father), who have not been under any limelight. The true reward for such talents working behind the scene is if their recordings are well appreciated by music lovers. That’s the only thing that makes any sound engineer truly satisfied.
Lets come back to Mr. Daman Sood, and get some important pointers from what he has to say to students of sound engineering. He says that, “due to an explosion in the entertainment industry over the past few years, the demand for sound engineers has gone up”. As a teacher at an institute himself, he finds that students today themselves have no clue of what they want to do! He has met many who end up becoming half-baked music composers and then, they are usually neither here nor there. He himself wanted to become a cinematographer!; but Mr. Jagat Murari, the then director at FTII (Film and Television Institute of India), Pune, advised him to join the sound engineering faculty as a student as he had an electrical background. Such right guidance and counseling helped Daman-ji become a good engineer.
Strong knowledge of audio and physics of sound is important. But everyone today seems to be in a hurry to start working on “big” projects, without even knowing the basics! Good ears are essential to become a good engineer. However, youngsters today listen to music on small, bad-quality headphones and a bad audio source from mobile devices. This is a problem because the listening reference itself is wrong, and so while recording and mixing, the output will suffer too. Hence, students should listen to music on better / high quality headphones and speakers only.
Alongwith his job, Daman-ji took time out and studied piano under Ms. Shanti Sheldon for 5 years. Why so? Not to become a musician or a performer. He wanted to understand sound even further, and make his ears more musical.
After completing his course at FTII with a gold medal, Daman-ji had to work for 4 years as an assistant in Bombay Sound Services under Shri B. N. Sharma. Today, he says that students want independent jobs the minute they graduate from an institute. No one wants to invest time and effort on learning “on-the-job” by observation and learn under a senior engineer. Patience always pays, says he.
Also, when it comes to handle an artist in the studio or during live shows, or say even during shoots, one has to be very tactful. He gives us a very nice example to understand this. During shoots in the 1960s and even later, the mixer and tape recorder used to be kept in a truck! This truck used to be outside the shooting floor, and was fed by the main power (not a generator). The recording engineer’s job was to make the most out of such limited resources by placing a microphone correctly into mono sources. Once, sound engineer Musabhai was recording the legendary actor, Shri Dilip Kumar. A lot of hiss and rumble was getting recorded inspite of using a dynamic microphone! It was kept 10 feet away from the artiste. Basically, the actor was speaking very softly. Musabhai then held the mic cable and started giving it jerks. Dilip Kumar looked confused on seeing this and asked him what was he was doing? Musabhai replied, “This cable seems to be faulty. Your voice is not reaching my tape recorder properly. So I am trying to check the fault.” Being an intelligent actor, Dilip Kumar got the message, smiled and started speaking louder from the very next take! What a wonderful way of passing the message instead of giving a direct instruction. This example shows respect shared and given by both sides.
Managing artists (singers, actors, voice overs, musicians) even today is as important as it is to record them well. And to do this, one has to be graceful, learn from others by observation and that comes only with years of experience. And with so many engineers around, losing a client today means you’ve lost them for life!
Daman-ji is not very active as a sound engineer nowadays, but is totally tuned into what is happening in the digital world too! Though even this age, he is an educator at Digital Academy in Mumbai today.
He advises engineers to focus on increasing their knowledge, reading magazines and to experiment more in their free time, not to waste free studio time on social media, and just networking to get more work. They need to use their time to polish their skills.
There is a lot more he can share and he has done so in our podcasts (hear the SoundCloud links above). Just 800+ words here cannot justify his experiences. So more will come.
We at SudeepAudio.com celebrate Daman-ji’s glorious 50 years spent as a sound engineer and wish him good health always.