Music and Physics – sounds like quite an odd pair. An average person would probably think of the two as very distinct and opposite areas of interest. However, Dr. C Karthik has managed to achieve the seemingly impossible. He is a musician with a Ph.D. in Soft Condensed Matter Physics.
“Since early days of my life, I was passionate about two things. One of them was teaching/research and the other was music. Since my school days, I enjoyed teaching students and my favorite subject was Physics.”
Starting with his flourishing career in Physics – Dr. C Karthik was among the five students who got selected for the University Grant Commission – Basic Scientific Research (UGC-BSR) junior research fellowship in March 2012 in Physics department at BITS, Pilani. He has since got 5 research papers in peer-reviewed international journals and 4 international and national conference research papers. He has also done paper presentations in 9 different international and national conferences, including one in Japan and invited talk recently at Orlando, the USA in February earlier this year. An upcoming invited talk of him will be at the 5th World Congress of Advanced Materials (WCAM) in June at Chongqing, China.
“Music always relieved me of all the pressures and stress in my life. The support, encouragement and appreciation from my parents, teachers and friends always helped and motivated me to learn new aspects of music and constantly improve my performances. Doing teaching/research and music together at the same time was always a challenge and I enjoyed each and every moment of this journey.”
His music career began at a much earlier age. His mother was his first inspiration who used to teach him bhajans and shlokas at a very small age which was instrumental in developing his music interest. At the tender age of 13, he became a disciple of Late Ustad Manik Chandji from Jodhpur Gharana and started learning Hindustani classical music. At Birla Institute of Technology and Sciences (BITS), Pilani, Dr. C Karthik held onto his passion and actively involved himself in all the activities of Spic Macay (Pilani Chapter).
His enthusiasm for music led him to become the founder of GURUKUL, Department of music at BITS, Pilani in 2008. He started learning Hindustani classical music and completed his diploma in Hindustani vocal music with distinction in both practical and theory from Prayag Sangeet Samiti, Allahabad in 2012. He taught at GURUKUL from 2011 to 2015, giving more than 100 musical performances during the last 10 years.
“When you do something in life which interests you, you never feel the burden of doing it. I always loved teaching/research and music. By God’s grace, I was always able to strike a balance between my studies/research and music. Doing research satisfied my urge to keep learning new things; while teaching and music gave me an opportunity to interact and communicate with various people. Teaching always gave me the satisfaction of contributing to the development of society in my own small way and music performances gave me immense pleasure… One thing that was common in both the fields was my constant urge to keep learning, gain knowledge and sharing the same with others.”
At the age of 7, he was put in a hostel and faced the difficulties of meeting the expectations of being independent at such a young age. The second biggest challenge was the starting of a music department at BITS, Pilani. New ideas and new ventures always face stiff challenges. There were already two departments which were related to music; “Music Club” and “Raagmalika”. Hence, it took immense persuasion to convince the authorities about the different layout which was adopted while building GURUKUL. Eventually, the hard work and perseverance paid off. According to Dr. C Karthik, it was a difficult journey for all, but determination and persistence were the two key factors in building GURUKUL.
“Life is always full of challenges. The person who is ready to do hard work and has self-belief would always overcome all the problems in life. The best thing about a failure is that it is never permanent. So, if you fail, you will definitely be successful sometimes. It’s just that sometimes life tests your character. I failed a number of times in life, but my willpower was very strong. I was always ready to fight and come out of any adverse situation. The key mantra was that I always believed in myself.”
With GURUKUL, the students of BITS, Pilani who are passionate and keen in learning music now have a platform to learn music. GURUKUL has come a long way since its inception in 2008. GURUKUL now invites popular musicians/bands from all over India to come and share their experiences and teach techniques to the students at BITS Pilani. It also organizes competitions every year to encourage students to show their talent such as Battle of bands, Drums Duel during OASIS and Tunagram during APOGEE at BITS, Pilani. Every year GURUKUL holds four concerts, ranging from Indian pop, Sufi, Semi-Classical to Classical music, Ghazals and Western music. At present GURUKUL has more than 100 members.
“It was always my dream to start a record music label since early days of my graduation. During the development of GURUKUL at BITS, Pilani, I realized that there is no dearth of talent in India, but there are people who are in search of right kind of place where their talent can be further nurtured and they can get that launching pad for their music careers. So, I decided to start a new record music label company.”
After completing his Ph.D. and the experience of Gurukul he started his own music label Gurukul Music Creations (GMC). The first song released by Gurukul Music Creations, “Tu aisa aa gaya” was a duet with another upcoming talent Anjum Mehta and was arranged, mixed and mastered by Rithik Madhavan. The other two songs were arranged, mixed and mastered by Dr. Karthik himself. He has written lyrics for the two melodious songs; “Tu aisa aa gaya” & “O baware” and has had the opportunity to sing for a Tamil advertisement (jingle) in 2015. In the coming years, GMC will focus on bringing upcoming singers, composers, arrangers and lyricist as well as training students who are passionate and want to learn music.
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Keeping true to his inquisitive nature, he joined Dr. A.R. Rahman’s foundation, KM Music Conservatory at Chennai after completing his Ph.D. to further improve his musical skills. He completed his Certificate in vocal performance (Western classical music) and Electronic music production from KMMC.
“My stay at KMMC helped me in gaining valuable experience, training, and knowledge in music. This one year at Chennai helped me in experiencing and understanding the working and various aspects of the music industry.”
Dr. C Karthik is a live example of how one can achieve anything they desire to (even if it’s mastering two completely different areas of work), as long as you work hard towards it. I think what we all can learn from him is that we should never feel limited – there is always something more that you can do. His thirst for knowledge and drive for building a new music platform has brought him to where he is today.
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We would like to thank Dr. C Karthik for giving us an insight into his life and this heart-warmingly inspiring story. We wish you exceptional success for all your future endeavors!
Links to Karthik’s Work:-