We speak to musician Akhil Kodamanchili about his work and his new initiative, The Sounds Within, a platform to educate and connect people from across the world with alternative approaches to music-making and learning.
Please tell us a little bit about your work and your approach to music.
My work lately has been oriented towards pushing the boundaries of music while finding a healthy place within the industry from which to contribute towards shaping the culture of learning and making music. I am intrigued by the vastness of music, and while I accept that it would be impossible to experience it all, I think there are ways to maximize the experiences that we have within our finite lifetimes. With The Sounds Within I hope to start relevant conversations with people genuinely looking for a space to come together to share each of their unique perspectives, with full freedom for constructive criticism; I would love for it to become a think-tank for musicians. I also have an alternative rock project called No Hero where I conduct my musical experiments.
Where are you currently based and what led you to create The Sounds Within?
I am currently based out of Bangalore and shuttle between cities often. During my time as a student in music school, and during every bit of schooling that I’ve been through, I was constantly perplexed by the different ways in which instruction was administered, and how different students and myself responded to this. It helped me understand that the way you learn something really influences the way you use that concept or skill. I figure that the ability to objectively unlearn could be the easiest way to master effective self-governed learning. I think of myself as someone who is really trying to emphasize this and am trying to help more people (musicians and listeners alike) understand this as well, especially through my work with The Sounds Within.
I’m a huge fan of the way in which the internet allows us to interact with others. I personally use it to learn so many things every day, and I think it overcomes many obstacles that in-person interactions would cause, logistically and otherwise. So while there are many benefits to teaching in person, teaching through the internet has to be considered as well if you want to truly have a global impact in this day and age. That’s the future of teaching and many other industries.
This is at the core of The Sounds Within. I really want to share my experiences and learnings through e-books, videos and other formats but I also felt the need for a forum or space where others have the ease and freedom to share information and learn without necessarily depending on a textbook or a course. The idea is that the forum would provide people from around the world the chance to actually inspire and inform each other’s experiences, and from there would come ideas for new workshops, projects and other creative pursuits.
The Sounds Within is also currently developing customizable workshop modules for schools to plug into their music departments.
Did you have any formal training in to music or design?
With music, yes — I have an advanced diploma in music and technology from Selkirk College, British Columbia, Canada. With design and most other things, I am raised by the internet and curiosity.
What came first, music or design?
Design came first — I’ve been doodling since the fifth grade, and music only happened in the tenth grade. On a whim, my dad decided to help me out, buying me my first guitar. I didn’t really play it for three months, but it was to emerge later in my life. In the beginning I had quite a romanticized sense of what making music might be, and I was wrong. I then learned how to tune my guitar, spent time learning the music of Linkin Park music and listening to the work of guitarists like Yngwie Malmsteen, who at the time simply blew my mind. I began recording myself and things fell into place on their own for a while. I think learning music is a lot faster for me thanks to my experience with design. The internet has been a huge learning resource and also a source of exposure to fantastic music. So The Sounds Within is also definitely my effort to give back to a community that I learnt a lot from.
With your own creative works as well as with The Sounds Within, you’re basically in charge of everything. Why?
I love collaborating, but am quite the introvert on most days. Now, I’m better at socializing and getting meaningful outputs, but I used to find it uncomfortable syncing my pace with others — either I was falling behind or vice versa. There’s also always the matter of matching incentives. There have been consequences to doing everything myself — some mistakes and poor production quality. There has been a ton of good too; I’ve learnt a lot of lessons from the mistakes. This back-and-forth process of collaborating and working alone has basically become second nature to me. I also enjoy working on everything sometimes just to get a feel for what all goes into the expression, production and consumption of music and art.
Are you skeptical of the scene?
I am definitely skeptical because I am aware of my own character flaws, which, I’ve found, insidiously get in the way. But this stuff is always relative — some people think they are working really hard, but that might not match someone else’s definitions, and that really doesnt mean either is necessarily doing something wrong. I am very sensitive to other people’s work ethics and am most comfortable collaborating with people who have open minds with enough discipline to bring out their creativity harmoniously with other members of a project.
Independent artists are often either unaware or dismissive of a lot of business and legal basics of their professions — as a music entrepreneur, do you find this to hold true?
Dilution of information is a big problem — the pool is full of information, which is great, but it is too vast. It’s not possible for everyone to tap into everything. Unrealistic marketing has really caused a lot of trouble wherein everything has a commercial agenda that overstates its value, whether it is genuinely efficient or not — so the next greatest whatever is most likely just another average rendition trying to make a sale. This makes getting good information towards building a good business really challenging.
What about mentorship?
Mentorship is great, but it is a luxury; something that I think we all should hopefully have a few times across our lives. In today’s world, you could have a online mentor for sure via video, e-books, or blogs, and perhaps this would lead you to real-life mentors and peers. The opportunities available to share information effectively are the greatest thus far thanks to technology, and we only need to build a self-regulating system that propagates and accelerates learning of all kinds.
Can we access The Sounds Within?
The website is currently a month away from exiting its beta phase and entering its first fully functional phase by mid-October or early November. Follow us on the social media platform of your choice, or via email on our website at and we’ll let you in on the latest!