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Sharing My Journey: A Voice Artist's Story on Southside FM

Radio presenters with an international voice over artist and actor Kavesan Pillay
Devasree Govender & Darshni Pather (SouthsideFM) interview international voice actor, Kavesan Pillay AKA: Voice Artist Kav.

Did you miss out on my inspiring radio interview on Southside FM where I unraveled my journey as a voice artist? Don't worry, I've got you covered! In this article, I'm bringing you the full scoop from that insightful conversation, offering a sneak peek into the world of voice artistry and the adventure that has been my passion for the last decade and some change.

Special thanks to the Southside FM weekend team of Darshni Pather and Devasree Govender for affording me this platform to share my story and hopefully inspire someone somewhere, to chase their own dream.

[SOUTHSIDE FM - SS]: Briefly discuss your journey in the world of voice artistry.

[Voice Artist Kav - VAK]: Oh, my voice journey has been one heck of a rollercoaster ride!

It all started with me annoying my family as a kid by playing what they called “doosh doosh” games, because I’d make weird sound effects and noises like doosh, doosh while animating my toys or just making up characters and scenes around the house to amuse myself. And I guess it also came from imitating cartoon characters as a kid really. I think most kids have the annoying habit of mimicking others. And I just applied that one step further to the TV shows, cartoons and movies I watched where I tried to mimic my favourite characters or just anyone who sounded a little unique. I’ve always been drawn to and observant of the weird, offbeat and absurd side of things (dramatic irony and comedy). I find there’s something magical about embracing differences and for me, it’s all these little quirks that makes life more fun and people more interesting.

I was actually very shy as a kid and was afraid of speaking out to people, which is when my parents enrolled me in speech and drama classes back in early primary school, and that’s what really laid the foundation for my voice artist journey. I’ll always tell people that voice acting is not just reading from a script, which anyone can do. It’s very much about the craft of ACTING which is my true passion, so I was fortunate to get a grounding in the performing arts while very young. It was more just to build my confidence and make me more social, but I dont think I even knew I’d be pursuing it much further than just as an extramural activity.

So yes, speech and drama at primary school, drama academy in high school and doing some local stage productions until matric. And when I moved to Cape Town for my tertiary studies, that’s where I discovered my new love for voice-over, when I joined the campus station, UCT Radio, doing commercials and jingles for the shows, and that’s where Voice Artist Kav was born.

Since then I've had the honor of voicing everything from radio commercials and corporate content to doing in-store announcements, on hold message systems, and experiencing the highlight of my career thus far - representing South Africa at the International Model and Talent Association showcase in New York City in July 2022. IMTA is the biggest independent talent stage in the world, and I walked away with 7 acting awards for my outstanding performaces in my age category of about 120 other international actors.

And now of course I'm back home... hanging out with you guys and the listeners here on Southside FM, hopefully getting to inspire others with my story.

[SS]: What/Who inspired you to become a voice artist?

[VAK]: SO SO MANY INFLUENCES REALLY! Because there are different TYPES of voiceovers right? You have accents of real people, then you have animated characters which are more artistic voices, so I’d say a few inspirations exist rather than any single definitive one.

But the inspiration was always rooted in comedy. I’ve always been a radio junkie and when I was about 5 my dad had this CD of popular 1960s radio dramas I loved with some really wacky characters who taught me that you could be funny even with just your voice. And then the first ever sitcom I watched, which really got me hooked on comedy as a storytelling medium, was when my dad introduced me to the 80s TV show Mind Your Language, and that is where my love for accents and impressions came from.

As far as character voices go, well as a proud 90s kid, I grew up watching LOADS of cartoons and movies (it was a wonderful time to be a kid!). And which kid hasn't tried imitating their favourite cartoon characters right? I was just obsessed enough to stick with it. And while I only learnt who the actors behind these voices were many years later, I’d still say these voices are the ones that really inspired me into voice acting many years later because they just naturally stuck with me for so long.

The Looney Tunes was a major favorite, so iconic voice actor like Mel Blanc, the man of a thousand voices. Hearing him bring characters to life was pure magic. As a big nerd, I love the Star Wars franchise and the character Master Yoda was the first voice I REALLY tried as a kid.

And of course I’m a die-hard fan of Pokemon and DragonBallZ, so all those actors and their characters are still what inspire me today.

So yeah, lots of influences from radio, TV, film, cartoons. There’s inspiration anywhere you look in the world, if you’re observant enough. So make the world your campus and always be a student of people and life, because you never know where your inspiration might come from.

[SS]: Describe some challenges/fears you faced?

[VAK]: Oh, the dreaded voice actor's kryptonite – Imposter Syndrome! I remember thinking, "Do I really have what it takes? Will people like my voice, or will they run for the hills?" But with time and practice, I realised that every voice has its unique charm, including mine. Embracing my quirks and learning from every challenge has been a game-changer.

Also, in voice acting as in many forms of the arts and business, you face a lot of rejection. For me rejection came in the form of prospects who turned me down for work. And while it hurt a lot at first, it helped me gain the skill of resilience because as someone building a brand and running a business, you need to learn how to have a tough skin and bounce back. I realised I couldn’t control these forces that attacked me and my dream, but I could control the way I reacted to them. I told myself the rejection was all a valuable learning experience (in both life and business) of how to pick yourself up from each daily defeat, until you reach your goal. There were auditions that people turned me down for, but which freed me up for an amazing opportunity that would come along right after.

There were prominent online coaches who I approached as a young artist eager to learn, who told me that my voice was not the right fit for the US market, and also that I should (quite offensively mind you!) just consider doing work in India. Despite that challenge and negativity, here I am booking multiple corporate gigs online in the US and even travelled there last year representing South Africa for a talent showcase where I won several acting awards. So don't always believe the haters.

[SS]: What are your thoughts on voice artists in the world of art?

[VAK]: So art isn’t limited to just paintings, drawings or sculptures which people generally think of when one says ART. That’s visual art, which is just one form of expression, but art is vast and the various forms often work together in service of that expression. There’s no painting or sculpture without poetry or storytelling behind it. There’s no movie without good makeup artistry, there’s no voice-over in radio commercials without sound design. Art is an expression of human creative skill and imagination, to be appreciated not just for it’s beauty but for the emotional power that it has to convey a message to connect with people.

I think we have a very important place in the world of art and as with any artist, a responsibility with our talent. A responsibility to stand for more than just pleasure or beauty of our art. Us as performing artists, have the ability to embody characters and bring scripts to life with an authenticity and vulnerability which creates an emotional connection with audiences that transcends time and space. Think about your most memorable movie or TV show characters who made you laugh, cry and ponder. With this craft, us voice artists and actors have the power to inspire, to challenge, and to bring about change with the words we use and the stories they tell.

Whether you’re doing the seemingly average commercials, corporates, or the cooler fictional characters, we are all in the business of storytelling through words, literally giving a voice to ideas that those words represent. There is art in voiceovers because it is expression through words, and words form ideas, ideas make people take action, and taking action leads to change. So our voice has the power to sell, promote, entertain, but also to break down barriers, spark conversations, and ignite movements for change (of various kinds) through the stories we tell. That’s why there is art in voice artistry.

[SS]: If you could convince someone to do voice acting, what would you say?

[VAK]: I actually don't think anyone should be convinced by anyone into doing anything apart from your own inner voice telling you do so because it’s meaningful to YOU specifically in some way. If you have the talent and the passion for this, you will be able to convince yourself.

And the reason I say that is because, this is not a field to get rich fast, to get famous fast. It’s not as glamorous as people make it seem. It’s a slog, it’s a hustle, it’s ridden with rejection and disappointments like any entrepreneurial journey, and it’s about building long-term relationships. And THAT, takes a very specific type of personality to not just get into this field, but to really stick with it. But if you DO stick with it, you’ll find it rewarding in so many ways deeper than just earning money in your pajamas. It's a chance to let your creativity soar and a career path where you get to touch people with something as pure and raw as just your voice - and that is truly a gift.

Embrace your gift and the opportunity it gives you to impact others, don’t only look at what you can gain from it for yourself. Know what you stand for, what’s your brand and how it can add value to others. The irony of this craft, is that we spend most of the time being somebody else, but true success in voice acting lies in finding your own voice, not imitating others. Your uniqueness is your greatest asset." Be fearlessly authentic in your voice and your performances. Embrace your quirks, your imperfections, and your uniqueness, because that is what makes your voice truly magical. Being true to who you are is the most powerful and valuable gift you can offer to the world. So embrace your individuality authentically because as the great poet Oscar Wilde said, "Be yourself; everyone else is already taken."

To follow and support my voice acting journey, follow my Instagram page here: @VoiceArtistKav.
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