My Musical Journey - 4 Decades of Happiness !
Updated: Jan 10
It all started somewhere in the early 80s, while in the fifth/ sixth grade in school, I began subconsciously tapping on everything I came across- Be it tabletops, utensils, books and any wood/metal surface. The tapping resulted lead to imitating rhythm patterns of songs that used to keep playing on All India Radio’s Vividh Bharti. This soon became integral to me.
In the year 1981, when I was twelve, a family friend, who was visiting our house, observed this and asked about my interest in music. This family friend who saw the spark in me, was Mr. Ravi Advani from Ulhasnagar, who then gifted me an old “Bongo” instrument that was rusted, worn-out and unused but meant the world to me, since it was the first time, I owned a proper music instrument.
The week after, Mr. Ravi Advani invited me to Ulhasnagar Balkan-ji-Bari. Back then, they used to gather children from neighbourhood and teach moral lessons like community living and social etiquettes. These sessions were conducted every Sunday morning and ended with a prayer song. He taught me how to play the Bongo for the prayer song. That was the start of my Musical Journey.
Soon, within a year of self- practice, I began playing on then popular songs like “Sar jo tera chakaraye” and “Oh Mere Sona Re” and so on.
In the year 1982, during my eighth grade in school, I got my first chance to play the Bongo at the annual day event scheduled in the month of December. I believe, this was my first experience in dealing with stage fright– The adrenalin rush running through my nerves, accompanied by sweaty palms and shivering legs. All this followed by the ultimate joy and fulfilment after the performance. That’s when I decided to pursue Music and learn for a lifetime. Today I proudly complete 40 years of my beautiful journey of performing on Stage, since the age of 13.
THE LEARNING CURVE
With the jest to learn, I began scouting people who teach music, perform professionally and started sneaking into social events to watch them perform. Here, I met a godfather in my life, who helped me find a music teacher to learn the Tabla. It was a tough instrument to pick up, the lessons were technical and I was more inclined towards western rhythm beat. I quit learning table and I still regret not learning this beautiful instrument.
I continued my journey with Bongo until in 1986, I found a teacher who could teach me Drums- Mr. Dilip Desai from Thane, a veteran drummer who used to take home tuitions. I began travelling to Thane by train and take Drumming lessons from him. Unfortunately, I had to drop out of this class due to financial constraints, but the few lessons he gave me were enough and I continued practicing at home. I had no money to buy an expensive drum so my teacher taught me how to practice drumming using a pillow which was freely available at home. Eventually I could manage to get a practice pad fabricated out of metal plate and rubber sheet of worn-out tyres, a self-made drumming practice pad.
I began playing professionally in small events, stage shows, mini orchestras in Ulhasnagar, on borrowed drum, gaining some more stage experience. This period was marred with lot of objections from my parents as they thought being a musician is not worthy and considered it like a taboo. Whenever I was seen practicing at home, I had to face lot of resentment and scolding to stop focusing on music. But – Ek baar jo commitment kar di, phir apne baap ki bhi nahi sunta..
THE TURNING POINT
So, during this entire journey of music from table-tapping to playing drums, (1980 to 1989), I was also playing professional cricket in my region and doing extremely well. In the year 1989, I got recruited in Central Bank of India, started playing cricket for the bank with the B- Team of CBI. I was overjoyed to find out that the bank had a Music team and preparations for an upcoming “All India Inter Bank Music Competition” are underway. I and my little Bongo immediately sprung in action again. I was offered a chance to be in the team, to play the bongo for group songs. This competition was held in Baroda.
While I continued playing cricket and music for Central Bank of India, a great friend, Mr. Pramod Panicker, who was a seasoned musician, ghazal singer and teacher – pushed me to learn drums again. I reached out to Mr. Dilip Desai and began my journey with drums again.
MY FIRST INSTRUMENT
As a child, we had financial constraints in the family, working hard to meet ends and I could not afford a drumkit for myself. So, I began hatching plots on how I could do that. I started hunting for a good drumkit all over Mumbai. I began meeting friends, scouted music shops all over Mumbai.
My search ended because of the divine support by a popular Musical Instruments dealer, Mr. Sadrubhai Merchant, father of today’s well knows music composer duo “Salim Sulaiman”. Sadrubhai had a 7-piece pre-owned drumkit with him which he happily agreed to sell it to me on deferred payment.
I managed to arrange some money by selling my dad’s scooter (without his knowledge) and some belongings, borrowings from my friends and finally, successfully set up my drumkit at home.
THE LIFTOFF & CRASH
I had a cool drumkit, the best one in town back then, steadily I was all over the place playing drums for various bands, groups, artists as a freelance drummer. I made a lot of friends and acquaintances on the way along and the learning from each one I met on stage was constantly overwhelming and added value to my knowledge of music.
Simultaneously, I was touring with the Bank’s Music group, participating in Regional and National level Inter Bank Music Competitions – which was completely non-commercial music and focused on Indian Classical, Folk and Instrumental music.
I must say that these were the foundation years of me listening to a plethora of classical artists, understanding the nuances of various Ragas, learning new things by long discussions with peers and diving deep into the enticing world of music. I could feel my foundation getting stronger by the day and I was filled with gratitude. Here I met and gained abundant knowledge from senior classical musicians like Sudheer Pote (well known classical singer of Jaipur Gharana), Munjal Mehta (Gujarat’s Gaurav – renowned tabla player and guru), Rustom Karwa (India’s top Harmonica player) and may more associates.
From 1990 until end of 1994, I was one of the busiest artists in my region, performing almost over 250 days a year, travelling to various locations with my day job at the bank, as well as playing cricket.
During this period I got associated with very popular and seasoned stage artists like Umakant Parab (one of the top rhythmists of Bollywood), Richard Mithra (Ace guitarist and music arranger), Manish Kulkarni (India’s top bass guitarist), Shyam Edwankar (renowned rhythm player), Raju Kulkarni, Bala Deshpande, Sanjay Marathe, Manoj and Datta Shivling and many such great musicians, singers and performers. When I look back today at this period, it still brings lot of happiness and nostalgic memories.
In 1994, I took a transfer to Pune region and it was then that I realized, that I had to forego both my passions together, Cricket and Music. Pune that time, did not have too many opportunities in commercial music plus there was no place for me in Pune’s cricket team of the bank.
I was heartbroken. My musical journey stopped with screeching brakes and after a struggle for two years with a desk job, I quit the bank in 1997 to start my entrepreneurial journey.
I started my small business in the IT sector and then slowly grew in the BPO industry until 2003 when I got an opportunity to migrate back to Mumbai for my career. I got a chance to reconnect with my music buddies and rekindle my musical aspirations. It was almost a decade break from active playing, even though I dint stop hobby playing in Pune.
After such a long break and no access to my drumkit (I sold off my drumkit in 1996 to a friend), I had no inclination to buy another drumkit and start playing – also the world had moved to electronics and it was the era of Octopads and electric drums had emerged. I was never keen to play for the love of acoustic rhythm instruments.
I reconnected with some friends and began planning my musical journey again. During this time, I was working for a large MNC, heading a few departments and therefore my work schedule did not permit me to actively get on the stage.
I spotted an opportunity and started to conduct Team Building Activities through music (now known as Drum Circles) in 2003. I started with my own organization and then was being called by other companies in Mumbai to do the same for them.
I then met an old acquaintance Kedar Bhagat who was working on a motivational music album for my organization and we reconnected with some old trivia and memories. We decided to meet again and plan collaborate in terms of music.
I had to shift to Goa for few years due to my work and I was away from Mumbai but still in touch with people and reconnecting slowly with the industry. I established some important musical contacts in Goa during these years.
I came back to Mumbai in 2007 and slowly got into deejaying, playing percussions and I was one of the pioneers of playing percussions along with deejaying. I began performing in high-end events, clubs and music festivals worldwide. This was the beginning of performing on international stage.
Around 2009, I reconnected with Kedar again on the sets of a TV reality show where he was conducting auditions, listening to upcoming talent and selecting them for a TV Show. This was quite interesting to experience. Our association started to nurture into a partnership and we both planned my first album, a remix of 8 popular songs of our inspiration “R. D. Burman”. This album, named “Aaj ki Raat” was a beautiful journey, that connected me with more musicians, singers, arrangers and sound engineers, forging a strong friendship slowly. We all are still connected very closely and meet weekly.
At the end of 2010, I travelled to Delhi with Kedar and other friends, who were conducting auditions for a popular TV reality show. They were working and I was just faffing around in the audition center, while enjoying the experience. As the crowd was growing, I offered to volunteer and help conduct some auditions if I was given instruction about the procedure. This experience was super exciting as well as encouraging since I could help my friends.
This began my new journey in TV Reality Shows and I was officially included in the auditions team for many TV shows like Indian Idol, Indian Idol Junior, SaReGaMa, The Voice India, Singing Superstar, India’s got Talent and more.
These auditions were an enriching experience since, I could make a difference to some upcoming talent, helping and guiding them thru the process. It was a privilege being a part of the team who puts them on the global stage of TV Shows.
A lot of current popular singers were auditioned by me during this journey which lasted till 2018. This gave birth to my Talent Management company called “Harmony Talent” which me and Kedar started in 2013 and we have been working together on several entertainment projects, curating musical content, performance for large events, weddings and festivals.
Currently, I am almost fulltime in Music, conducting drum circles, curating entertainment solutions, managing artists and talent, producing music and making friends with more and more musical souls.
I strongly believe that – “Its Music, if we are alive” and shall continue this fulfilling journey.