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I met Yash Pathak, a percussionist at KM Music Conservatory where he also conducts music review sessions.
His long hair tied in a bandana immediately caught my attention. His gait was casual and his demeanor warm. We sat down to talk on one of the benches in the conservatory lawn. Let’s back up a little bit. Yash is from Baroda, Gujarat. I wonder how it must be for him to move from Baroda to Chennai, but then look around and see so many non-Indians on KM campus and realize there is so much to gain at KM that geographies do not act as limitations. But I decide to ask him about how life has changed for him especially in this new city.
So, tell us Yash, how did music and particularly KM happen to you? Also, tell us about your journey in KM so far and how did you end up in an offbeat , unconventional and interesting career such as this?
When I was eight years old, I remember I loved banging on tables. I started performing music when I was 10. I took part in intra and inter-school competitions. Learnt to play the congo and the drums. This opened doors to the world of rhythm to me. When I reached Grade 11, my science teacher (originally from South India) suggested I take up music at KM. I read about KM, auditioned and packed my bags up for Chennai to become a part of KM after Grade 12th in Science. My family (his family is into business) supported me whole-heartedly. I didn’t really have to convince them. My younger sister is into art too – she is a painter.
This is my fourth year at KM. First year, was the foundation year in which we were acquainted to music. In the second year, I went on to pursue a diploma in music (western classical and Indian music with a percussion major along with music technology). I also began conducting music review sessions in my second year at KM. In the third year, I notated pure Indian folk rhythms into western classical music based on my research.
I won two awards – best percussionist award and Hindustani classical music award. I became part of the KMMC percussion ensemble, KMMC Sufi ensemble and KMMC Hindustani ensemble here at KM. Rahman Sir was very happy with the growth in the ensemble and called us to perform for Coke studio. I had knowledge, experience and exposure in music – but no confidence. Working with Rahman Sir has given me confidence.
I have also worked on the background scores for Kochaidaiyan, Maryaan and Shekar Kapur’s Pani. I was involved in the song for Sachin Tendulkar’s 100th century. I have performed at the Saath Hai Hum Uttarakhand event in Mumbai. I have also been performing in Singapore for the past three years with my first music teacher from school days – Mr. Amit Dhamelia.
My passion really has transformed to become my profession. KM opened so many doors for me. It has given me direction.
How was it to move to Chennai? Tell me more about life.
There was a significant amount of culture shock. Language was a barrier. I have learnt Tamil. He did speak a few sentences to me in Tamil, I was impressed. I wasn’t used to having rice. I have adapted to Chennai now. I love medu vadas.
Chennai and KM have made me focused, for instance I cannot spend time with family during festivals nor can I hang out with friends having fun very often. I have no regrets, I enjoy the time I spend with music.
What do you love about what you do?
I love doing what I am doing so I do it. Passion, love, commitment, dedication are all inter-linked.
Please tell us about some of your most memorable moment/s
Winning the awards. Staying with Rahman Sir for 5 days during Coke studio.
During Grade 12, I had bunked class to watch Sivamani live. To perform live with him was a thrilling experience.
Please tell us about your dreams for the future.
I am working in the areas of music analysis and music theory. It’s rare for a percussionist to be involved in music theory. To extend my skill set, I am now learning Carnatic music and the Mridangam.
I want to become a mixing engineer, rhythm programmer and music arranger – that’s my ultimate goal. Very few who do mixing have knowledge about music, they usually only have sound knowledge. I have equipped myself with an Apple certification in sound technology.
What message or career advice would you like to give?
Hard work in right direction and at the right time and right place is important. Focus on gaining knowledge in the real sense, breaks will come.