Please tell us about yourself
The stage is still being set up as I walk towards it. Dhaivat Jani, known for his work as the drummer of Meghdhanush, is conducting his sound check for the “Sounds of stories” performance on Sunday evening at the Banyan Theatre, a makeshift open-air stage at the Sanskar Kendra in Ahmedabad, as part of the month-long Abhivyakti City Arts Project.
Dhaivat Jani, HLIC alumni from 2009-12 batch, is a drummer/percussionist and a music producer. Dhaivat is a certified Sound Engineer from SAE, Mumbai.
Dhaivat has been playing with various bands and artists as a drummer for long now. One of the bands that Dhaivat has been playing with for over 5 years now is Meghdhanush. Meghdhanush is quite popular and much loved band in the state as well as all over the country. Meghdhanush has been featured on National Television on the shows like MTV Indies Never Hide Sounds and Entertainment Ke Liye Kuchh Bhi Karega on Sony Entertainment Television.
After a casual exchange of hellos, Jani takes a break from his drill and we sit under a tree to talk about his performance, his thoughts on Ahmedabad’s music scene and a lot more.
The making of a successful percussionist in you started when you were very young. From playing the tabla, you went on to learn the drums in the 10th grade. What inspired you to play the drums? How easy or difficult was it to learn it, given your knowledge of the tabla?
As I always wanted to enhancethe percussive side of my music, thedesire to learn the drums was born when I was in the 10th grade but I started learning only two years later. I had started playing the tabla at the age of five, so by the time I started learning the drums I had managed to build a strong sense of rhythm within me. Then, it was just about learning the basic techniques of drumming, to start off with. So frankly, the switch was not too difficult.
You are a part of a band called Meghdhanush. Please tell us something about it. How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and cool career?
YES! It is a great feeling to be a part of a band like Meghdhanush. In fact, it is an experience in itself, a feelingbeyond words. It makes you feel like family. You stay together, make music, play shows, struggle, fight, make-up, and most importantly, grow as musicians and human beings. The feeling of being known as Meghdhanush’s drummer is amazing. It began when one day I got a call from thisrandom guy. He said, “We are a band called Meghdhanush. Our drummer has gone to Canada and we need one. Will you play with us?”This out-of-the-blue call was a surprise to me. I wanted and even tried to ignore it.Honestly, I was really scared about ‘being in a band’ what with the long hair and black t-shirts. That was the image I had in my mind. Somehow, luckily, they got me to meet them once and that was it! There was no looking back.
Tell us about your performance at Abhivyakti.
At Abhivyakti, I am teaming up with different musicians for a performance called “Sounds of stories,” which is a concept I came up with sometime back, wherein we’ll have a fusion of music with poetry recitation and storytelling. The poems have been written by my brother Tejas Jani and I play the drums, percussions and tabla, while my co-artistes Shreyas Dave is playing the flute, Marc Damania plays the bass and Nayan Kapadia will be on the keyboards.
You have done a diploma course in Sound Engineering from S.A.E. This is an unconventional course, not something that is much heard of. Please tell us about it.
Well, it might not be a much heard of for a layman but for people in the field of music, rather the technical field of music,it is pretty well-known and S.A.E. is one the best and most appropriate collegesin India to pursue it.AsI always wanted to shift to Mumbai for widening the scope of my music, out of the three branches it had in India, I opted for the Mumbai branch. The course really helped me explore the science and technicalities of music recording. It helped me listen to music not only as a musician but also as a sound engineer and it widened my perspective towards listening to music.
Tell us about your journey. How did you get into music?
I have been into music since I was five years old-I used to play the tabla. I am actually the first person in my family to become a professional musician, though my father used to play the guitar as a hobby when he was young. I was good at studies, too, but I was encouraged by my family to pursue music as they knew it is what made me happy. As a kid, I have damaged a lot of plates by playing drums on them using rolling pins as sticks. I still play the tabla, but then I started trying out other percussion instruments and I love to experiment with different sounds and musical concepts and today’s performance is one such.
At a time when a lot of new bands are mushrooming, what makes your band Meghdhanush stand out?
I not only play with Meghdhanush, but with a few other groups, too, and I sometimes collaborate with other artistes, too, like I am doing today. Speaking of Meghdhanush, the reason we stand out is because we have always kept it real; it is the originality of our music that makes us different and probably successful, too. I am glad there are musicians coming out expressing themselves and there are venues that have begun providing them platforms, too. But it is difficult and sometimes not feasible to maintain a band for a long time. You can’t keep playing at different places across the city and get paid in free coffee every time, right?
Music, especially instrumental, has become a part of the curriculum in schools now. How much do you think this is contributing to the music scene today?
Music as a curriculum in schools is definitely helping students follow their inner calling for music, but sadly the situation is such that once the children pass the 9th standard, they are made to give up their extracurricular activities and concentrate only on their academics because parents fear that it may hamper their children’s board results, which breaks the flow. Then they are forced to either take up science and pursue engineering or take up commerce and become a CA (chartered accountant). Heck, even my teachers tried to convince my father to have me concentrate more on academics. I still know many such friends of mine who were very good musicians during the younger days, but now they are working in corporates and MNCs (multinational corporations) and they keep telling me how I am quite fortunate I am following my passion for music professionally. I used to play the tabla in school and used to stand first in competitions, hence I was encouraged by my parents to keep pursuing it even at the professiona
l level after I grew up.
Yours is one of the few upcoming bands that have gotten a taste of national television. How did that shape up for you and Meghdhanush?
We actually got noticed by the media after our Shaktiman theme song cover went viral on YouTube, after which we began getting gigs to play at different venues. The audience started to love our music and then Chhello Divas, the urban Gujarati movie, happened for which we were the music directors. In 2017, our first album ‘Mijlas’ came out. We still get requests from people to play ‘Kevu ghanu’ from Chhello Divas every time we perform live or go live on Facebook and other social media handles. So, bottom line, it has been good so far. We’re loving it and are looking forward for more opportunities.
What do you have to say about the current situation of Indian classical music? Have any musical icons inspired you?
The music industry in India is really growing, not just quantitatively but qualitatively too. Indian classical music has been the base for many of the current musical maestros. People in India have started understanding the power of our rich musical culture and accepting it the way it is. A lot of experimenting and blending withwestern forms of music has begun, the result of which is popularly known as Fusion or World music.
I grew up listening only to the Indian classical maestros, so to name just one as my inspiration would be difficult and unfair. All of them have been inspiration to me. In fact, good music is the inspiration. It doesn’t matter who is playing or singing.
It is commendable how you have achieved all of this at a mere age of twenty two. What are your plans for the future?
We never achieve anything. We just grow. And all that I care about for my future is to grow, as musician and as a human being. I really look forward to playing more and more music with new artists, of different genres and in different parts of the globe.
Drums or tabla – If you had to, what would you give up? (We earnestly hope not!)
Neither! You would never want to give up something you love. You may not practice as much, but giving up is not an option. I may not play the tabla now as much as I used to earlier but a pinch of my tablariyaaz, which I have done for years, always shows in my drumming or whichever instrument I play. My instruments change, my music doesn’t.
You were a part of HLIC. How did the college help you in achieving what you have right now? What would be your message to aspiring musicians?
Honestly, I was not much inclined towards studies in college. But above all else, what HLIC has given to me is beyond words. The faculty members have been more of friends and mentors than just teachers. I have learnt a lot beyond debit and credit from their lectures. Yes, I got my first-ever stage as a drummer at HLIC itself. I have madeamazing friends here who have been supportive and encouraging in whatever I do and have done, sometimes even beyond belief. So, I cannot thank HLIC and the people associated with it enough. 🙂