‘Advaita works pretty much as a democratic country’
Chayan Adhikari - who sings for and is the lead guitarist of the Delhi based fusion band ‘Advaita’ shares his musical journey with the band, post their performance at The Gig Week recently held in the national Capital. The Gig Week – hosted by Anubhav Gupta and Jubin Jacob – a unique music festival, showcases different genres of music and sounds from across India and beyond!
How did Western music attract you?
It happened organically... The environment at home is partly the reason for me choosing Western vocals. My mother used to listen to a lot of pop music of the 80s and 90s, that’s what I heard of a lot while growing up. Even though my father was more into Indian classical and folk music, at some point of time while performing at school I figured out that I’d go for Western music. I am primarily self-taught, but I do give credit to all the people I have worked with over the years, especially the vocalists. My learning has come from exchange of knowledge of singing together rather than finding a vocal teacher.
When did you perform with ‘Advaita’ for the first time?
Performing with Advaita was a big thing. ‘Advaita’ had already played in 3-4 shows when I had joined the band. I was just out of school, when I got the opportunity to perform with them. I had heard about some of the members of the band and I was fairly intimidated, as they had given me a lot of homework to do to prepare. My first performance with ‘Advaita’ was at a music fest in Dhanaulti. It was a great show, but I remember being very nervous since I wanted to do a good job.
Who has been your inspiration?
There have been a lot of people, at different stages of life. Most of the people I looked up to were people around me. When I had joined ‘Advaita’, I used to look up to all the band members as they were more experienced than me and all of them are very qualified. I was once a part of a very well known choir and the lady who lead the choir and is now a faculty of the Berkley school of music had been one of my inspirations. Some of my biggest learning experiences have come from working with her.
What is the secret behind the uninterrupted performance from an eight-member band for over 12 years?
The music circuit in Delhi is not very big, and a lot of the members knew each other from before, even though they were playing in different setups. ‘Advaita’ came up with a few bands dissolving at that point when the members decided to make a new band with a serious intention of creating a brand of music that would sustain and last long, back in 2004. I was an audience member during their very first concert. A few months later, I auditioned for them. Keeping a band together is more work than actually making music together since there are eight distinct identities in the band for which you need to coordinate. We are all friends outside the band and we share a close relationship, which is what has kept the band together. Whenever there was any disagreement among us during work, our friendship outside the working process has helped us to stay together and work out differences. Other than having distinct identities we also are very respectful to each other. Our band works pretty much as a democratic country, where we have a system where we hear out each other and make decisions.
Who are your favourite musicians?
There are so many inspiring musicians that I look up to. As a solo artist I adore Shankar Mahadevan and everyone in our band admires AR Rahman, as he has set a different standard in the world of music. I also like a few bands – ‘Tank Bund,’ ‘Avail’ from Kerala, ‘Soulmate’ one of India’s leading blues band, their live concert was the first one I had attended in my life.
Which of ‘Advaita’s songs are closest to your heart?
It’s a difficult question, it’s like choosing the best from among my kids! Most of the songs have had some stories behind their creation. I have some sort of attachment with every song. I feel ‘Silent Sea’ came out of some intense emotions - it came up in amazing circumstances. There’s another song I personally relate with, it is called ‘Just Enough’, which is not in any of the albums. It is not possible to come with any definite song. Both these songs are incident related and are story-based. Once, while 3-4 of us were in Mumbai, sitting in a room very close to the beach, the lights went out and the weather changed drastically in the evening. We could hear the waves hitting the rocks very distinctly. We had our instruments with us and so we started to play a few notes and it seemed as if we were having a conversation with the sea. The song came up in a very eerie environment as it felt like the waves crashing onto the rocks were the sea’s response to our song. ‘Just Enough’ is about how fragile human being are.
Any memorable incident during your involvement with ‘Advaita’?
Our first international tour in UK was massive for us. We were really thrilled about our first international tour, organised tour by British council. We were travelling in a pink tour bus for a week – it had a lounge inside it! And we were so happy thinking ‘is it for us!’ That experience was absolutely amazing and nothing like it ever happened again. Plus playing to an international audience for the first time and being well received was great boost to our confidence.