International Jazz Day: Drummer Vinayak Pol says, 'Challenges are never ending in music'

International Jazz Day: Drummer Vinayak Pol says, 'Challenges are never ending in music'

The Mumbai-based drummer, who has crossed over into jazz-rock fusion and world music genres has a broad range of friends and contemporaries

Verus FerreiraUpdated: Sunday, April 28, 2024, 09:30 AM IST
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Drummer Vinayak Pol has years of experience teaching, recording and live performances. The Mumbai-based drummer, who has crossed over into jazz-rock fusion and world music genres has a broad range of friends and contemporaries who have paved his way to the top. On April 30, International Jazz Day, along with his band Bombay Lights, Pol is all set to raise the bar and give the audience a taste of his music. In an exclusive conversation, the 43-year-old Chembur resident shares how and why he came to play the drums, as well as some crucial nuggets of advice for those looking to learn.

Excerpts from the interview:

You are part of International Jazz Day 2024. What is the action plan?

I plan to make everyone dance. I will be playing for the very first time with my own band Bombay Lights and we will be presenting our own compositions. We are going to open our set with a very beautiful ballad, a blend of jazz and Indian classical music played on the shehnai. This will be followed by two tunes based on Afro grooves.

 What was it that made you choose drums from so many musical instruments? 

I started my music career at a very late age. It’s been 23 years since I’m playing the drums. For me, drums make you dance and it’s one of the most challenging instruments to play. You feel good that you are the backbone of the band and keeping everyone on time.

What challenges did you face?

Challenges are never ending in music. The drum set instrument itself is a very challenging instrument to play. Early in my career I didn’t have a drum set and there were no rooms to practice. After almost eight years I got a place to practice and with my own drum set too. I, soon, started working with bands and independent artists and my career moved on. 

You are part of a trio Pulse Conversations ft. Gino Banks, and Jai Row Kavi. Can you tell us something about this as well as your own project Vinayak Pol Jazz and Fusion Collective, now known as Bombay Lights.

It was sometime in 2008, when I was supposed to play at a show and the band backed out at the last minute. I had no choice but I to play at that event. I asked my drummer friends and they willingly agreed to do a three drum trio. So we were three drummers Gino, Jai Row and me on one stage and in less than a week we composed a few tunes. Believe it or not, the show went really well and was a sellout. We kept going on with the project that came to be known as Pulse Conversations and played numerous events and festivals in India. As for the Vinayak Pol Jazz Collective, I’ve been writing music for quite a long time and I wanted to present that in front of an audience. With that in mind I kept shuffling different artists and collaboration in the name of Vinayak Pol Jazz and Fusion Collective. It worked well initially, but due to time constraints we could not keep up to the commitments. Finally, I found a few more dedicated musicians who could give more time for this project. We came up with the name Bombay Lights that consists of Niranjan Joshi on keys, Umesh Warbhuvan on percussion, Sayar Mitra on bass, Omkar Dhumal on shehnai and saxophone and vocalist Nusrat Apoorv who also plays santoor and harmonium.

You also train youngsters. Can you share some details on these classes, the curriculum you follow and what the course is all about?

In 2008 I joined Garodia Institute along with Gino Banks and Andrew Kanga. I was teaching there till 2016. The most interesting part of that institute was every student who joined was coming with a different experience of music. We didn’t want to push them to how a music academy works. Instead we wanted to tune them according to their ability and strength.  Besides teaching at that institute I was taking private lessons at my studio as well, which I’m still doing. We have had many young drummers who have come to study with us and who now are on a professional level. 

What defines the Vinayak Pol sound?

As a professional drummer, I need to cater to all music genres and it depends on the music and the projects that I get.

Any collaborations with other artistes that you’d like to mention?

I haven’t released any of my singles yet but by the end of May I will be releasing three of my original compositions in an EP with Bombay Lights alongwith a music video. In the past, I have done many collaborations, one of them being santoor maestro Rahul Sharma. Bombay Lights will also be going on a North India tour next month.

What projects are you currently working on?

Currently, I’m working on my own solo electronic music project which will be out by the end of this year. 

What thought goes into the composing process when composing a song?

It’s basically just a random thought that comes to  mymind when I’m writing the tunes. But I only write what I’m good at and what I love to do the most.  Most of the compositions come from the music that inspired me. The technique and the music that we learnt from the masters is also a part of what I look at while composing music.

Who do you look up to as your mentor or inspiration?

I have learnt music from many people in my journey. But I would say Gino Banks was my first drum mentor. I’m currently studying from the legendary Trilok Gurtu. Their music and art form really inspires me to write music.

Who are your favorite drummers from India and across the world?

From India I would say, Trilok Gurtu, Ranjit Barot, Gino Banks, Jai Row Kavi and a few young drummers in India are my favorites. As for drummers across the world, I’ve always been a fan of Tony Williams, Vinnie Colaiuta, Dave Weckl, Dennis Chambers, Steve Gadd and Dave DiCenso. 

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