Guitarist Rhythm Shaw Talks About Performing At The Upcoming Mumbai Drum Day 2024

Guitarist Rhythm Shaw Talks About Performing At The Upcoming Mumbai Drum Day 2024

He speaks about learning guitar at a young age, owning around 55 guitars and more

Verus FerreiraUpdated: Friday, February 09, 2024, 11:51 PM IST
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Rhythm Shaw |

Rhythm Shaw is part of the galaxy of stars slated to perform for Mumbai Drum Day 2024 on February 10 (Shanmukhananda Auditorium, Sion). The guitarist has won awards like the All India Finger-Style Guitar Competition, played in the prestigious Guitar Night Tour (18 concerts in a row in Germany) with Peter Finger and has won international classical guitar competitions in Thailand and in India.

With his father as a musician, it was natural that Rhythm Shaw decided to be a musician. Born in Kolkata, and now based in Mumbai, Shaw started learning guitar at the age of two from his father, along side the tabla. Shaw has around 55 guitars and each has a specific job to do. Hence, he takes care of all his guitars which, to him, are like special friends.

Excerpts from the interview:

What is planned for the evening in your set with Ustad Zakir Hussain and Gino Banks for the Mumbai Drum Day?

I am really honoured and it is such a pleasure to be a part of this event. Some of my idols and some other amazing musicians are all playing. We are going to play three songs in a set of 45 minutes. First two songs will be from my album. The first one is Valor from the Opening Act album and the other is Khandu Blues, which is a part of my second album I will be releasing in April. For the third one, since all three of us are improvisers, we are trying to explore how much we can push each other and ‘fly together' in a way. So, that is a track we are currently building and will be figuring out when we sit together for a rehearsal prior to the gig. 

You started playing the guitar at a young age.

What I’ve heard from my parents I started when I was three. The journey started with me learning the tabla and guitar simultaneously. Dad wanted me to learn a melodic, harmonic instrument and a rhythmic instrument so as to grasp both the sides of music, which are really important. I don’t think I have played much with toys as much as I’ve played with musical instruments, because they were lying around. That’s how my interest grew and I figured that this is what I wanted to do all my life. I realised I can actually learn any song I hear or play anything which is running in my head. So, here I am today playing with some of my most favourite people in the world.

How did you manage to release your first album, Opening Act (in 2015), under a German label?

In 2014, I participated and won a competition in Bangalore where Peter Finger, Konarak Reddy, and Claus Boesser-Ferrari were judges. After winning the competition, at the after party, Peter Finger asked me if I wanted to release an album with him, he would produce, release and distribute it and get me on tours. I didn’t really take it seriously, but next day I got a mail from that German label asking me for my time and when can I finish my album. They also mentioned the festival line-up and dates if I could make it happen which was in next four months. I had only one song written — Opening Act. So that kind of pushed me to finish my album in three months and then in the fourth month I went to Germany to record all the songs. I ended up playing at a few festivals, I think 25 concerts in 25 days or something like that.

How did the collaboration with AR Rahman happen?

I think it was around 2016 when I got a call from Ranjit Barot, the music coordinator of AR Rahman. Mohini, a friend of mine, sent some music to Ranjit Barot, he heard it and he wanted me to play in his album. He called me and asked if I wanted to come to Bombay to record in his album. I was really excited and agreed. In an hour’s time he called me back and said, ‘Ridu, do you want to play with AR?’ That’s how it just happened. I went to Bombay, I played in his album and he sent me all the songs and set list of AR. I prepared everything and then we met, we played. I played for almost a year and I still keep doing some sessions for AR.

Last time, you mentioned you had 40 guitars. Any new ones added?

Well, I think now it is 55, I am not too sure about it, I have to count. I love playing all of them to be honest, because they all make me play differently and it also depends on what is required, what can I use to serve the music better.

Any rare guitars in your collection?

Yes, I proudly own couple of really amazing guitars. I have around five Hoffner guitars that were made in Germany between 1935-1940. They are built differently, old pickups, and they sound great. They are seasoned for all these years. I have an MLP bass, six string fretless bass made in Budapest, one Andrew White guitar from the States, George Lowden guitars from Northern Ireland. I also have two Shabbat guitars. Then the guitars which I endorse are some really cool guitars.

Which guitars do you use on stage and endorse?

I play the Yamaha Pacificas when playing electric and for acoustic, I use Kepma guitars. These are the two companies I also endorse.

Many must have asked if Rhythm is your real name.

Yes, my real name is Rhythm. It is there on my passport, school (certificate)… everything. Dad always mentioned rhythm is a little more important than melodies and harmonies in music. Because if you’re not part of rhythm, if you don’t have time in yourself, then you’re not part of anything in general, even our heartbeat has a specific beating time. I mean, beats per minute, right? BPM. So that’s why he named me Rhythm. Any rhythmic percussion instruments like tabla, drums, helped me a lot to understand music in a clearer way.

What would your dream collaboration be?

I always wanted to play with an orchestra and some of my music actually can be rearranged in that form. So, I would love to collaborate with an orchestra like Metropole Orchestra. I would write my own music and I would write all the parts, at least the basic, and the foundation of it and then get it rearranged or rewritten by one of the conductors.

What guitar gear are you using on stage these days?

I use Yamaha Pacificas for my electric stuff and acoustic wise I use Kepa guitars. These are the two companies I endorse. I am using Laini's LA -30BL amps and then I am also using Quad Cortex Neural DSP as my processor and some TC electronics and some like really vintage pedals which I collected from all over the world while traveling and also some Boss units.

You've played with so many legends, Zakir Hussain, Louiz Banks, Arijit Singh, Clive Carol. Who has been your favourite?

To be honest, they are all my favourites and they have all made me play differently. So in turn, I have learnt a lot from them. You know, their music, their musicality, their presence, their absence in music itself.

What’s your proudest achievement so far?

I don't have any proudest achievements to be honest. It's more like just getting deeper into music truly understanding it more. I'm really happy to share stage with some of my idols and share my music with them and playing some of my music. Just having that connection, speaking that language where you don't need words you just need instruments and emotions and yeah those are my achievements I would say there's nothing materialistic here.

What makes a great guitarist?

I think great ears makes a great musician. Understanding where you are, listening to what others are playing, to know what you should play, where you should and where you shouldn't. And serving the music without any pressure, letting it flow, is what makes a great guitarist and musician.

Any upcoming releases planned?

I’m planning to release my album in April, but first it’s the singles I’m releasing, as that’s how the trend goes these days. My first single, Nascent Gardenia released on February 2. The second one would be Monochrome and then there’s also a third one. Some of them have cool videos of me playing live and some of them dabble in the ‘graphics’ space with some interesting visuals.

Event: Mumbai Guitar Day

Date: February 10, 6.30 pm

Venue: Shanmukhananda Auditorium, Sion.

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