I often wonder where I’d be if it wasn’t for my teachers and gurus… I am slightly late in publicly acknowledging my gurus in my life but I would like to offer my thanks and  my present to Mr. Zubin Balsara, Mr. Sanjeev Pandkar, Mr. Chandrashekar, Mr. Joshua Banks, Mr. Iqbal Azad, Ms. Tara Tucker, Mr. Quinn Reesor, Mr. Famoudou Konate and the one and only Mr. Mamady Keita. I was told by the great man to always put everything one learned from one master in one bag and keep putting learning’s from different teachers in different bags. Whenever I wanted to express myself all I had to do was look into my bags and speak with clarity, authority, humility and joy. I salute you, my teachers.

The Masters and I (From left: Famoudou Konate and Mamady Keita)

I was very touched by this next person’s gesture on Guru Poornima and before I introduce you to the third member of the Taal Inc. family I’d like to tell you a little bit about him. He’s the most soft spoken and quiet individual you’ll meet. He absorbs everything in class like sponge and plays it with finesse and style after… He’s got a heart of gold and here’s what he had to say about his journey with Taal Inc.:

My journey with Taal Inc. – Karthik Iyer

This world of music is truly fascinating. I have always tried to be an intricate part of this world but didn’t get too far. My first attempt was the guitar at school and then the drum kit in the school band. But fate had other choices for me I guess. But the very small stint that I had in my school band somehow sparked my interest in rhythm. I started and continued playing on tables, utensils, washing machines (my favorite for the base) and basically anything that produced sound. Somehow I did not channelize or take the initiative to go in for formal training and I lost a lot of time in all the mundane challenges that life posed – college, career, job and all that. But fate did have something special for me – marriage, yes – I got married to Sunita, who is an accomplished Carnatic vocalist and is also trained in Hindustani music. I still remember singing a ‘gaana’ tamil song (tamil rap) for her family and playing on a table. And believe me, they were impressed, but somehow I felt I was not being able to justify having a partner who is so good in music and in return I just was an audience in all the shows she performed. I somehow wanted to, someday for her to be in the audience and me performing. That thought started me off looking for an instrument to learn and play. My dear friend Nattu, who is a musical prodigy, and with whom I have had many many kitchen orchestras, encouraged me to buy a Djembe and he said “this instrument will suit your style of playing”. I really didn’t understand what that meant, but the very next day I bought my first Djembe. I was really very excited and even shot a small video to show-off my new talent. I look at the video now and realize how lame it was.

Cutting the intro short, I was taken by surprise when Google presented me with www.taalinc.net as the top result for Djembe classes in Pune. I immediately got in touch with Varun and even shared my video (Varun, please tell me that you laughed your guts out when you saw it). The following week I was in High Spirits – literally – my first formal Djembe class and when Varun taught me the proper position to hold the Djembe, I realized that I had a long long way to go before I can achieve what I had in mind. I was sort of dejected at the thought, but the next few months were a great learning experience. Varun facilitated our first Student Ensemble and yes, I had my wife in the audience; although it was a very small performance, it still holds a very special place in my heart and I can never express how thankful I am to Varun and all at Taal Inc. A few months later, Varun gave me the opportunity to play with the Junk Percussion Ensemble and that again was a very special moment and event to cherish and remember. It was during those practice sessions that I met with the very talented Agneya, Dhir and Abhijit. During the course of the many drum circles, classes and performances, I got introduced to Solonie, Amar, Janak, Rahul, Jyoti, Elaine, Shekar and the other members that make up the Taal Inc. family and suddenly I was surrounded by a group of talented and friendly individuals. Their support and energy is awesome and is the backbone of this beautiful family. Taal Inc. also gave me the opportunity to learn from Tara Tucker and Quinn Reesor which was an amazing experience.

Drumming with Taal Inc. has been an out of this world and very rewarding experience for me. I have been through many hurdles in the recent past – on the work front as well as medical front and Taal Inc. has been a major part in magically helping me overcome the problems I was facing. Drumming does heal, trust me. I began the journey with Taal Inc. without a purpose in mind, and after a year and a half, I think I have taken a few small steps in the direction I want to go, contribution to music, which ever form – learn, play, perform, facilitate, write, participate. At the end of it all, the satisfaction I get is something priceless.

I dedicate this to Varun, my wonderful master on the day of Guru Poornima, how better can it get and after all “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains.  The superior teacher demonstrates.  The great teacher inspires. – William Arthur Ward”. Varun, you truly are an inspiration.

Thanks Varun. Thanks Taal Inc. Wassa! Wassa!

– Karthik Iyer

Karthik (first from left) playing with the Taal Inc. Junk Percussion Ensemble

Come. Drum. Be One.

Taal Inc.