COVER Story - Franco Vaz 0

Traka Doom – Franco Vaz

Papa Kahete hain bada naam karega’ song (Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak – Anand Milind) starts with Amir Khan, holding a cut-away Electric guitar.  His friends are playing Saxophone, Trumpet.  A couple of ladies are playing Kabash. Everyone, right from college Principal to students in the audience & we watching the movie song, are foot-tapping to the rhythm of Drum which is (off-screen) played by renowned drum player Franco Vaz.

COVER STORY - Franco 02

We, in India, are used to listening to the Drum, thanks to Movie, music. Teesri Manzil was the first Hindi movie that showed the protagonist (Shammi Kapoor) & his friend (Salim Khan) a drum player.  We have seen Amjad Khan playing the drum infamous song ‘Laila main Laila’ in the film Qurbani.  ‘Whiplash’, a must-watch English movie, is about a student’s relationship with his mentor, whose unconventional training methods push him beyond boundaries of reason and sensibility. Movie Writer-Director Damien Chazelle being a drum player had captured the learning process of a student with minute details.  Hence movie scenes of drum playing are close to perfection.

While looking at a Drum Set in movies, I was keen to know about the instruments and their diverse sounds.  I always wanted to ask a drummer, how can they play so many percussion instruments at a time? Hence, I interacted with Franco Vaz one on one, to know more about Drums.

Franco Vaz inherited music from his father Francis Vaz, who had played Bongo & other percussion instruments for Music composers C Ramchandra, O P Nayyar, Shankar Jaikishan, Madan Mohan, N Datta. We can see him playing Bongo in songs ‘Ena Meena Dika’(Asha), ‘Shola jo bhadke (Albela) on screen as he has played the instrument during recording too. Franco learned Violin from childhood under the guidance of Michael Martin.  Later, he became a member of the Violinist team for Music Directors like Laxmikant Pyarelal, Shankar Jaikishan, Ram Kadam, N Datta, Datta Davjekar, Vasant Desai, Bhaskar Chandavarkar, and many more. He has also learned Drum, Piano, Conga, Bongo, Djembe.

Despite being part of a Violin group, Franco thought of Drum as his key instrument. He started pursuing Drum as a passion with the guidance of then renowned Drummer Manzil fame) Franco was inspired by the drummers like Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, Billy Cobham, Elvin Jones, Steve Gadd. He used to listen to the drum playing of these stalwarts and tried to internalize their style of music. Franco received his first opportunity to play Drums from Music Arranger Enoch Daniel for Composers Ram Kadam and Bal Palsule. He also started playing Drums for Stage shows of C Ramchandra. Franco recalled that he has played Drums for Music Arrangers Kersi Lord, Ashok Patki, Vanaraj Bhatia who were also known for jingles.

COVER STORY - Franco 05

One fine morning Franco received a message from Rahul Dev Burman for a recording & he played the drum for the Song ‘Kasme waade nibhaenge hum’.  After recording, Pancham advised Kersi Lord to book Franco for next 6 months and become a part of Team Pancham.

As we know Drum is not a single instrument. The big drum on the front side is called Bass Drum, which is played by kick pedals. Teesri Manzil movie shows Drum set which has the name ‘Rocky & His Band’ written on Bass Drum. This is much smaller than the traditional orchestral use, most commonly 20 or 22 inches in diameter while depths range from 14 to 18 inches being normal.  A snare drum or side drum is commonly used in Marching songs. ‘Jab chaaha yara tumne’ (Jabardast) has a scene where students are playing the Snare drum while marching. Bigger-sized Cymbals are often used in pairs consisting of thin, normally round plates of various alloys.

Orchestral crash cymbals are traditionally used in pairs, each one having a strap set in the bell of the cymbal by which they are held. Such a pair is known as clash cymbals, crash cymbals, hand cymbals, or plates. Certain sounds can be obtained by rubbing their edges together in a sliding movement for a “sizzle”, striking them against each other in what is called a “crash”, tapping the edge of one against the body of the other in what is called a “tap-crash”, scraping the edge of one from the inside of the bell to the edge for a “scrape”, or shutting the cymbals together and choking the sound in what is called a “hi-hat” or “crush”. Cymbals can be placed as per drummer’s convenience.

The song ‘Tumne mujhe dekha, hokar meherban’ (Teesri Manzil) starts with a drum played by Leslie Godinho and concludes with Crash Cymbal.  Often a drummer has to mute the sound of Cymbals. ‘That’s the way, maahi ve’ (Kal hon a ho – Shankar Ehsan Loy) song starts with softly played Cymbals. Drums placed in front of a drummer are called ‘Tom Tom’. Rack Tom (placed on the front side), Floor Tom (placed on the right-hand side). Middle Tom, High Tom Tom is the naming convention used based on their placement. Drum sticks are used to play drums.

The skill of a drummer lies in his playing style. Drummers often prefer to use Brush instead of a stick for a light mood song. Music Director O P Nayyar has used drums in a number of songs.

COVER STORY - Franco 04

Drums are used along with Santoor & Guitar in the famous song ‘Jaiye aap kahan jayenge’ (Mere Sanam). Interesting to note when Ashaji sings cross line of the song ‘door tak aap ke pichhe’, Drums switches over Tabla.

A drum set comprised of Bass Drum, Snare Drum, Tom Tom, Cymbals has evolved over a period of 100 years. Afro-Americans migrated from Africa along with their Drums which were beingplayed by them to protest against injustice. Traditional music was being played by Afro-Americans on Conga. However, Americans did not allow them to use their hands while playing Percussions.  Hence, they started to use sticks while playing drums in Jazz, Blues, Dixie. Indians were introduced to drums due to British Raj. India experienced Snare drums being played during the long march. Musicians like Chic Chocolate introduced the Goan style of music in Hindi films. Chic Chocholate arranged music for C Ramchandra & Francis Vaz played Percussions for these songs. Later on, Leslie Godinho and Burjor Lord played Drum sets collectively.

O haseena julfonwali Jaan-E-Jahaan’ song starts with a drum played by Leslie Godinho, though on-screen it is enacted by Salim Khan. Franco Vaz referred to his mentor Leslie with great admiration and said that “it was Leslie who brought the trend of playing the entire drum set in India, hence he should be referred to as Father of Jazz Drum in India.” ‘Aaja aaja, main hoon pyar tera’ song starts with an electrifying guitar solo by Dilip Naik, followed by a solo Drum played by Leslie Godinho. Jack Drum used in this song for the first time, was an original creation of Leslie. As the song progresses, we experience drums played by Kersi Lord and Burjor Lord as well.

A number of Rhythm patterns are created while playing the Drum. While playing 8 beat rhythm, if the 3rd  beat is played on High Hats, 7th on Snare Drum & kick on 1st & 6th, a new rhythm pattern gets created.  If these beats are played with a flavor of off-beat on either of the beat, it forms a new pattern. If 1-3-4-7 beats are played with comparatively high volume, one can easily figure out rhythm patterns of songs like ‘Aaja aaja’, ‘Papa kahate hain bada naam’.

COVER STORY - Franco 01

Franco Vaz narrated an incident from the recording of the song ‘O Maria’. While 8 beat rhythm patterns were being tried out, R D Burman said that “It is not according to the movie scene situation since the song is about to be picturized in a local colony at the seashore. ” Hence, he told Franco to play a Caribbean rhythm which both of them have listened to some time back. Franco Vaz played it with a minor change by playing one off-beat and one beat on the muted drum. R D Burman was very happy with this change in a rhythm pattern. That’s how the ‘O Maria’ rhythm was created differently for Antara & Mukhada.

Listening to the title song of the film Shalimar we have a learning experience since it’s composed in 11 beats. Like always I was curious to know about the process, how 11 beat song was played by him? He said, “while practicing Violin, I have played compositions of Bela Bartok, a Hungarian composer, which was composed in 11 beats.” The major challenge was to play the 11 beats song having rhythm variants like 6+5, 4+4+3 along with Brass section & 70 other musicians with minimum techs.  R D Burman’s Music arrangers Manohari Singh, Basu Chakraborty & Maruti Keer were in London for Kishor Kumar’s Live show. Hence Kersi Lord did the rehearsal and surprisingly it was recorded in one take. Thanks to the proficiency of all musicians inclusive of Franco Vaz.

Rocky movie hero was supposed to ride a bike hence his introduction was to be done through the song ‘Rocky Mera Naam’. R D Burman suggested using Roto Drum which is supposed to be played by rotating. Franco said that R D Burman came up with an idea of rotating drums to be done by another percussionist. While we listen ‘Aa dekhen zara’ song from ‘Rocky’, we are surprised to note the optimum usage of percussions in the song. The rhythm arrangement done by Marutirao is ably supported by percussionists like Franco Vaz has created magic in the song. Franco Vaz mentioned that the Sound mixer was firstly used for Drums in the title song of Shaan. As far as lightly playing drums is concerned, one can listen to how effectively it is done by Franco Vaz in the song ‘Pyar ke mod pe’ (Parinda)

COVER STORY - Franco 03

O P Nayyar mixed Tabla-Dholak & Drum effectively in songs like ‘Nazaneen bada rangeen hai Waada tera (Phir wohi dil laya hoon), ‘Pukarata chalaa hoon main’, ‘Kisi na kisi se kahin na kahin’ (Kashmir ki kali). Suresh Soni played Drums for Laxmikant Pyarelal in songs like ‘Dard-E-Dil’, ‘Jumma Chumma’, ‘Ek do teen’.  Babla has played Roto drum in Kalyanji Anandji’s songs like ‘Laila main Laila. And we have many maestro drummers Ranjeet Barot, Trilok Gurtu, who have used drums with unique styles.

Franco Vaz admires Kersi Lord for introducing electronic instruments in Hindi film music. He accepted the changes gracefully and quickly learned programming techniques. He has done programming of songs ‘Oye oye,’ ‘Mere rang mein,’ ‘Pahela pahela pyar hain, and many more. Rahul Dev Burman effectively mixed Acoustic rhythm with electronic rhythm in the song ‘Tu rootha to” (Jawani). Franco has played a number of songs for Ilaiyaraaja, out of which he recalled differently played Drum for ‘O babuva’ (Sadma). That’s how a master percussionist entertained us through numerous songs. Hats off to Drum Virtuso & Maestro Franco Vaz.

  • Suhas Kirloskar |


Share this post

Comments (8)

  • Nitin Shukla Reply

    Wow, great article. Suhas ji is known for his in-depth knowledge about Classical Music or rather all forms of Music. His articles in Marathi widely acknowledged.

    3 January 2022 at 10:08 am
  • Bharat Bhosale Reply

    Nicely written article and real music lovers are going to enjoy this wonderful piece.
    Thanks Swar Alap and Dineshji. You truely introduce us the real masters.


    3 January 2022 at 6:55 pm
  • bharat bhosale Reply


    3 January 2022 at 6:56 pm
  • Aniruddha Agashe Reply

    Amazing article ! A great insight ! You need this kind of documentation of these legendary musicians, am glad it’s happening even with the Legends of Golden period of Indian film music.
    Mr Franco Vaz coming from the illustrious family of musicians shows in his volumes of work.
    Best wishes always.

    3 January 2022 at 6:57 pm
  • Subir Kumar Dutta Reply

    Nice to know about this legendary musician who sailed through the bollywood music industry with his incredible musical skill.
    Congratulations & thanks to you , Dinesh ji for your amazingly selfless service to the musical fraternity . Simply an apt way to convey them our gratitude for their service to this industry from the bottom of their heart.

    3 January 2022 at 9:45 pm
  • Ajit Jain Reply

    It’s great. Dinesh), your contribution to the musical fraternity of Mumbai is commendable.

    4 January 2022 at 10:46 am
  • Mukund Deshpande Reply

    वाहवा, बेहतरीन.

    4 January 2022 at 11:19 am
  • Vineet shrivastav Reply

    A deserving son in law of legendary musician .r Leslie Godinho.
    Though ,I could not met him as left project during process but heard all skills of Mr Franco from various friends.
    Credit goes to Mr Dinesh Ghate who has been en lighting so many un sung heros behind the curtain s.congratulations

    5 January 2022 at 8:53 pm

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *