When Tabla met its free spirit – Karan Chitra Deshmukh

As he continues to engage with his audience freely and wholeheartedly. His free-spiritedness, enthusiasm, and will to try on new stuff are quite endearing. He is a young chap that has so much to offer to the world of music by creating and experimenting with music. 

Tell us how did you create the instrumental cover on Tabla for The Game of Thrones theme song?

It is a very funny story. I haven’t seen a single episode of The Game of Thrones. One of my cousins who stays in London. He is a die-hard fan. He randomly texted me a day before season 4 or 5 was going to be released. He told me to do something on the Tabla. So, I checked it out and I loved the theme song. So, I didn’t want to do a normal cover, now when you say a tabla cover or a drum cover you play the song behind and then you play something on top of that. I was like let me do something else. I was learning to play the keyboard around this time. I figured out the main theme of the song on it and then it clicked to me Tabla has notes too. So why not place the Tabla in that way. But back then I had only two Tablas and the season was going to release the next day. I called up my Tabla guy and told him that I would need more Tablas. He agreed. I rehearsed many times because I didn’t want to get into the hassle of editing and all. So, I did it in one take. It was the first video that I uploaded on my YouTube channel. I sent a few messages to people with a note saying it is my first video and the usual things you write and I went to sleep. When I woke up my phone got to hang with notifications and messages. It all happened overnight. I was quite happy but it took me time to sink in.

Karan Deshmukh

When were you introduced to percussion instruments and how did it change your life?

I was around percussion always, since I was 2-3 years old. I used to stay in Pune with my grandparents. I would grab some dabbas from the kitchen and they used to watch these reality shows on TV. Watching reality shows is a very common thing in a Maharashtrian household. I was fascinated when the camera moved on the musicians especially Percussionists and I used to imitate them. Coincidently one of my neighbors was a Tabla player but I never dared to learn because I had this impression that they’re brutally strict and all. But in 5th grade, I played Tabla at my school’s annual function. Till then I had never seen sight of Tabla in my life, I used to play on a table and someone just casually asked me if I play Tabla and I said “yes.” My overconfidence helped me at that time. My teacher asked me there is Dholki in school can you play dholki?” and I said, “yes I can play Dholki also.” When my mom saw me playing, she made it a point that I take professional training. Things started changing because I was participating in competitions. I was exploring and then I took science after my SSC exam. I thought I’d be a perfect fit for it because of my grades but that was not the case. I couldn’t do as well as I expected. And this thought came to my mind that what if I make music as my profession? That’s when my journey in music started.

What do you experience when you play Tabla?

I think it helps to explore a side of myself that I don’t know. When I play I am something else. I go into another dimension. This only happens when I make art. People say you go into trance and it’s true and when I come back to my sense I just want to go back there, to that place.

 Do you have any role models or personalities you idolized?

A lot of people to be honest. To name a few, Karsh Kale, my mentor, my guru. I saw him and I was like who is this cool guy playing Tabla, Putting all electronic effects like guitar pedals, distortion, etc. I was simply blown away. There’s an interesting graph when I talk about him because first, I was just a fanboy then I started helping him out and then I performed with him which was so amazing. Zakir Hussain Sahab is an inspiration for the whole world according to me. Even some of my friends, there’s something to take from them. Every person, in fact, some actors, motivational speakers. You can pick up whatever you like and it’s been like that for me.

How did you start getting gigs and how was that set like?

It started when I was in 6th grade. I used to accompany in the school choir and play Tabla. Professionally it started when I was in 11th grade, there were college competitions and there was a different rush that I felt and it was like a Rockstar life

What do you have to say about experimental music?

I have always kept myself so versatile that I can fit into anything like water for music. Thankfully what I create comes from my heart. When there’s an experiment, I ask myself why would you do something the same way. If Zakir Hussian Sahab has played something and if I play it like him why will people look at my video when they can watch him. That’s why I wanted to create a different place for myself. By listening to a tune, we as an audience can immediately recognize who has played it or sung it like music by AR Rahman or Karsh Kale and many others. You can never create art without putting IN YOUR HEART! I want to experiment with every art possible.

The music you create is very relevant, trendy, how do you manage to tick all the boxes?

Karan Deshmukh

It is definitely been the “keeda”. I am not always updated with trends but I have a lot of people who casually let me know or direct me towards the trendy stuff and ask me to check it out. The best part is the timing, these things happen just a few days before the release date of a show or something. The same thing happened with my Bella Ciao cover. So, it’s the universe somehow helping me out, I guess.

What are your views on artists taking some time off? This is about the time before the pandemic and now.

Very important and I have realized this in the pandemic. We are artists, not robots or machines. Creativity doesn’t have a schedule or anything. One cannot squeeze out creative juices constantly. I have a band called Alif, it is a Kashmiri band and our lead vocalist Mohammad Muneem has put it very beautifully when asked the same question, “Jab paani ka nal kaafi waqt ke baad kholte hain toh, pehle ganda pani aata hai phir thodi der baad accha pani aata hai, its a process!” So keep doing what comes to you and at times we can curate some really good things but not every day. The basis of creativity I think is when you are doing something from your heart. Taking a break and getting inspired by different things is great because you never know how much that can help you in your content creation.

Are you working on any upcoming projects?

Yes, I am. There is a lot. I have some unfinished projects which need to be done. A lot of “Keedas” popping inside my brain to create something. All I can say is that stay tuned to my channel and wherever I will be posting my videos.

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