Tarun Balani Collective is a group of improvised mucisians who recently displayed their talents at the music matters festival which concluded in August.

“My music is like water. It’s very transparent and it can take any shape,” said Balani.”At the same time it can relate to a lot of different forms of music. For example, if an Oud (instrument from the Middle East) player wanted to play with us, he can do so without any difficulty. If a Brazilian wanted to play with us, he could too”.

At the festival the Collective comprised Tharun Balani (drums), Rohit Gupta (piano), Karan Mahajan (guitar) and Isaac Smith (bass) who have worked with one another in different capacities.

Balani has been playing drums for 16 years. After graduating from Berklee College of Music he currently composes and plays music with his band. He recalls the moment he first fell in love with drums as ‘loud and fun’.

tarun-balani“At school I saw a senior who played the drums. It was a very nice fibreglass drum set. I felt it was something I could have fun with and that’s how I kind of got into it,” said Balani.

It was always the drum beat in songs that inspired Balani the most. “I would know that melody but I would not pay attention to the lyrics,” he confided.

Mahajan started playing the guitar when he was 13 years old and when he grew older he received his music education from the Global Music Institute in Delhi.

“Just after I started playing I got converted into playing blues music. I first started listening to jazz because I felt it emotionally and later started understanding the technicality. At Global Music Institute I got tempted to play it,” Mahajan recalled.

Gupta has been playing piano for 10 years and was trained in the Global Music Institute in Delhi as well as at Swarnabhumi Academy of Music in Chennai.

But his music has been inspired by many entities. “I find inspiration in nature and in non musical aspects. I listen to folk music.  I have been travelling a lot and that also inspires me. Especially the Himalayas inspire me. I have been living there pretty isolated.

Sometimes I get inspired by movies too. I try to find inspiration everywhere”, said Gupta.
He is not interested in a particular genre. It’s certain artists and their styles that inspire him. “Whenever there is an artiste I like, I like to be influenced by him,” Gupta admits.
Mahajan plays electric and acoustic guitar and a huge part includes playing with a glass slide which is a glass bottle worn on the middle finger, ring finger or pinkie.

“It’s like a blues guitar and the early days when you use a chicken bone or a knife and slide it across the guitar. It makes this very vocal sound because there aren’t any frets, you are just sliding .This method is called a slide guitar. It’s either a metal pipe or a glass bottle you could slide across the guitar”, said Mahajan.

He is inspired by reading on scientists, watching videos on black holes and from what he learns about the universe.  “These are things we don’t usually think of. Things like gravity and quantum mechanics can inspire you or just make you look at the world in a different way”, said Mahajan who thinks that such things can give him a fresh mindset to write tunes.

He found that reading biographies of athletes and freedom fighters can be inspiring. “Composition-wise, a lot of it is just Delhi life. My day to day experiences sort of influences the writing since that’s very relevant to us personally,” said Mahajan.

Balani would call his music as improvised because of a lot of different influences. “There are genres we steal from and borrow from,” he confessed.

He believes pop, karnatic and jazz music he listened to while growing up has unknowingly influenced his music. “It eventually starts to sort of weave into your music, the titles of the tunes or harmony of the tune or the melody of the tune. It just happens once you study all these different elements.  Somehow, it just comes together and forms a mishmash of things,” he acknowledged.

For him, the most important thing is to express himself through the music that he plays. “Most of my music by titles focuses on things that are happening around me, things that make me angry or upset. Sometimes these are issues that I want to talk about,” Balani said.

“It’s important to enjoy playing music too, because that’s how we all started,” adds Gupta.
“It’s more of a form of expression,” said Mahajan. “Our goal is to express whatever we are trying to convey to the audience. We might not always be successful but we are always aiming for that”.
Pics by Eshan Dasanayaka