PINKNOISE Drummer Jivraj Singh Juggles Multiple Projects
The drummer is currently working on five different albums including an electro punk release with Kolkata’s Gandu Circus
We are sitting at the large dining area of Hotel Broadway, the colonial-era property in central Kolkata that musician Gyan Singh would run until his passing away in November last year, and which is now under the watch of his son, Jivraj. New and sudden to the role of a hotelier, 26-year-old Jivraj has taken a break from “some highly experimental accounting” to talk about being a busy, obsessively experimental, drummer and percussionist. Jivraj is often found to be driving the sound of a band, manipulating moods and generally pushing the music towards edgy, impulsive peripheries. Jivraj affirms that he is not willing to be “the random guy in the corner.”
In the next few months, five albums are expected to release with the strong imprint of Jivraj’s mind over the music. There’s singer/songwriter and guitarist and Boston’s Berklee College of Music student Nischay Parekh’s preppy pop debut, Ocean, and a quirky electro punk-rap album with Gandu Circus, the band that took off from Gandu, Quashik Mukherjee’s now-cult subversive Bengali film on adolescent angst and the yell of youth. Then there is the second album of Germany-based keyboardist and singer-songwriter TL Mazumdar, who is known for his work with the likes of singer Nelly Furtado and trumpeter Gary Barone.
Add to the list the debut albums of the Kolkata-based ace guitarist Amyt Datta and PINKNOISE, the band which Jivraj’s parents, bassist Gyan and singer-songwriter Jayashree Singh along with Datta, had co-founded. The albums sum up the span of Jivraj’s musical footprint — from the “weird Bengali street vibes of Gandu Circus, the hipster feel of Nischay and PINKNOISE’s cerebral world electronic thing.” “Fortunately, I’m schizophrenic enough to feel quite at home and fit in with different sounds.”
Of course, there is also the work he has previously done with British Asian musicians Nitin Sawhney and Sam Mills, the Mumbai electronic duo Shaa’ir + Func and Kolkata jazz-fusion act, Kendraka. It is only with Skinny Alley, the Kolkata alternative rock outfit of which he has been a part and where Gyan Singh did bass duties, that there is a pause. The band is unlikely to create any new original music in the near future and will continue to survive on its back catalog spanning two albums and interpret covers. Original compositions are more likely to be a PINKNOISE prerogative, a band where Datta, Jayashree Singh and Jivraj are the common members with Skinny Alley. “Everyone I play with has a link between their music and a certain culture in terms of fashion, food, lifestyle, thinking and politics. At this point, I only wanna play when that link is very strong. The style of music is not important and I’ll be happy to play metal if the lifestyle of the band is in sync. The music should come out of the lifestyle,” says Jivraj. For him, PINKNOISE is very Indian in the way the band mixes up ancient Indian sensibilities. Also, no less for the meditative strains coming from his Tamil-origin mother Jayashree, the deep sense of being rooted from his father Gyan Singh and Kolkata-bred guitarist Amyt Dutta’s ability to toss it all up. In between, Jivraj comes in with his “dirty, industrial sensibilities.”
Only about four years since he first appeared on stage playing the acoustic drums on a Skinny Alley gig in Kolkata, Jivraj has moved on to acquire a resolutely electronic aesthetic and an array of prized artistic collaborations. A self taught-drummer, Jivraj professes admiration for fellow drummers Gino Banks (“he researches, studies and practises really deeply and always shows me interesting stuff”) and Vishal Nayak (“he showed me the basics, how to read and hold sticks; I started playing thanks to him”).
His current kit is basic, he contends, though his use of guitar pedals, especially the Delay, with the drum machine possibly comes from the improvisational streak. Jivraj has also moved on from a fiercely technical, jazz-listening musician to one whose playing is now overtly based on a sound-design-based pop sensibility and a philosophical credo.“Beyond a basic level of technique, it stops mattering that much. After a point, the challenge is to your spirit more than your body. You have to treat music philosophically otherwise it’ll be easy to get jaded.”
That it is a lot about the time and space for him was apparent during a recent Susheela Raman and Sam Mills concert in Kolkata, when Raman called out for Jivraj to join them on stage. Even though Jivraj was present in the ScienceCity auditorium, he remained in the audience. “It’s cool that she wanted me on stage. But I didn’t have an instrument and wasn’t sure what I could have done there. I’ll only go into a situation if I feel with my heart.”
Jivraj Singh performs with Nischay Parekh at Seagull Bookstores, Kolkata on May 4th, 2013. Event details here.
This article appears in the May 2013 issue of ROLLING STONE India