Ace Drummer Adrian D’souza Looks Back at 25 Years in Music
The Mumbai musician recently collaborated with singer-songwriter Neuman Pinto on two new singles
Mumbai-bred drummer Adrian D’souza is at Cleopatra’s Needle on Broadway in New York City with 10 minutes to go before his gig starts, only to be sitting on stage with a broken kick drum pedal in his hand wondering how to fix it. D’souza narrates, “A slow drawl from the figure at the piano floats to me through his sheets of music and a haze of cigarette smoke and said ‘believe in the power of Shiva.’” To his amusement, D’souza didn’t wait for his bandmate to indulge him with more comedy and says, “I was back from the store next door with Quick Fix glue, the divine intervention that worked, and we slammed the gig!”
Amongst the many occasions in his 25-year career, D’souza has found himself playing alongside stellar musicians. Whether it’s with American jazz singer Roseanna Vitro at the Kennedy Center or recording with jazz double bassist Eddie Gomez or even performing in Slovenia with the Philharmonic Orchestra, D’souza has done it all. Not to mention the time when he shared the stage with musicians Al Jarreau, Earl Klugh, George Duke and Ravi Coltrane at the Vh1 Jazz Masters concerts at Mumbai’s National Centre for the Performing Arts in 2008. “There are so many great memories,” he says.
D’souza recalls that he had his first drum kit at the age of five at a time when his feet weren’t able to reach the pedal if he sat on a stool. “So I stood and played,” he says. The drummer played along to the jazz and pop cassettes his folks had at home while also learning the piano. Growing up at a time without social media, D’souza would jump into television and radio talent shows for kids. He says, “It was my only way forward.” By the time he was 17, D’souza had his first band called Short Circuit with whom he’d cover rock and metal acts such as Guns N’ Roses, Iron Maiden and Ozzy Osbourne. Later he found himself on the opposite end of the music spectrum playing fusion and pop with a group called Blitz. Then came his defining moment, he says, “A call from [Mumbai-based jazz pianist] Louiz Banks.”
D’souza went on to work with Banks as a drum programmer by day. Come sundown, the pair would head off to the erstwhile Mumbai venue Jazz By The Bay. “We would tear up the club along with some of the best cats in the city,” the drummer says. He adds, “We played challenging music together for many years, often alongside great artists from America and Europe.” It was at one of these gigs where Vitro caught D’souza’s act and offered him the drummer’s seat in her trio. “That subsequently gave me a chance to study with some of the amazing jazz drummers in New York. My life had changed forever,” the drummer says. D’souza spent seven years in the U.S. touring all over and soaking in every moment. However, after the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City in 2001, D’souza began spending more time in Mumbai and soon found himself back in the thick of things in his hometown. Since his return, he’s been composing and producing for television, gigging with musicians Sanjay Divecha and Karl Peters as the Global Unity trio and most recently, he sits behind the kit for playback singer Shalmali Kholgade.
Recently D’souza teamed up with Mumbai-based singer-songwriter Neuman Pinto and released two breezy singles titled “Livin’ It Up On My Own” and “Never Let it Go.” Talking about Pinto, D’souza says, “We are friends from the same music circle that goes back a long way, and we connect on many levels.” “Livin’ It Up On My Own” includes lyrics penned by Ashutosh Phatak and D’souza tells us that the song is up for interpretation. “Never Let it Go,” on the other hand, is meant to take the listener to a peaceful and happy place. The duo’s varied musical styles come across quite well on both songs. The drummer says, “I’d like to say that our music is original and it is a true representation of who we are musically and otherwise.” The tracks were mixed and mastered at Mumbai’s Wah Wah Studios by D’souza’s longtime engineer Joseph George. “He has survived my idiosyncrasies. Me being super particular in having that one decibel up or down of an instrument in the mix, even if he explains to me that it does not make a difference,” D’souza says with a laugh.
While the shortage of gigs continues due to the pandemic, D’souza is keen to continue working on more singles with Pinto that they hope to have out in the coming months. Looking back on his prolific career as a professional musician for a quarter of a century, D’souza only has one thing to say — “It’s been a full circle.”
Stream “Livin’ It Up On My Own” and “Never Let it Go” on Spotify below and on other platforms.