Drummer Carola Grey inspired budding musicians at Chandrakanthi Public School to follow their passion

Rebellion made Carola Grey pick up the drum sticks. She was training to be a classical pianist. However, during her teens, she grew tired of the exhaustive practice sessions, and wanted to pull out. Her mother was insistent she learn the piano, but allowed her to learn another instrument too.

Just to make her mother mad, Carola chose drums. She played them night and day. The sound of her pounding drums broke through the walls of her house, creating trouble for the neighbours. “The next thing I know, I was learning jazz at the university. Soon I was playing drums for a living,” she told students at Chandrakanthi Public School (CPS).

Carola performed and answered the queries of children at an hour-long interactive session organised by Rhapsody Music Education, which collaborates with schools to educate through music. “Our aim is to expose children to Western and Indian music and help them appreciate music better,” said Sudha Raja, principal faculty, Rhapsody.

About 180 children from CPS, Chandra Matriculation school, Camford International School and PSGR Krishnammal Girls HSS took part in the programme.

The hall fell silent when Carola walked onto the stage with her equipment. “I hope that after this session, there are more drummers, especially among girls,” she said. The hall echoed with crashing cymbals and pounding snare drums. A few covered their ears while the others at the back craned their necks to get a better view. All of them were spellbound, immersed in Carola’s music.

Carola said it was important for musicians to be aware of computers. “You must be flexible as an artist. You can probably make a living playing live. It is important to know other aspects of music such as recording, playing keyboards or arrangement.”

The Indian influence

Asked how Indian music has influenced her, Carola said learning the konakkol has changed her sense of rhythm. “In the West, we do not have konakkol; neither do we keep thaala. We count for rhythm. The music system in India is beautiful. You have a rich heritage and must treasure it. I will continue to study Indian music the rest of my life because it is so complex.”

Then, Carola performed konakkol. ‘Tha dhim ki na thom’… she struck the hi-hats and the mid-toms with vigour. Carola also accompanied the children and Sudha as they sang a song in two rhythmic scales.

She explained the components of her drum kit. She showed them the wonders of drums, cymbals and hi-hats as she produced diverse sounds using her hands, brushes and sticks.

“Who or what is your inspiration?” asked one student. “It could be anything…If I like a number on the radio, I will use it for my music. And, I love jazz.” She said Miles Davis and K.J. Yesudas are her favourite artistes. “How many hours did you practise music, as a child?” asked Sudha. “When I was 14, I used to practise the piano for at least seven hours a day. Now, I am travelling all the time. So, I train in hotel rooms while watching television. Or, I rehearse the konakkol when I am on a bus. I do not get time like I used to. The best thing about being a child is that you get all the time to practise.”

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