Lured by Indian music, 18-year-old American drummer, Will Lone, talks about learning the tabla and his upcoming performance!
Will Lone, from the Cascade Mountains, Washington State, is now in Chennai with the express desire to learn tabla, be exposed to Indian music and eat as much biriyani! All of 18 years, Will has been learning drums since age seven and has played with high school jazz and rock bands and even worked as a radio jockey for a local radio station! In a conversation with NXg he talks about his desire to learn Indian classical music, life in India and the music scene generally.
How did this whole Indian classical music bug-bite happen?
It's kind of a real quirky story and it happened on my friend's front lawn! A Hindustani band, called the ‘Mishras' from Varanasi, was touring the U.S. and as they passed by my bandmates' house, they heard him playing his saxophone and, right there, they started to jam with their tabla and sitar! They took him to Varanasi for a month and he came back filled with Hindustani music and loaded with the music of Zakir Husain, Ravi Shankar and others. The music was so different; we were all hooked real soon!
I was always into world music and hearing the technicality in Indian music was really interesting. The music speaks to me. I really wanted to learn more about how to play that kind of music. So here I am in India, learning from a tabla exponent, Chandrajit. In fact I'm playing with him and two others as part of a fusion band on Friday.
What has been the biggest challenge while working with Chandrajit and other Indian classical musicians?
Chandrajit is like a human metronome! I mean, if I'm a little off tempo, he notices immediately. Most of the pieces are in rhythms like 10/4, 7/8 and other uncommon time signatures. Back home, I'm used to improvising. Here I'm being drilled to learn and perfect all those syncopations! It's real tough!
Prassana is a classically trained pianist, Kishore plays sitar with a Hindustani background, Chandrajit is more Hindustani on the tabla and I'm playing drums with my jazz and rock influences! It's really a cool sound! I actually bought a new drum kit so that the band could practice! I think it's really worth it as I'm getting to spend hours with high quality musicians!
What else have you been up to in Chennai?
I'm been teaching drums. I take the student forward from where they are and help them develop a strong sense of rhythm and to play intentionally, and not just let your hands go berserk. Teaching has actually given me enough experience to take up drum teaching back home and make some extra money.
Your opinion on the rock musicians you've seen so far...
Most of the bands here are really good! The musicians here are really more precise than back home. I mean, they are planned on what they want to do, as opposed to seeing what happens on stage. I like both approaches to performing, so it's been a great experience for me. I really like the energy of some of the bands like ‘Borrowed Halos' — it's not necessarily my style of music, but that vocalist has great energy and gets everyone going. I've also worked with guitarist Vikram, bass player Sathish, vocalists Saroop and Roshni for some Christmas concerts in Hyderabad and Chennai. Hyderbadi biriyani is also wickedly amazing!!
Any plans when you get back to the U.S?
My band mates were in Varanasi learning Bansuri (flute), Shehnai and Sitar. We also have a violist who is interested; so a fusion band is in the making. There's a professor of Indian Studies in Bellingham who is really interested to have us tour. I also want to apply to an Arts College as my ultimate dream is be a professional musician.
Lastly, you've been around the city a lot. How is the driving here?
The drivers here have to be good as the traffic is chaotic. Back home you can get away by just keeping lanes and stuff; but here it's either escape or get thrashed. I like it!
Watch Will perform along with the band Shivum
@ Unwind Center, Adyar
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Tickets priced at Rs. 100 available at the venue.