Saei Jamshid has become a familiar face after he emerged among the top four on the television show India’s Got Talent. Priyadarshini Paitandy catches up with the 13-year-old pianist

“This is my pride, my joy, my everything,” says Saei Jamshid as he dramatically uncovers his shiny black upright piano. The pianist from Chennai ended up among the top four on India’s Got Talent Season Five. At 13, there’s a certain self-assuredness about him, and a rare maturity laced with innocence that becomes apparent as the interview progresses. “I guess it’s because I have two older brothers?” he wonders aloud. He can barely sit still other than when he’s at the piano, playing soulful tunes. In fact, he is so much in love with his craft that even while he’s asleep his fingers often keep moving, says his mother.

Saei moved from Dubai to Chennai two years ago to hone his skills at KM Music Conservatory. “I began singing when I was six. I sang a song from The Lion King in school and won the second prize. My teacher called my parents and told them I had a special talent and I must pursue it. I joined KM Conservatory to learn singing. The teacher asked me to try my hand at the piano and that’s how it all started,” says Saei. Much before he took to the piano, his two older brothers used to play the keyboard and Saei was intrigued by it. One day, after hearing someone play a waltz, Saei fell in love with the piano. “The first tune I learnt to play from my dad was ‘Zindagi Ek Safar Hai Suhana’. That was before my formal training,” he smiles adding, “Nowadays, I try and teach my dad to play a few tunes!” But, at the Conservatory, he started off learning a minuet.

Wins a scholarship

Because of his mop of dishevelled hair the boy with magic fingers is often told he bears a resemblance to A.R. Rahman. “He’s the principal of my school. A lot of people say that. You think so too? Thanks!” grins Saei. And just like his principal, the student too comes up with musical compositions from time to time. In addition, Saei won a scholarship to the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland when instructors from there visited Chennai and heard him effortlessly navigating the ebony and ivory keys.

Four to five hours a day are dedicated to practice. With so many complex pieces, does he forget tunes? “I am forgetful but the piano being my first love, I can never forget it,” he laughs, continuing, “Certain songs, such as ‘Kal Ho Na Ho’ are difficult to transcribe on the piano. We have to make our own patterns…it can be a tad difficult but I have a policy ‘Everything is tough, but if you practise everything is easy!’” Though the young musician has played a variety of pianos, his favourite is the grand piano. “In an electronic one you can’t get the right feeling and dynamic,” he adds bouncing about on his seat and flipping through a book by his favourite author Agatha Christie. “I also enjoy listening to music and playing video games.” His favourite song at the moment though is a far cry from the strains he usually plays. It’s ‘Gandi Baat’ but ‘Arziyaan’ is an all-time favourite, we learn.

Success and recognition

Saei’s popularity reached a crescendo after his participation on India’s Got Talent, which concluded on Saturday. There’s success, of course, as well as recognition — people recognise him on the streets, at airports and click pictures with him and it’s been an overwhelming experience for the family. “Before every show, I used to get nervous backstage. But when I walked onto the stage, I used to imagine that there’s nobody other than me and my piano, and all my nervousness would vanish,” he says about performing in front of the judges and a huge audience. And what plans does he have for the future? “I want to play and sing and have my own orchestra. Actually, I would like to wear a striped tuxedo and a big bow for my performance…Mom, please may I have a striped tuxedo?” he says, looking beseechingly at his mother, who in turn looks at the row of designer suits lined up in the wardrobe. That’s the cue for us to leave. But someday we do hope to see him in his striped tuxedo, leading an orchestra.