When Pete Lockett, calls himself a ‘multi-percussionist’ he is being a tad modest.
He can play more than 20 percussion instruments, apart from those he customises and makes on his own. And until the age of 19, he says, he did not even really listen to music.
Today he is 50, and has worked with everyone from Ustad Zakir Hussian and A.R. Rahman to The Verve, and has also contributed to films such as ‘Moulin Rouge’ and ‘Sivaji’.
On the eve of his performance at a fusion concert in the city, the award-winning percussionist from London talks about how he recently discovered that his grandmother wad born in Chennai, how he is more excited about collaborating with Umayalpuram K. Sivaraman on Saturday than he was about being part of James Bond movie soundtracks and his many visits to what he calls the “Barcelona of India”.
When he was 19, he once walked past a drum shop where there was an advertisement offering drumming lessons for five pounds. “And, that changed my life,” recalls Pete. His interest in drumming led to an interest in percussion across cultures.
He then stumbled upon a concert by the late Ustad Ali Akbar Khan and Zakir Hussain. “It must be 20 years ago now. I was playing in rock bands in London at that time, and it just amazed me. It led to my pursuing a study, initially just to complement my drumming. But I got absorbed in the whole thing,” he says.
“I learnt mridangam and natuvangam from Karaikudi Krishnamurthy,” he says. He even did his Arangetram. His involvement with Indian music and artistes has only grown deeper over the years. On his flight to the city, he was listening to Palghat Mani Iyer.
He can play everything from the Japanese Taiko to the Nigerian Udu, but, the most difficult rhythmic music technically for him, he says, is Indian classical music.
“That’s why I think there aren’t so many collaborations between Western and Indian musicians because you cannot just come and sit with an Indian musician. You need to know ‘x’ amount of the vocabulary,” he says.
He is in the country also to launch an album featuring Pandit Shankar Ghosh in Kolkata. “It’s a really interesting collaboration. We have got a version of Gandhiji’s favourite Raghupati Raghav,” he says. In between his collaborations, solo performances and studio recordings, he has managed to write an 80,000-word sci-fi novel, which he claims has a “really good name”.
He has also come up with an iphone and ipad app called ‘Drumjam’.
Though technology has made it easier for artistes from around the world to connect easily, he says it has also enabled people to record from home with their laptop with really good results, making it harder for studio musicians to survive.
But Pete has his hands full. “Ah, there are a lot of projects,” he says. “There is one with Bikram Ghosh, another with drummer Greg Ellis from Los Angeles, the dumru festival in Pune, among other things.”
On Saturday, he says, he’ll most probably play the bongos. Ask him about the city, and rava dosa, Marina Beach and the fishing areas are on top of his mind. He says his wife is half-Indian too. For him, it seems like “the Indian connection never ends”.
For free passes to Saturday’s show, call: 7708936328. The concert will also feature Neyveli S. Radhakrishnan, KV Ramanujam and Madurai B. Sundar, among others.