Achyuth Jaigopal just turned 18 the other day. And it is going to be a dream year for this young guitarist. He will be releasing his debut EP ‘Convert Guns to Guitars’ on August 9, and will soon be joining the famous Berklee College of Music, Boston.
The fairy tale twist to Achyuth’s career began during a vacation in 2012 with his parents to Bali, Indonesia, immediately after his tenth exams. And this holiday proved to be the turning point in his life. After the usual sight-seeing and shopping his parents Jaigopal and Latha, award-winning ‘green’ architects, had a scheduled visit to the famous Green School in Bali. It was the last thing Achyuth wanted to do and he had to be literally dragged into it.
“What I saw there left me stunned. The natural, holistic, student-centred education in an amazing environment completely bowled me over. I longed to be part of it and told my parents about this. We made preliminary enquiries and returned. I mailed the school asking for the admission procedures. They were prompt in their reply. They wanted me to write a 500-word essay on why I wanted to join Green School. I did this and very soon I got the reply that I could join,” says Achyuth who did his tenth in Vidyodaya and has been learning to play the guitar since he was eight.
The curriculum for high school students in Green School includes everything one does outside of the classroom. “The perspective on education here is reflected in the curriculum where we can mix and match subjects that really suit us. So I chose Math, Chemistry, Music, Enterprise, English and Media Studies. I could pursue my music and all other interests here.”
For Achyuth those two years at Green School was a process of growing up. He and his guitar became an instant hit in school. His music simply took off to a different level altogether.
“I had completed my 8 grade in Western classical guitar from Trinity College of Music at the National Academy of Music, Kochi, under the guidance of K.C. Peter and for sometime I trained with the eminent guitarist John Anthony. All that stood me in good stead. Bali helped me develop my strengths; imbibe eclectic rhythms and soulful melodies from different parts of the world. Those two years here gave me the confidence to develop my fingerstyle technique for my solo performances. We also formed a band Nasi Campur, six of us from school who were from different nationalities. We played a lot in Indonesia and also toured India spreading big smiles and positive vibes. And I also got the chance to be mentored by Kevin Briggs, the legendary guitarist who played with world-famous bands like Boney M during its heydays.”
Achyuth has played at many cafes in Bali, did gigs, and spread his music to promote social causes. He organised, marketed and performed a concert for the Paradigm Shift Project that works towards a greener and cleaner Bali. “Amazing musicians from all over the world supported me and we were able to raise five million rupiah for this cause. Back home I played at the One Billion Rising campaign aimed toward ending violence against women. Along with my band we have also played at fairly large concerts like the BaliSpirit Festival and MAD Festival.”
Among other things Green School connected two passions of Achyuth’s life – music and Nature. “Music, for me, is a tool that can help communicate sensitivity, bind people together and make people dream of a greener and better future.”
No wonder Achyuth won The Greenest Student on Earth Scholarship Competition conducted by the school for students between age three and 18 from around the globe. Three winners from the primary, middle and high school sections are chosen by a panel of judges based on video entries. “This competition was a way to present our green projects to the rest of the world. Mine was on music and its power to raise awareness about environmental issues. The win secured me a scholarship for free education for 12th Grade.”
Completing school with very good grades Achyuth faced a difficult choice. He secured admission from Berklee and also from Southern California Institute for Architecture (SCI-Arc). His head forced him to accept SCI-Arc and a secure future, while his heart beat for music. Encouraged by his parents, his heart finally won. “In these few months that I have I hope to release my EP, conduct a couple of performances and learn Carnatic guitar from Prasanna’s Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music, Chennai.”
‘Convert Guns to Guitars’ is an expression of his brand of music that ranges from fingerstyle, Latin and jazz to rock, pop, Spanish and Indian influences.
The launch will be held at ChaiCofi, Palarivattom on August 9. “This will be the first in venues across India. I’m excited. A teaser of the five songs has been released. I’ also making a music video which, hopefully, will be released in late August,” Achyuth signs off.
Achyuth can be contacted on www.facebook.com/achyuthaj.