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sahil vasudeva

Sahil Vasudeva’s Keys

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Amongst India's most talented young classial pianists, Sahil’s experiments with different mediums – visual projection, photography, and theatre have been instrumental in taking the form outside conventional definition and shaped a performance style that is truly his.  Sahil has performed across prominent venues in the country, composed for independent  films, documentaries, TV commercials and more. His mixed media production The Un Recital was presented at the Royal Opera House Mumbai last year and lauded by the  press. You may read a review in The Hindu here and watch a promo here.

In 2018, he was commissioned by Magnetic Fields Festival to form Natural Selection – a  piano and electronica duo with Gaurav Malaker aka BLOT, showcasing his versatility as a  musician. Most recently, he featured on acclaimed British-Indian composer and producer,  Nitin Sawhney’s Indian tour of his album Immigrants. He has quickly established himself  as one of the leading pianists in India.

Push or Shove

My mother made a trip to America in the early 90s and came back with a whole bunch of western classical CDs. She would play them repeatedly every morning - it included symphonies, concertos, sonatas. I was already taking classical piano lessons. I didn't quite know what the music meant then but I started internalising and memorising the melodies. It introduced me to the Beethoven and Rachmaninoff’s of the world. But really the calling came at 26 when I quit my job and after a year of pretending to want to do a MBA. Soon I found myself immersed in the piano landscape again and decided this is the world I want to be a part of. I was fascinated with the challenge, integrity, and depth of the instrument.

Latest Single to Drop - Khayaal

“Qinara” - an area of land bordering and level with the sea. Also referred to as the seashore, coast or Sahil. Qinara is my debut album (in the pipeline). Khayaal is a part of my debut collection of work written for solo piano. It is an introduction to my composing sensibility and musical personality.

Puddles & Hurdles to an Album

There are obviously going to be another layer of challenges given we do not currently know how life is going to pan out post covid, in addition to the grave systemic challenges with independent music and especially my form and instrument, the piano. I really do not need any more facts or data to see the lack of support provided by the government to its citizens during the pandemic and either way, the arts and artists have never been a priority in the country nor received support from the government. The challenges remain the same - you are out on your own to fend for yourself. It will be an extension of the current landscape where you are responsible for everything -  building a listening culture, promoting your album and hopefully getting people to engage with it, whilst trying to perform and practice and work on improving your craft. The challenges are endless and honestly, very demotivating.

Target Acquisition

In the lockdown I started my YouTube channel sahil.vasudeva and I have been sharing videos from Qinara live in concert. I do have a SoundCloud page as well. (soundcloud.com/opusindia). As a first step, a live version of my album will be out on Spotify and Apple Music next month. I haven't focused a lot on sharing my music previously and focused on building a listening base and live performance experiences, but now it is very clear that every musician needs a strong digital presence and I'm working on building that.

sahil vasudevan

One for the Album

As I mentioned previously ‘Qinara’ will be my debut studio album. I was going to record it right before Covid interrupted the world. I will be recording it as soon as I can get into a studio. The piano is a very tricky instrument to record and requires a lot of technical and engineering efficiency. I am hoping to be able to record it in Berlin or London if possible. After that, I will have time to find a record label that might be interested in releasing the album. Unfortunately we don't have any piano labels in India so if that doesn't happen then I will release it independently and hope for organic growth and listening. Right now though these plans sound absurd, focus is on staying healthy and getting through this period.

sahil vasudevan

Highlight Performance 

The Un-Recital at The Royal Opera House in Mumbai - grand venue and being one of the first independent musicians to hold a solo performance after its reopening, it was a great opportunity and experience playing on a big stage. But Oddbird Theatre hold a special place - I have an emotional connect with the space and friends who run the theatre have always been very supportive and hands on -  its has always had the most palpable energy in my performances.

An Ode to the Roots

Of course you're a product of your environment. You cannot escape your place of origin in anything you do - it warrants a response or reaction in your art. I have always tried to use sonic landscapes that are traditionally local to India - the sound of the pressure cooker, hard bristles of the broom on the streets, TV commercials, annoying ringtones, or intonations which are traditionally Indian on the piano. We are very used to seeing the white European man playing the piano - i have always attempted to break that barrier of understanding the instrument by using local motifs and nuances. There has been no support in the nascent stages (it is still nascent), except my parents who have been very supportive. I went in with no plan really and am constantly trying to adapt since there is no benchmark for piano careers in India.

Psychological Harvest

The piano - playing and performing it is a spiritual experience. That is one thing I am convinced of. Music is a healer, a very potent force and the language of love - it is the biggest reward. Being an independent musician and a pianist in India brings severe psychological and financial drawbacks - it's a never ending process, you're always trying to consolidate those worlds. It can lead to a lot of inspiration but a lot of self-doubt as well, which we often find cripples musicians. It is very challenging to be an independent artist in India - I have second-guessed it every day.

Pandemonium Effect

The pandemic has derailed everyone's lives - we are all waiting patiently to perform again. That is what we live for. I also want to record my album soon and tour it. 

Indian Footprint

I don't want to be a spokesperson of classical music in India because I am transitioning out of the (non-existent) western, classical music world of India. There is a lot of talent, there are a lot of young painists if given the right support can match up to any European and American standards. There is a huge gap in teachers, education, and support which is why cannot match up to those standards. Nobody (in their right mind) is aspiring to be a concert pianist in India - it simply does not exist as a career option. In a country of 130 crore people how many concert pianists can you name? The answer to your question lies in this number.

On The Anvil

The world is in a crisis - health, human rights, the environment. India is in its darkest hour (in my lifetime). At this point, it’s attempting to stay afloat and hang in there somehow. All big goals and dreams on pause. Not much to look forward to right now. Ok typing with one hand is really tough and the voice to text speech function sucks. 

 

Well, thank you once again for spending time with us, giving us valuable insight into your career. We wish you all the very best of luck in your endeavors. See you soon at a Concert.

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