As young artists continue to contribute to music in the areas of styling, composition, creativity, and performance, I believe the Indian music landscape will continue to grow and develop
Live concerts will return even stronger than before, as public places have opened up and events are organised with limited access
I believe you need to have the passion to be resilient, if you truly love music you will never stop creating, even after so many years I see how music is evolving and that inspires me to keep going on
Jazz music is synonymous with Louiz Banks in India. It would not be wrong to say that Louis Banks introduced Indian music lovers to a new genre of music—Jazz. No wonder he's called the Godfather of Indian Jazz. In an exclusive interview with Sakshi Post, pianist tells Reshmi AR about his illustrious musical career, the piano curriculum he has created and more
1. Tell us about your curriculum designed to help establish a Gold Standard of Music Education for both children and working professionals?
I am delighted to be partnering with Artium Academy to use their technology and platform to team Piano for kids and music lovers. The foundation of any music learning starts by learning a Piano, and I could not have asked for a better way than this to help impart my experience and learning to help groom future musicians in India. I have designed and developed it completely from scratch and will be taught by handpicked teachers who have worked/trained under me. I will be personally invested in the course with one-on-one consultations and conducting masterclass sessions. The course is focused on helping students focus on contemporary music and songwriting, giving them a holistic music education, hence laying the foundation for a Gold Standard of music education.
2. Tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain called you a performer of unparalleled genius in the foreword to your biography—Louiz Banks: A Symphony of Love. How does that feel?
I feel truly honoured! Zakir Bhai is very kind, I have always admired him as a fellow music colleague who has incredible music artistry and creativity, and on top, he is a great human being and a good friend. But in all humility, I am not a genius and I am not unparalleled like I am described, I am just a regular human being who loves music and lives for his passion. I am always grateful for the immense love and support people have showered me with and will be eternally thankful to God for blessing me with music.
3. What's the importance of music education?
Music learning, as well known, is not a hobby anymore. Neither is it a tool for a potential career opportunity. Music education is a crucial tool in personality development in any individual. Every individual should learn to sing or play at least one musical instrument. Music learning has become easy through online music education platforms such as Artium Academy. Any learner who aspires to become a musician should focus on the fundamentals of music, i.e. theory and practical aspects. Once the foundation is strong, you can move in any direction, whether classical or modern popular music.
4. One always thought that music was meant to be a physical activity. Is learning music online the same?
Artium Academy has developed a platform where the process of learning music as well as musical instruments is personal and customised to every student. With our one-on-one courses, students will be able to learn at their pace which was never possible in classrooms before. Our students can schedule their modules according to their convenience. Through live, interactive sessions at the Artium Academy’s platform, we ensure our students can engage with us from the comforts of their place. Apart from providing various tools to assist the students while practising during the course, the dashboard also consists of a personalised learning graph on various musical parameters. The students can monitor their progress on the graph while practising. We work our best to assist the students throughout their journey and throughout the course, ask students to submit an assignment based on their learning progress and provide feedback to them to help them excel. The students will have access to their previous modules and assessments to review modules and assessment submissions again and analyse their progress.
5. What plans do you have for online music education through this specialised course?
I endeavour to work toward bridging the learning gaps in music by providing a platform designed to shape the talent of our students and guide them throughout their course. I aim to make India - the Piano / Contemporary Music capital of the world - and I strongly believe that online music education can play a strong role in helping India move steadily towards achieving the dream. This is precisely why I have designed the curriculum for all sets of learners - while no prior experience is required for students to enroll for this course, the entire curriculum offers three courses - Preparatory | Basic | Advance - with an endeavour to help students perform on the big stage
6. You learnt the ropes from your father. Tell us about your exposure to music when you accompanied him to concerts
I will be eternally grateful to my father, who tirelessly trained me and made me competent enough to sit in with his professional band in clubs and concert performances as early as the age of thirteen. I still remember listening in awe to dad playing Haydn’s trumpet concert with the Calcutta Symphony Orchestra. Apart from being an arranger and composer, he was a great pianist and an even greater trumpet player. He was also a great teacher, I have fond memories of practising the piano every morning with dad and going through all the piano exercises one by one with him. He used to sit there beside me with a stick and correct me every time I played a wrong note, his stick and continuous training made me who I am today.
7. Tell us about your earlier days and your work with RD Burman
RD Burman came to Blue Fox in (then) Calcutta in 1979, where I was used to playing the piano. He was impressed with my composition and asked me to come to his table to ask if I wanted to play the piano for one of his films for which he was composing music. I accepted the offer without hesitation and travelled to (then) Bombay for the recordings. Pancham da was pleased with my work and asked me to return to Bombay and continue working with him, which I did only a year later because of my commitments at Blue Fox. Since that day, I have played Piano music for his compositions, which slowly led to me becoming a part of his inner circle.
8. You have composed jingles too. Is there creative freedom in jingles?
Yes, there is creative freedom in jingles within the confines of the brief from the client and the producer, as well as the time constraints involved. While composing a jingle we need to come up with a musical idea or theme that enhances and compliments the product that is being advertised, and I will admit it is not easy. But I gradually learned the techniques and became the jingle king of India, having done hundreds of jingles over my advertising career. It was a memorable experience and in the process gained the title of creating a record.
9. Most musicians feel nervous at the beginning of every concert, irrespective of the fact that they have performed innumerable times. Is it the same for you?
Even after all these years of performing hundreds of concerts all over the world, I still get nervous before performing on stage. You need nerves of steel and great faith in your capabilities, your teammates and the choice of the repertoire you are going to present. Only after my first song is successfully performed and well received by the audience, I am able to control my nervousness and perform with the desire to give my best.
10. How has jazz music changed over the years?
Jazz has always been a music style that evolves, with new approaches and styles introduced by serious practitioners of the genre almost every decade. Ragtime jazz and other styles gave way to modern jazz and jazz fusion. Surprisingly, a few musicians with that inclination continue to play all of these different styles. Nothing dies out per se, but styles get merged and amalgamated with newer approaches. Music knows no boundaries, and Jazz, in my opinion, is the world's most democratic music.
11 Tell us about your jazz fusion experiment
Ramamani, the incredible Carnatic singer, was my first inspiration to try to combine jazz and Indian classical music. I went to see her at a concert and was super impressed by her. I approached her and asked if she wanted to sing fusion jazz with me. She was ecstatic about the idea and couldn't wait to put it to the test. The Carnatic jazz band Sangam was founded by Ramamani, the Carnatic College of Percussion Ensemble, Ranjit Barot, Karl Peters, and myself. Sangam was a huge success, and we were invited to tour Europe and perform at numerous jazz festivals around the world.
Fusion is extremely relatable to everyone. Hence it has evolved to become a fantastic tool that is well-accepted by music lovers. Fans adore the wonderful juxtaposition of musical styles because of their uniqueness.
12. Do you think the music scene in India is yet to evolve—in terms of concerts?
Music is not finite, it is constantly evolving as new talented artists join and introduce new ideas and techniques in their compositions and performances. At present, concerts have provided a global platform for musicians to showcase their talent and express their creativity, originality and artistry. As young artists continue to contribute to music in the areas of styling, composition, creativity, and performance, I believe the Indian music landscape will continue to grow and develop.
13. With the pandemic changing the way we consume music, do you think live concerts can be revived like before?
Live concerts will return even stronger than before, as public places have opened up and events are organised with limited access. People are going out and attending concerts. During the lockdown for the last two years, people craved to go out, as places are slowly opening up now there is a new dawn of optimism and enthusiasm developing, and I believe concerts will thrive like before, if not better.
14. Youth these days are looking at early retirement. They want to make easy bucks so they can chill, and you still have the same passion?
I believe you need to have the passion to be resilient, if you truly love music you will never stop creating, even after so many years I see how music is evolving and that inspires me to keep going on. There is no such thing as retirement in the music industry, we make music because we are in love with the process of creation of new music. Only those who are after money and commercials and have no attachment to the music itself will contemplate early retirement when they have earned enough money or when the competition is rising in the field.
In my case, Music is my life, therefore, regardless of the circumstances, I can never give up on music. There are still many musicians who live for music like me, music is our passion and we will continue to perform and create.