Photography: Sharad Shrivastav
‘As a keyboard player, you are very rarely at the centre of the attention, though in your head you must always be centred.’ Shivam Khare’s musical journey began as soon as he learned to be comfortable in the background. As he realised that his talent and art meant much more than always being on the far end of attention, he found himself more immersed in the many facets of music.
He first got introduced to the instrument through his cousin at the age of four, through the good old Casio keyboard. The sounds it created left a huge impact on him. It wasn’t until he reached the third grade that he found himself leaning towards the harmonium class. On completing his engineering, an MBA and spending two months at a market research job, the realisation struck him that he only wished to practice music. Though he loved numbers and analysis, he decided to start his career as a professional musician and enrolled himself at the Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music in Chennai for nine months. This marked the beginning of a lifelong romance with music.
On being asked about his bands, he says, ‘One of my first ensembles was a Hindi band, Kaash. It really taught me about writing and arranging music that is true to the art form, yet connects with people. Our first song called became popular and so we got to play shows all over the country. A Japanese saxophone and clarinet player, Rie Ona, contacted me to play some jazz and funk standards with her band. But I had lots of newly written material that I thought would go great with that set up. So I brought it to the guys and they all agreed to it and that is how Afterglow was born. I try to take inspiration from the world around me and just focus on writing honestly about what I feel.’
His composition, From Shadows To The Stars, is a tribute to the struggles of Rohith Vemula and came naturally after he read the suicide letter. ‘He was a very intelligent and promising student who could have achieved so much if only we had better systems in the society to deal with caste discrimination and depression,’ he feels. The jazz, western classical and contemporary musician has worked on Hindi music as well. After the success of the subliminal folk outtake, Dil Shagna Da, he’s busy with his second title with Jasleen Royal who was once his student. His new electric instrumental trio, Frolic in the Forest, have just finished recording their first album. Next, he’ll be seen working on some new material with Bipul Chetri and Kaash’s new song, Haan Mujhe.
Other than practicing, he also trains aspiring musicians. Shivam runs his own music school, School Of Symphony, and is a faculty member at One World College Of Music, Gurgaon and MusicTek, Gurgaon. Speaking of breaking the fourth wall, he revisits his time playing a gig in Nepal. ‘When you are performing, you are on a pedestal and there is an unnatural barrier that is created between you and the audience. But that day, immediately after the show, it started raining so heavily that we were stuck at the venue for a long time along with everyone in the crowd. There was no dressing room. It felt so wonderful to see that unnatural barrier break down and to see the performers and the audience truly with each other.’
Text Priyanshi Jain