The MusicMan – A Journey

Hello everybody! It’s me, Manthan! You might know me as the crazy kid that jumps around the foyer while blasting Dropkick Murphys and creating a one-person mosh pit. You might also know me as the kid that walks around with drumsticks and turns anything into a percussion instrument.

As you can tell, I really love music, and it’s been a huge part of my life for probably as long as I’ve been alive. I grew up listening to lots of Indian music. Eventually, I’d get into rock (Bryan Adams), and that would be followed by punk rock (Green Day, Dropkick Murphys, Street Dogs, Flogging Molly, Mighty Mighty Bosstones) and heavy metal (Metallica, Alestorm). 

My dad’s side of the family had all sorts of musical talents. My late grandfather could sing and play both the piano and tabla. My dad can play the piano, while both my uncles play tabla. I’m pretty fortunate to inherit that same musical talent. 

My grandfather used to teach me how to play tabla (for those who don’t know, it’s a set of two drums – a thinner pitch drum and a fatter bass drum – that you play with your fingers and hands). Of course, back then, I was just banging my hands on the tabla without any idea how anything worked. Eventually, my younger uncle took me to tabla classes. At first, the teacher’s younger son and I just hung out together and played computer games; eventually, I sat by my uncle and watched him play (sometimes I even got to play the tabla). He advised my dad to sign me up for official classes, and it wasn’t long before I joined the group.

As of now, I’ve been playing tabla for 10 years. I’ve been switched between different classes for about 3-4 years until I ended up with my current batch. We’ve played together at places ranging from Indian temples to even UC Berkeley. Some of you might’ve even seen me play tabla outside while waiting for my ride to arrive.

I don’t remember when this was taken, but this might’ve been me and my current group after our first performance. I’d say at least half of everyone there moved on and were later replaced.

However, tabla wasn’t the main part of my musical life. When I was younger, I wanted to play guitar. I signed up for a class but dropped out since I didn’t have time. To this day, the only guitar knowledge I have is air-guitaring.

However, I think my percussion genetics already had my life decided for me. I started thinking about playing drums. Eventually, in 9th grade, I got my chance. When Dr. Liddell asked me what instrument I played, I responded, “tabla”. He assigned me to drums; however, I didn’t get the glorious start I always dreamed of. The first time I sat down at a drumset, I fell off the seat (no one noticed, thankfully). That introduction may have been rather underwhelming, but I would eventually have an awesome time drumming. I played jazz band for 2 years, and I had a blast! At first, I had trouble playing the basic swing pattern, but thanks to the patience of Dr. Liddell and our other drummer Risha, I was able to get better at it (I even had my own drum solo!) Eventually, we introduced the tabla, and that became a big part of my playing for my 10th grade jazz band career, which ultimately culminated with me playing to a Bollywood-style Aladdin play.

I got my tabla mic’d! 

Back in January, I started my band Skarizon (we’re a ska band; you’ll learn more about us later). I had always wanted to start a band. At the start of 10th grade, I tried to start an Indian classical music band, but that fell apart during the first meeting. It was a bummer, but things were about to change. A few months later, Dr. Liddell introduced us to ska music, which we immediately started loving. He half-joked that someone should start a ska band. Now I normally don’t take jokes literally, but this was one of the few times where the joke was lost on me. It was hard at first to get members; however, January 2019 came along and I finally started getting people interested. Originally, there were two of us, but we grew into an eight-piece band by March. We eventually had our first performance at the Art Stroll to a very receptive crowd that mostly heard us for the first time. Even though we were dormant over the summer, we’re back at it again and we’re working on new stuff!

I don’t know where life will take me, but I know for sure that music will forever remain a part of my life. I relied on music to get me through both good and bad times. Whenever I go for a run, I play music to keep myself going and provide a nice way to unleash my energy. Through music, I’ve connected to lots of people. Teachers that I only knew through a formal student-teacher basis became much easier to relate to. I made friends with people I never really thought I’d get to know; this is one reason why Skarizon’s grown so well. I have an online friend who’s into punk rock; even though he lives in Oregon, we still chat about hanging out and starting a band together. Another friend, who lives in Hayward, recently started a heavy metal band. We talk to each other about heavy metal music and how both our bands are going. Lastly, I just can’t help but feel music coursing through me. I randomly start tapping a beat on anything – a table, my lunchbox, even myself. Whenever I listen to a song, I start getting the rhythm in my head and I can’t ignore it, no matter what. Here’s to many more musical moments in life!

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