When you think of a young musician who gained fame and success at a young age, you would picture someone with long hair, who wakes up late, fashions a strange beard and breathes a certain arrogance, and of all things, cannot be a disciplined person.
Against all stereotypes, Abhay Sharma 29 is humble and sincere. He wakes up early, practices his saxophone, creates original compositions and makes sure to add something to his knowledge of music every day.
On this World Music Day, we talked to him about his journey and his inspirations, struggles, fears and hopes as a musician.
After mastering the saxophone, doing international tours with musicians such as Shankar Mahadevan and Vishal Bhardwaj, and finding a band, Abhay feels he still has miles to learn when it comes to music.
“You can never truly learn music. It is easy to be blinded by momentary fame but the truth about music is that it is a vast sea and one can only try to fathom its depths.”
Growing up listening to the music of R.D Burmann and OP Nayyar, he was always close to melodies and rhythms. He also played the flute at school. Beginning with the flute, Abhay picked up the saxophone when he was just 11 years old. He credits his journey with the saxophone to his father, who he mentions was his life coach and mentor.
“My father was the kind of person who always liked out-of-the-box ideas. The saxophone was his favourite instrument. Looking at the way I played the flute, he saw a flair in me for music. At 13, I went to a school to learn western music.” he says.
Listening to musicians and learning from Charlie Parker, Jaco Pastorious, Herbie Hancock, James Brown, Weather Report, Yellowjackets, John Scofield, Chick Corea, Toto, and Doobie Brothers, he learned western classical and jazz.
Abhay is deeply moved by legendary musicians of old Bollywood such as Madan Mohan, RD Burman and Pancham Da are some of them. “The kind of music that they created in such early days is unprecedented and surely worth seeking inspiration from,” he says. Now, Abhay is investing his time in understanding the nuances of Hindustani Classical and ghazals, a fact that can be heard in his recent renditions.
As a teenager, Abhay played with his father. In the process, becoming better with the instrument. He also took an active part in the Delhi University music circuit. He wanted to create a platform for musicians in Delhi. Abhay wanted to create a platform wherein all musicians can be self-sufficient and later use those profits in creating original compositions. Thus he found the Revisit Project.
He first started The Revisit Project as a tribute band. This involved paying tributes to Jazz musicians and Indian musicians and playing contemporary versions of Bollywood classics. They started coming up with their first song in 2017 and have now created 4 albums.
His father also sent his video to musicians in Bollywood which later became a reason for many successful collaborations in his life. “It was 2009-10. Facebook had just started. My father used to dedicate hours to sending my videos around. I would ask him to stop spamming but he always believed that something good will come out of it.” remembers Abhay.
He was called by Ehsaan Noorani for a show in Siri Fort in Delhi. The fact that a 19-year-old was playing blues really impressed them. Abhay later signed up for an 11-city US Tour with Shankar Mahadevan in 2013. He has actively been a part of their band since 2018.
Abhay has also recorded a song with Vishal Bhardwaj, who noticed him during a performance on MTV Unplugged. He has recorded a song with him called “Dhoop Aane Do" which talks about life during the pandemic.
With creative endeavour, satisfaction and danger exist together. The greatest challenge in the life of a musician according to Abhay is to bring structure to life, create meaning and remain sane. Young artists often drown as they fail to do so. “Anyone in any organized job looks for recreation after the day’s work is over. There is a said pattern to follow. However, for musicians, it is more difficult to put structure to life which turns fatal for many.”
Currently, The Revisit Project the band is a jazz, fusion, and funk setup. It is a team of young musicians: percussionists, drummers, keyboard players and Abhay as writer and saxophone player. They take inspiration from jazz, R & B, and Gospel. The band has recently released their album called Capitalist Musician with a left-leaning avatar was released in April.
After spending almost a decade creating and playing music, Abhay is grateful that he can make a livelihood with something that he cares for despite occasional glitches. “Creating a livelihood from something that helps you express is enriching. Life, in general, is a process where one thing will lead to another. It is the confluence of ability and attitude that will take you places.”