I first met Kshitiz Jain at one of the fortnightly Djembe Circle sessions near Appu Ghar Express in Noida. With all djembe players sitting in a semi-circle, Kshitiz was sitting at the centre, bass guitar in his hands, locking into the groove created by the steady, sonorous beat of 20 djembes.
Kshitiz, a resident of Aashirwad Residency, Niti Khand I, Indirapuram, is a multi-instrumentalist who started playing when he was 5. Music has always been his first love, but coming from a middle-class family, the stress was always on education. Yet, Kshitiz has not let societal pressures get in the way of his dreams.
Now, after a brief stint in the IT industry, Kshitiz has quit his job and decided to become a full-time session artiste. How are things working out for him? And what advice does he have for people who want to pursue music as a career?
Let’s find out…
Let’s briefly digress from music and focus on your name. You have quite an interesting way to spell it. What’s the story behind that?
Well, the ‘z’ at the end of my name because my father realised how much I love catching my Zzzzs (haha). Actually, right from the beginning, my father has encouraged me to be different from the rest, to stand out in a crowd. That’s why he thought it would be a good idea to give me a rather interesting way to spell my name.
Kshitiz looks dapper in a suit and a fedora at the New Year's Eve gig at Crowne Plaza, Gurgaon
That’s interesting! What kind of music do you play and who are your inspirations?
I am into various kinds of music. I play guitar, bass, ukulele, percussions, keys, tabla, bongo, congo and side drums. I inherited my liking for music from my mother, who has an MA in tabla and has trained under Pundit Shyamata Prasad Gudai Maharaj from Banaras Gharana. My idols are John Petrucci, Steve Vai and George Benson for guitar, Victor Wooten and Flea for bass and bands such as Porcupine Tree and Dream Theatre. I am also influenced by Indian artistes such as Nishith Hegde for leads, and Mohini Dey and Akashdeep Gogoi for bass.
My taste in music developed over the years. I started off with Heavy Metal’s Big Four (Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax and Slayer), then fell in love with the blues. If I had to pick favourites, I’d say blues jazz and classics (rock, pop and Hindusthani).
That’s quite an eclectic palate of music you have been consuming. Great. You have been playing for years now, have been active in Delhi-NCR’s music scene. Tell me, what do you have to say about the music scene in the city?
Delhi has the best music scene for Sufi and Bollywood music, while Gurgaon has the best scene for classic rock, jazz and pop artistes.
Walking the bass at one of his gigs
When and how did you realise you wanted to pursue music full-time? Any memorable incident of that a-ha moment?
Yes, I read a quote by Jim Carrey somewhere. He had said, “I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of, so they can see it's not the answer.”
It struck a chord somewhere (no pun intended). I realised that no matter what, one must do what makes one happy. Also, some one asked me a terrifying question years ago. The question was, “God forbid, but if your parents happen to no longer be around, what would you do to be happy at that moment? The question helped me put things in perspective. The answer was clear to me."
What problems have you faced on your journey to becoming a full-time musician?
Coming from a typical Indian family, I have always been expected to keep education as my priority. We are always expected to have a “back-up plan” if we wish to walk down a path less trodden. The only reason why I could be where I am is because of my sister. She is my rock. She has supported me throughout my journey. Besides, I had the perfect (and free) teacher in YouTube, and just took it from there. I even bought my instruments, processors, amplifiers and accessories related to music on my own. There are no substitutes to a good teacher and dedication to your art, if you want to grow.
Kshitiz with his transparent red Jackson eight-string guitar
How is the market for new musicians? Are people willing to give them a break? How’s the pay?
The city, for some reason, has always been stuck with its obsession for Punjabi rap music. There is only a small group of people open to original compositions. Having said that, the market has become way more receptive to new talent of late. I see a a lot of young artistes around town these days, and they are doing some interesting work.
The toughest part of being a live musician in the city is the pay. Most managers are of the opinion that since they pay for your food and travel, we should be ecstatic about the “exposure” we are getting and play for free. According to their logic, musicians should not be asking for pay as they are getting exposure. It’s ridiculous.
What is your message for City Spidey readers and aspiring musicians?
If you are serious about your dream, you HAVE to say no to all the alternatives! Be dedicated to your art, have patience, and people willl recognise your work.
Here's Kshitiz covering Nirvana's Smells like teen spirit with the band Firaaq: