Tunes of struggle

Updated: Jan 12, 2019, 13:07 IST | Karishma Kuenzang | Mumbai

This 30-year-old jazz pianist's debut album is inspired by the obstacles full-time musicians face, their phases of self-doubt, compromises and the Game of Thrones

Anurag Naidu was introduced to jazz via a Chick Corea track
Anurag Naidu was introduced to jazz via a Chick Corea track

He picked up the keys at the age of five, dr­eamt of becoming a classical concert pi­anist and finally got seduced by the im­provisations in jazz. Since 2016, An­urag Naidu has played with many we­ll-known musicians including Italian dr­­ummer Matteo Fraboni and Ameri­­c­an jazz vocalist Loretta Hollow­ay, who have performed in Mumbai. And now, his recently released debut album is making all the ri­g­ht noises. But, honing his sk­i­lls ha­sn't come easy, even th­ough one might like to be­lieve that being playback si­nger Shilpa Rao's brother would have helped.

Born in a family where his fa­t­her had earned a degree in Hindu­s­tani classical mu­sic but picked en­g­ineering as his career, Naidu only st­­a­rted learning the piano when Hari­haran, whom Shilpa was training un­der, su­ggested it. But Jamshedpur di­dn't ha­ve any teachers, so Naidu and his fa­ther would go on a five-hour train jo­urney to Kolkata every Sunday for a two-hour class.

At 18, he cracked engineering entr­a­nce exams, but hid it from his pa­rents, wanting to pursue music. But when he moved to Mumbai and wa­t­ched a live concert for the first time at the NCPA, his dream of becoming a classical concert pianist shattered. "I realised I had lost too much time," Naidu shares. But that was before he was introd­u­ced to jazz via a Chick Corea track. He couldn't afford to go to the US, so picked a school in Paris to study jazz for two years. Health issues brought him back to Mumbai. "A lot of it was just mental — living in Paris was financially difficult.

It was an inward journey to finally recover and start gigging in 2016. People think 'Oh, you're doing what you love for a living, how nice'. But that's not true. You've got to lug around your instrument in autos, and chase guys to pay you after gigs. And it's difficult to get people to believe in what you're doing. Money can get you an audience, but can't make people believe," he says.

His album, J'ai Fame, which transla­t­es to "I have hunger", was recorded in Paris, and features songs li­ke La Lune, which talks abo­ut how the moon phases but actually is the same, "while hinting at phases between the right hand and left hand in the piece," explains Na­i­du. There's also Hofor — a Game of Thrones-inspired track that arises fr­om 'holding the fourth' — the fourth is an interval on any instrument. He is working on a track with Rao, which the siblings hope to release next month.

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