Welcome to the second installment of Musician Origin Stories, a series in which musicians describe how they started down the path of music-making.

Mrigendra’s story contains a great lightning-bolt (or, in this case, earthquake) revelatory moment. Read on:

Well let’s start by saying I hated playing and practicing…

My maternal grandfather was a violinist and used to perform for Indian movies as popular as Bollywood. At that time the Indian government allowed musicians to buy an instrument without paying any tax, so he found an old upright piano and brought it home. He taught himself then taught my maternal uncles and they taught me. But I hated to practice and play and it was big burden to learn as I loved sports and hanging out with my friends. There was an initial fascination was when I saw them perform, but once the real teaching started I hated it.

After a year everything changed. We were staying in my grandfather’s house because my mother and father were struggling with their marriage. I was 14 at the time. My father was a drunkard and his behavior was drastically changing. My grandfather mysteriously found an expat who had this old upright piano he wanted to sell. He bought it and installed it in a restaurant in Thamel (a very happening touristy neighborhood in Kathmandu with lots of restaurants) for me to perform on so I could earn some money for my dismantled family.

It was a bad experience for me; I knew literally 15 songs and to top it all the piano was bad. It sounded like a honky tonk. I played for 7 days those 15 songs then the guests slowly shifted from inside dining to outside dining. Since they couldn’t move any farther from me they complained I was playing the same songs for a month. So we moved the piano to another restaurant. Now it’s been three months and my repertoire has increased to 20 songs. Then another restaurant for 4 months. I used to start at 7pm and pray that no guests would show up so that they wouldn’t have to listen and I wouldn’t have to play. The evening would just go by. I would just play to pass the time and every minute passed painfully slowly.

The bad, old-sounding piano thrashed my confidence. I could hear people gasping at the bad sound. After I got fired from there my grandfather found an even bigger place, a five-star hotel for me to play in. He was tenacious. That three years with that piano was all I needed to completely lose my sense of musicality and my self confidence. I became robot-like, just playing to pass the time and earn something. I had no passion, no love for music and no excitement in playing it. It was just a lame and bland job I was doing because my parents said I had to. I had to play because I had to make a living.

After three years of this torture, my maternal uncle was leaving for the US; he had been playing in the Shangri-la hotel and wanted me to take his place. So another responsibility. To my utter amazement the piano in the hotel was in even worse shape than my previous piano, because the manager had been shifting the piano from the first floor to another floor with the help of ten people. So the sustain pedal was broken. The entire 5th octave had been dismantled.

One day I met a very generous young man who had a friend running a newly opened restaurant. It was very lush and high end. He asked me if I wanted to play there and I said yes. I thought maybe I would get the chance finally to play maybe a digital piano, which will have all the keys working. However, they didn’t have a piano and the owner didn’t want to buy one. So out of no choice I had to use the Yamaha keyboard I had bought with my earnings.

I could play a song now without thinking about a broken note. Slowly it started to unfold after all these years of playing that constantly playing on an un-tuned, broken piano had complete stripped me of my musicality. No one liked what I played.

The owner had a resort in another city. The moment I arrived at the resort I found that the seven-hour bus ride to the resort had resulted in a broken key on my keyboard and the display had completely gone. So once again I dealt with a broken note and display-free keyboard for two long years.

You might notice I am sounding a little like Bruce Almighty, because I blame all this on god only here he is half naked (you should check out some Hindu gods). I was asking for a break all these years from this misfortune. Because I was sick of playing all the time on broken pianos and keyboards.

Like old saying goes, you should be careful of what you ask because god works in mysterious ways. We had an earthquake. The restaurant building fell. The hotel guests fell to nil. Here I am, back at square one with no work and no money. Now I am Bruce Almighty without the power. I blamed everything on god for this mediocre life.

In the midst of these dark days I had a light of positivity when I was window-shopping in a mall. There was a cell phone shop and it had one big poster that said every problem comes with equal opportunity. I went back to the hotel. After a few minutes of playing in the empty lobby I thought since there is no one here I can practice new songs. I get extremely nervous to play a new song even after I practice. I feel I will make mistakes and out of fear I do.

After that day I played 5 new songs every day. I practiced everyday, all year. I get excited to play in the hotel. Even with the un-tuned notes I was learning new songs every day. Suddenly I have new songs to play, and in different genres. Pop, classical, and even jazz and Chinese songs. The restaurant that had been destroyed in the earthquake opened a new location and called me, to my surprise, asking me to play for the restaurant every week. The first time I played there, with all of my new repertoire, everyone complimented me and were happy with my playing even though it was the same no-display keyboard; and back in the hotel I got tips despite playing on a broken, bad piano. I was still playing the same piano and the same keyboard but the audience response had changed. (We have lot of Chinese visitors so I learned their songs and that’s where I get most of my tips, too.)

Even with the bad piano I get excited to play a new song now every day. I don’t know how exactly it happened, but now I have started to like playing. My passion and inspiration is coming through all the time now. I don’t know where I will go from here. Nothing has changed except the way that I look at the problem and see the opportunities.

God bless.

Bruce Almighty

Many thanks to Mrigendra for sharing his story; you can connect with him on Twitter.

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