A Candid Chat with Indian Bass Virtuoso SHELDON D’SILVA !!!

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Hi Sheldon Welcome to Anylouder ? How have you been ?

Thank you, I’m so far so good!

 

Whats happening for you lately ?

I have just returned from a tour of Mexico and Colombia with Naad Brahma led by Joe Alvares, where we played the Cervantino Jazz Festival in Mexico and a prestigious concert at Teatro Mayor in Bogotá. I’m currently working on an album with Violet Chords, and alongside been playing various concerts with some of India’s finest artists and international artists as well. Also played a cameo in the Bollywood Blockbuster Rock On 2 where I recorded on the song Jaago and am featured in the movie, performing this song as the bass player of the band Magik.

 

 Tell us about your association with Mekaal Hassan band .

The Mekaal Hasan Band is a collaborative project which involves a mix of Indian and Pakistani Artists. Gino Banks, Sharmistha Chatterjee and myself are from India and Mekaal and Ahsan Papu are from Pakistan. The band strives at making music that transcends religion and diminishes the lines between the borders through this cultural exchange. As Indians we were the first to play Coke Studio Pakistan and can be seen on season 8 doing two songs, Kinarey and Sayon.

 

 How important has been Louiz Bank’s influence in your playing ? Tell us how Nexus came into being .

Louiz Banks has been a Godfather to me, an educational institution, a very big influence in my playing and was crucial in launching me as a bass player in this industry. I’m still learning from him and it’s always exciting to tackle the music he throws at me; it keeps my chops up for sure. I met him when I was 13, thanks to a friend by the name of Michael Godinho and it was at the same time that I met Gino too.

Later Gino and I met at a college music competition called Intune, where we were competing and Sangeet Haldipur was playing keyboards in his band at the time. I later had a gig opportunity through a friend and amazing tabla player by the name Shahdaab Bhartiya, so along with Shahdaab I approached Gino to play in the band and roped Sangeet in as well. We wrote some very complex music at the age of 16, and used to practice for about 7-8 hours together. We named the band Nexus, and eventually featured many great singers like Prasant Samadhar, Pervez Quadir, Kunal Ganjawala, Suzanne D’Mello to name a few. The band also produced one of Suneeta Rao’s albums called Waqt. The band is still active and currently working on an album.

Are you a musician who defines his playing to a particular genre?

Definitely NOT. I’m a musician who loves all kinds of music and want to explore all its forms.

 

 How was the experience of the Montreal Jazz festival ? What has been your favourite gig ?

The Montréal Jazz Festival was a fantastic experience. With so many great artists and bands on different stages it was simply overwhelming. You learn how big the ocean of music is and most importantly that music is not a competition. Every artist had their stage and everyone was appreciated equally. We played to a large audience that cheered and applauded throughout, even when it started to rain at one point. The enthusiasm of the people gives you new hope in being a musician and the exposure to other great artists is an education you can never forget. I played with Naad Brahma, featuring Joe Alvares, Louiz Banks, Balabhaskar, Gino Banks, Tony Lakatos and Samira Koppikar, and the band rocked. We even got to see some amazing artists perform like Manhattan Transfer and Victor Wooten to name a few.

I don’t have a favourite gig, it’s like asking a father to chose his favourite child, but what I can share is one of them that is very dear to me and that is when I got the opportunity to perform with George Duke, Al Jarreau, Ravi Coltrane and Earl Klugh at the Gateway of India, I had just turned 20 then and it definitely was a turning point in my life.

 

 You have played with countless greats in the years gone by. How have you taken to those experiences? What have you learnt from them ?

Every experience has a lesson attached to it and it’s great for a musician like me who has never been to a music school. I’ve been fortunate to take private lessons from some greats, but I think my greatest education has come from being on the road and playing gigs. From a very young age I learnt the value of a musician, the value of money, the value of my instrument and the value of my talent and how easily all can be lost if you don’t prioritize and nurture them. I learnt how to read music, how to learn music on the fly and how to improvise at a young age from gigging with Louiz Banks. He would always write a new tune at sound check, and I had to execute it at full power later that evening. Sometimes no time for rehearsing or practicing the part, it was an immediate requirement to deliver and from this I learnt that I couldn’t be rusty on my instrument. This also improved my notation reading skills besides it being a constant ear training exercise. Playing with refined musicians you learn how to listen more, interact in the moment, improvise and even deliver a solo that has meaning and substance. You also learn that you are an entertainer, so the audience becomes your church, you dress with class and with sincerity you offer yourself to them, the rest is left in God’s hands. Being true to the music and yourself is what allows me to sleep at night. Sometimes you get rewarded, sometimes you don’t, it’s a risk, but you’ve got to give it your 100%, the rewards and material gains will follow.

 

How do you best define your playing style as ?

In a word I would say Versatile.

Tell us about the gears that you use . Do you have a specific set of gear for the studios as to live shows ?

To be honest I’m not a musician that stresses a lot on gear. For me it’s always been about a sound I hear in my head and the best way to deliver it. Most of the time I achieve this directly from my instrument which might sound blasphemous to the gear freaks, but that’s what you hear from me, a clean tone that’s driven from the bass, bypassing any floor pedal I might have. I have Nordstrand pickups on my Warwick bass with a Nordstrand preamp, it’s very powerful and eliminates the need for an external preamp at least on stage. I have used the Boss GT-6B multiprocessor, the Zoom 2.1u, Boss GEB-7 bass equalizer, Eventide H9 Max and the GR 55 guitar synthesizer at times for choruses, delays, pitch shifts etc. only during solos or textural moments in the music, then I just hit bypass. Haha. I prefer recording a great clean sound in the studio and processing it later unless a particular sound and playing style is demanded in the music.

 

How was the experience playing with legends like Foreigner? Tell us about your association with Gino Banks.

 

Well just to be clear we were opening for Foreigner on a 4 city tour in India. The opening act being Sitarfunk, led by sitarist Niladri Kumar, along with Gino Banks, Agnelo Fernandes and Satyajit Talwalkar. It was fun opening for Foreigner and hanging out with them as well. They were super professional and had an incredible setup which included having their amps under the stage instead of on top and their techs got them a fantastic sound every night. We sounded great too and received a super ovation for our fusion compositions in spite of playing to people who were there to listen to Foreigner and pop music.

 

I met Gino when I had the opportunity to meet Louiz Banks at his studio. I was 13 then and I remember Louiz telling Gino to come meet me. We were school kids then, but 3 years later we met at Intune, a college competition at St. Andrews College in Bandra. It was from then that we formed Nexus and started to practice together for nearly 8 hours and later hung out and watched tons of music cassettes of great musicians. Louiz started to use us as his rhythm section and from there we started playing in many different outfits together as well. We have a great chemistry and understanding that always propelled the music forward no matter who we played with. We always challenged each other too and have learnt a lot from each other. We are brothers in music and that’s a great bond.

Tell us about your association with Warwick basses and D’addario strings.

I’ve been using Warwick basses for nearly 10 years now. My first being a Streamer LX that I had purchased and through an endorsement with the company received a Streamer Stage I, both are great basses and have served me very well through the years. Would like to thank Hans Peter Wilfer, Jonas Hellborg, Anthony Gomes, Furtados and Alberto Dias for their support. I recently signed up with D’Addario too, I have used D’Addario since forever, so I’m really excited and happy to be a part of their family. They are a very innovative company with very high quality standards. These are both international endorsements and I feel very privileged to be associated with such reputed companies.

 

You are considered one of the most highly skilled bass players in the country. So what advice would you give to young players to learn the art and get really good at it .

 

Being in the business of music is extremely challenging. The only way to improve your skills is to practice really hard, listen to a lot of music of all styles with an open mind, constantly be creative and innovative, always be ready to listen and learn, put your pride and ego aside so you can absorb all the information that comes by. Learning the art of music is only possible if you are passionate and in love with it, you have to serve it, before expecting any returns. I see a lot of young artists today who take up music for the glam and glory and not for the passion. They are ever ready to post and tweet their success, but when it comes to their music, they fall short. We have become slaves to a commercial society and it’s very possible to lose your voice in the process. You shouldn’t forget why you started in the first place and always remember that we are a community that should help each other and not step on each other to come up.

The basic fundamentals of your craft should be achieved through practice, dedication and determination, focus and hard work, always remembering to put the music before oneself. That’s what a bass player does, he makes his band sound good. Later you can always fly when given a spotlight, but do not get consumed by it. Money and fame will follow once you pay your dues, but always see that you aim to be a good human being through your art.

Take us through your future projects .

Working on releasing the Violet Chords album, along with working on my solo project. A lot of interesting collaborations as well as international tours lined up. All and all I like taking one step at a time without talking to much about it. You will see the results when they happen.

 

Thank you Sheldon for your time…Leave a message for your fans and our readers.

It was absolutely my pleasure talking to you. I would like to thank all the fans and readers for their constant love, support and blessings. I wouldn’t have made it this far without them. I hope to live up to their expectations and give back to the music community creating a scene that is beneficial to all of us. I once again urge everyone to continue supporting the independent music culture as that is where the true voice of an artist lies and be generous with your money when it comes to them, or we might just lose great artists to the pseudo music culture. See you at my next gig. Loads of Love!

 

 

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