NEW ZEALAND: God’s own country – Aotearoa! Never imagined I’d be living here – have to count my blessings and my amazing parents, up in their heavenly abode, probably made all this pan out, in some spiritual way! Another new life, another new country… once again, new beginnings… daunting to say the least! At the outset, have to thank the one person who made it all happen, by giving me the opportunity – the amazing Catherine Carr. You NEED that one person to give you a shot and she has been that pillar of support for me, till today! God bless you Cath, always! Arriving here in Auckland, on my own, not knowing anyone… scary as; looking for work and trying to make a start to the next chapter of my musical journey! This time, at least I had a few years of teaching under my belt, something more, than just being a drummer. Once again, being a leftie, hampered any opportunities to jam at pubs… or audition! On the teaching front, I tried some of the local schools but found they all had teachers in place… the response… SORRY! I was living on my own, no family; just my sister and her family, who were also new migrants. So yup… there were no connections. Frustrated, I decided to advertise drum lessons from my home. And called the school DRUMADIDDLE. Took a couple of months, but got a pair of students, a brother and sister. By the end of that year, 2005, I had 5 students a week… a start… but difficult to make a living earning $100 a week. Thankfully, the missus was still employed in HK and sent me funds to pay for my weekly groceries and maintenance.
I kept looking out for performance work and finally, 2 years later, in 2007 got the opportunity to play for 4 nights as a fill in drummer for a production of ‘GREASE’ the musical, thanks to Cath Carr who was the musical director. I must have done something right, as Cath immediately booked me as drummer for the next production, and musical theatre became my new avenue for performing. LOVED it and still get entrenched in the orchestra pit, till today. Word got around and calls came from other musical directors & theatre companies to join their teams.
Musical theatre was a whole new format… disciplined playing, reading skills and playing along with a trio, as well as a whole 20 piece orchestra. It wasn’t easy at first, as my reading skills were very average (not being exposed to too much of this in Mumabi or HK) but with regular shows, this started to develop. Over the years, have done 2 productions of JCS (Jesus Christ Superstar, by far my favourite musical), Les Miserables, Evita, Hair, 42nd Street, Jekyll & Hyde, Guys and Dolls, West Side Story, Chicago, Barnum, Chess, The Producers and a few others. Each one was an experience in itself, so many styles of music. In 2008, I finally saw an advert for a drum tutor at a school across Auckland, on the other side from me… and I applied. To my luck, the Head of the Music Department, gave me the break I was looking for and I started at Henderson High School as a drum itinerant teacher for 3 hours of the week. By then, my home lessons started to pick up too, probably had 15 students a week. Meeting other musicians via musical theatre, an idea formed to start up a band. Spoke with some of them and before long, got my first band started – D Groove. A 12 piece band, we covered pretty much the same style of music I did in HK, from the 60s hits to modern rock and pop, blues, funk, RnB, soul. The band started at a local pub and soon began to get a following that came regularly to watch and dance, on a Friday night after work. This led to a few corporate gigs too. However, things weren’t meant to last, with a big group, egos began to clash, which ended up in the band calling it quits.
In 2011, a very close friend, Ehsaan Noorani and Loy Mendonca, who I had worked with back in Mumbai, arrived on the shores of Auckland to do a Bollywood concert. They were known as SEL. They came across for lunch and were surprised to learn I wasn’t attending the concert. I explained that I didn’t know much about Bollywood and thought I wouldn’t enjoy it. Ehsaan insisted, arranged some tickets, so I went along. It was at a local indoor sports complex (capacity 3,500 people). It was SOLD OUT! They played for 3 hours and everyone from teeny-boppers to their grandmas and grandpas, sang and danced along to the music. I didn’t know a single tune. But loved it… the songs were catchy, high-energy, great grooves and awesome melodies. They had infused Western genres into their music, from rock, pop, hip-hop and Latin, with Bollywood and bhangra rhythms. You couldn’t sit still… infectious!

Also found out that my dear mates… were India’s foremost Bollywood producers and travelled the globe, highly sought after as musical directors for the biggest Bollywood films and were churning out hit after hit. My old blues buddy, Ehsaan from Crosswinds… now a Bollywood superstar!
I thought… this is cool… why don’t I try my hand at Bollywood and play some SEL music here locally with local musicians. Asked Ehsaan for his permission and he said… go ahead and even went to the extent of sending back tracks and sequences to help us reproduce as much of their music as possible.

A new band was formed in May 2012 – NASHA A totally new experience for me, as I had only done recordings back in the late 80’s – early 90’s for some Bollywood background stuff. Wasn’t really into the music in those days. This was a massive learning curve, now incorporating Indian rhythms using tabla drums, dhol and dholak percussion into the mix. My Hindi as a language was pathetic to say the least and not having much exposure to the language for many years… found it very difficult. Nevertheless, we pushed on and team members had a decent knowledge of the genre. The local Indian media picked up the band and supported us all the way. Local news media – Indian Weekender and Indian Newsweek covered our new entry into the market, as well as the radio stations Radio Tarana and Humm FM. Soon we were on their platforms performing for Indian community events like Holi and the city’s biggest event of the year – the Auckland Council Diwali celebrations.
We decided to try a twist to the setup, from just having a band on stage, we incorporated dancers too… not Indian dancers but ‘Kiwi girls’ who were willing to explore this dance style. We had a couple of teams that joined the band-wagon; Anna Mortlock and Theresa Murphy and their respective teams. The band started getting calls for corporate events and fundraisers, as having a LIVE Bollywood band and Kiwi girls dancing to Bollywood hits, was quite unique.
A year later the band decided to do their own Bollywood concert, incorporating these Kiwi dance teams, but now having a few students on the Drumadiddle rolls, I ventured to recruit some young drummers (Kiwi girls) to play percussion on a couple of songs. They were affectionately known as the Damsels of Dhoom – Tash Easey, Carly Gill, Carla & Chloe Tinsley and Gina Treleaven. Combining them, with a full drum kit + tabla and dhol drums, really brought the house down. The rhythmic content became infectious and was also visually exciting!
At this concert though, a Kiwi lady wondered why we didn’t do any Western material, as she had heard my previous band. Had to explain that this was a Bollywood concert. She found it difficult to enjoy a 2 hour concert of Bollywood, as they could not connect with the lyrics but enjoyed the novelty of it. She felt she could only engage for 15 to 20 minutes, with just Bollywood or ‘Indian’ music. An idea sprung to mind to mix Western hits and Bollywood – mashups! And we took this on. We tried this at one of the city’s festivals and the audience thoroughly enjoyed this, combining Elvis Presley and a Bollywood songs. Soon after, we were playing for an Indian business awards function, attended by our then-NZ Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. John Key, as well as our current PM – Jacinda Ardern. There were quite a few other ministers in attendance and high profile celebrities and they were all taken aback with this mix of music, we combined Shania Twain (country) as well as Ben E King (Motown) to Bollywood songs, throwing a rapper into the mix as well. It was so well received; we took this onboard as a positive. This was the start to NASHA forming an Indo-Kiwi platform, embracing local talent both Indian and Kiwis, working together with song and dance. Besides the Bollywood and the mashups, since 2018 the band ventured on doing their own concerts, doing tribute shows to ABBA, country music and more recently the Beatles in 2020. These events have gained popularity and are now well attended and have established the band in the Auckland music circuit. While the band gained momentum, my teaching (DRUMADIDDLE) also grew between 2012 and 2020. My students started to do really well at school music productions, school music exams (NCEA) and also international music exams (Trinity College, London) with the bulk of students and gaining ‘Distinction’ certificates at all grading levels, once again, something was going right! A few students have been recognised for outstanding performances in NZ, like the AIMES awards, getting scholarships and some have even performed with the Auckland Philharmonic Orchestra, when they’ve requested student performers to join them! An incredible honour for them and for me.
I now teach close to 140 students a week, have ex students assisting me and work as itinerant drum tutor at 7 schools across Auckland. In the course of this, I’ve also been blessed to meet some of the world’s LEGENDARY drummers, who’ve visited Auckland (Steve Gadd, ‘GOD’ to me and Dave Weckl) and also Ustad Zakir Hussein, the planet’s foremost tabla drummer. I feel blessed, that I’ve also had the good fortune to get some of my students to also meet with them backstage! Speaking ‘words of wisdom…’
As the journey continues, once again I am thankful for all the blessings that have come my way… I started music at the age of 21, rather late in life… sad that Mum passed away shortly thereafter… but I do believe Mum & Dad have watched and guided over my musical career (spiritually)… for a very average drummer, I’ve been afforded a many a blessing to keep me going… Focus, determination, persistence, humility have all played their part to keep me doing what I love – playing drums and making music! Possibly a little bit of talent too… Onwards… what does the future hold?! Now in New Zealand… God’s own country! I’m more than BLESSED!