Drummers!!! The guys/gals that like to hang out with Musicians…or so they say!
Hmmm, but on the other hand, try to imagine The Beatles without Ringo Starr, The Police without Stewart Copeland, Metallica without Lars Ulrich, or Rush without Neil Peart. Unthinkable, right?

Sorry, the Millenials will probably not connect with these names!! It’s the Groove baby!! The Groove…that’s where we fit in! The thing that gets you up and allows you to do a boogie! Musicians, also can’t do without us drummers…the backbone, the heart, the pulse, that drives the music!

I’ve always wanted to play drums, since I was 7 years old. The problem was I only had to wait another 14 years, before the parents finally gave in. I was taught Classical Piano. Much to my irritation. That was the trend. Growing up in Bombay (Mumbai) in the 60’s, the music scene internationally was incredible – The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley, CCR and heaps more…too many Legendary Acts to name them all….it was the infectious grooves, on top of wonderful songs and melodies. I would tap away on a little red “gogo” plastic stool whenever I listened to music. The folks knew I loved music and Dad would go down to the HMV music store (once a month) and bring me a “record” – 45RPM!! We owned a “gramaphone”. When Dad wanted some peace and quiet around the house, I would take his stethoscope (he was a doctor) and push one end into the gramaphone speaker, to enhance the beat and the bass. An unusual child….he’d look at me incredulous!

To cut a long story short…14 years was a long impatient wait. Finally at 21, a friend of a friend was selling his 2nd hand drumkit and by then I had an entry level job in the travel industry and was earning Rs 300 a month. I went to the folks and begged them to buy me the kit. It was selling for Rs 6,000. Dad said…well you’ve been working…so you can buy it with your savings!! I had saved Rs 2,000 after 3 years of working. So, I chipped that in and they put in the balance Rs 4,000. The rest is history!

I was drumming!!

My next door neigbour was Mark Selwyn (“Cheddi buddies”, since we were toddlers). Finding out about my drumkit, he pestered his folks and another neighbour, Sanjiv Mirchandani (who was learning guitar) that we should start a band. Sanjiv and Mark, convinced their parents, within the week, then went down to Thana (Peter Pereira guitars) and picked themselves a bass and an electric guitar.

This was around September 1981. We started jamming – mostly The Beatles and would you believe – Led Zeppelin (Sanjiv could actually pull off Roger Plant’s vocals).

Around the corner, (Nov 1981) was one of India’s biggest College festivals – IIT Mood Indigo. We thought we should try and play at this festival. The big band at the time in Mumbai, was Atomic Forrest (AF), they were the headliners for that year. They used to rehearse in the same neighbourhood. The Festival organisers rejected our offer to play (for Free) when we went to meet with them…”you guys are nobody!”

We didn’t give up. We kept up the practice over those 2 months and on the day, when the IIT transport (a bus) came along to pick up Atomic Forrest, we were there at the pick up point with our gear! After a lot of arguing and persuasion, we were finally allowed to board the vehicle. They insisted, we could take a ride…on the condition, we weren’t going to harrass them to play!

The Festival started around 11pm. Atomic Forrest took to the stage and played for about an hour. They stopped as there was some “technical hitch” and went off stage. This festival attracts some 4000 college/University students from around the Country. They waited patiently. An hour goes by…no signs of Atomic Forrest appearing. The crowd gets restless. We thought we’d use the opportunity to ask, if we could play. The organisers were stubborn and said “NO!” Another hour went by, no sign of AF, we asked again…same response – NO!!

3AM…AF have not yet reappeared and couldn’t be found! (The festival goes on till almost 6am). The crowd was now very agitated and getting boistrous, and pretty “high” too on various substances. We asked again. They finally agreed and we got on stage…use the AF gear and don’t move or touch anything else. I had to use the AF drumkit, which was setup up Right handed (I play left handed), manage or get off, do or die! A voice boomed out from a huge speaker on stage (learnt that was called a fold back monitor speaker!!) who the FK are you guys….get off that Fking stage!! Learnt that was the renowned “Sound God of Mumbai”…we became good friends in time….LOL!!!

So, angry sound man, storms onto stage, gives us a mouthful, then chills (only a little bit) after the IIT organisers have a chat with him….he says ” 4 songs, that’s what you can do and then get the F**k off!!” We were stunned, shocked and stressed…but we pushed through. 4 songs, 20 minutes – it was 3.30am.

We started with 3 Beatles songs and then pulled out LED ZEPPELLIN’s – Rock n Roll. One song in and the crowd was on it’s feet. By the time they heard Sanjiv sing Rock n Roll…they were screaming for more. The deal – 4 songs!! We got off stage…the crowd was screaming, chanting, wanted us back on…the IIT organisers, were blown away! Frantic, they begged us to get back on….the tables were turned, we said….NO!! That was the end of the night, as AF also never came back…never showed.

We were signed on immediately for the next 2 years to headline the festival. The band was called TOYS!! This was 3 months after getting my drum kit and first time playing one too….drums was going to be my life! I didn’t know it then!

We did a lot of gigs around the University and College circuit 1981-82, it really got busy, we also had 3 other “Lead” guitar players join the band over that time – Keith Viegas, Jeet Tahil and Charles “Charlie” Mascarenhas, we got featured on local TV…Doordarshan…the only band to have this privilege, back in the day!

I still had my 9-5 job in the Travel industry and music was essentially, a hobby. Sanjiv eventually moved to the US of A, to do business studies and the band folded up…no one could do LED ZEPPELIN!!

A few months later, circa 1983, I was approached by another guitar player (Musicians do need to hang with drummers…LOL), Ehsaan Noorani who had a band called Crosswinds and asked if I’d join them. I wasn’t playing gigs or anything…so jumped at the offer.They did a lot of Blues, Southern Rock and Pop. Fabulous musicians – Sanjay Divecha, Jayu Menon, Ehsaan Noorani, Jeet Das and Nakul Kamte.

They took over from where Toys left off, became the next big band around Mumbai, back on the IIT network and the Uni/College Tours. Around the same time, Mark Selwyn, now at a loose end, was getting the itch to play again…so decided to start up a band called Rock Machine. He asked me…but I was now entrenced with Crosswinds. He linked up with Mahesh Tinaikar and they soon got in Jayesh Gandhi, Ian Santamaria and Suresh Badhricha (Drums). I was still invited to play with them, which I did from time to time, when Suresh wasn’t available and Crosswinds wasn’t gigging. There were a lot of interchanges with musicians from the 2 bands (Crosswinds and Rock Machine), filling in for each other. RM also revamped the band in 1985, adding Zubin Balaporia on keyboards and replaced Ian, with Uday Benegal on vocals.

1985, Ehsaan and Nakul decide to go for Music studies to Hollywood, LA. Asked if I’d join them. At that point, I was still working a 9-5 job, my mum had passed on 2 years earlier, dad was alone and I didn’t think this would be something I’d be able to discuss with him. Ehsaan and Nakul dropped in one afternoon and had lunch with me and dad and they brought up the topic. Dad didn’t looked interested and was just banter, between us boys. Later that week, he asked me, if I wanted to go. I asked…would he let me go? The cost was quite phenomenal at the time…so i wasn’t going to push it!

2 weeks later, at dinner, he brought it up again…as he knew Ehsaan and Nakul were making their plans! He told me…he had a small life savings tucked away for me and my sister. That was all he had. He was prepared to let me have it, if I was serious enough. I was gobsmacked. I was 25…I said yes…wasn’t going to miss this opportunity. He made arrangements….very difficult in those days to ensure the money got to the school, including a very small kitty to pay for my stay there, for that year.

On leaving he said…you’ve got to make your life with this….don’t come back or ask for any monetary help in the future. I have NOTHING more to give you. That sank in….and I am blessed to this day that I have been fortunate to keep my music going and somehow make ends meet, in a very difficult world of entertainment, with no guarantees, where your next earning will come from. I spent the next year at Musician’s Institute in Hollywood, California. My first day in, I was auditioned by a drummer called Joe Brancato. He led the Jazz Dept. I was once again put on a Right handed kit to audition. I told him I was left handed and I couldn’t play on this kit. The kit was all chained and locked, so it couldn’t be switched around. He asked me a few questions and spoke of various grooves…I wasn’t familiar with all the jargon and terminology and I couldn’t read. I explained to him, that I could play but came to the school to learn all the basic stuff and learn to read. I explained I came from India, where there wasn’t anyone who could teach me. He retorted, I wasn’t going to make it and that if I didn’t improve in 1 month, I’d have to go back. I was shattered…what was Dad going to say…I took his money.

Once school got going…most of the teachers realised I could play and I had a good ear. I spent my entire day at school, literally from 7am till 1am the following morning, learning, playing with numerous other students from the various guitar, bass faculties. Went home, only to get a meal. I learnt heaps….but there was only that many hours in the day. By the time the year ended, I had the highest amount of performances credits at the school… I had played in all the various performances groups and genres (not too much of Big band Jazz, due to the high level of reading skills required).***. Eventually a lot of the teachers knew me…the drummer from India…they always asked if I could play tabla drums..unfortunately, I didn’t! I was nominated in the 10 best drummers at the school for that year, from about 150 drummers and Joe Brancato came up to me, in the last week, congratulating me for all the efforts I made, to make it to the end. This meant more to me than the Certificate of Completion.

***(This part of the Curriculum was super scary. A student drummer, guitarist and bassist had to perform a piece with Top Notch LA sessions Horn/String players (about 15-20 of them) to a score you had a week to prepare on your own. No other preparation…you enter the performance room…the conductor counts you off and away you go into the chart…total deep end, sink or swim!)

Petrifying. I had to do 10 performances of this….which I eventually did…crapped myself, everytime. On finishing school and wathcing a lot of Concert movies, recognised so many of those musicians, part of top notch Jazz bands. The beauty of being in Hollywood, I guess. I love Big Band today and would give anything to play in one, on a regular basis. Got an opportunity recently here in NZ to play 3 nights with a local Glenn Miller styled Big band in 2008…was awesome…offered the gig to join them, but it was too far away to make it a regular feature. Alas!!

As MI was coming to a close, my old mate Mark Selwyn called me in LA, asking if I’d return. I wasn’t sure. I had managed to secure gigs in LA with some of my school buddies, but it meant 6 months of possible freebie gigs and going around the pub circuit in LA. I didn’t have a cent after the last day of school, nor did I have a work permit to obtain a job. I had budgeted my year, to the day…to allow me to stay and study for that year…nothing more, nothing less.

rock machine

Mark mentioned to me that Rock Machine was invited to back a singer – Gary Lawyer for a Stage Musical based on the life of Elvis Presley. It was 21 shows over 2 months. They knew I was a huge Elvis fan and knew all his music. I had to weigh this up….stay in LA without any guarantees of a paid gig and a lifestyle or go back to Mumbai and take up this offer, with a potential start to work in Mumbai. I knew there was no infrastructure in India at the time to make music a profession, especially as a Western Rock or Pop artist and worse still…just a drummer. A very hard decision, as my Dad had warned me, he couldn’t help me financially. Mark, also suggested that If I was coming back to invest in a Drum Machine (a programable rhythm device). This was making an impact in the recording world in Mumbai. So, I requested a loan from a cousin and invested in a LINN drum. This was the industry standard drum machine at the time

I returned to Mumbai…the prodigal son!

The 2 RM boys, Mahesh and Jayesh, (Affectionately known as Twiddledee & Twiddledum) with much enthusiasm, drove to the airport at 3am in the morning to pick me up. Enroute home, they informed me that the band had an audition with Gary, for the Elvis gig a few hours later at noon. I said ” What?!!!” I thought the gig was confirmed…no it wasn’t! The gig would get confirmed if I could play a groove to a song. The song “See See Rider!” This song has a crazy Rockabilly drum groove intro….which I was aware off…but never played. I said, I can’t play this groove in a few hours, as I’ve never done it before. Well, noon came around, totally jetlagged and we were at this audition with Gary. I was introduced to him. Gary said, let’s do this. I was petrified….I was going to have to wing this…I could see the boys all anxious too. I started with what I imagined the groove to be and a few seconds in…Gary was swaying his hips and got into the Elvis pelvic movement…he was hooked. A big grin on his face! RM got the gig and I was on my way.

rock machine and friends



Performers at the Rock n roll gig at Rang Bhavan

Soon after, Gary found out about my LINN drum and asked if I’d help him for a jingle (didn’t know what that was)…it’s a a short piece of music that accompanies advertising films. I said I have no experience with this. He asked what I’d charge….I had no idea. I offered to do it FREE, as I’d learn from the experience. It was amazing to work in a studio for the first time. I started to slowly learn how to program the machine, to actually sound like a LIVE drummer. He was kind enough and paid me a nominal fee at the start, which however soon started to grow. Word also got around the Mumbai music circuit, pretty quick and I got to meet a lot of the stalwarts from the recording industry. I was now being paid professionally, doing ad films, backing tracks for Bollywood films and album projects.

Simultaneously, while all this was starting to build, as I had hoped to start making music my career (Dad’s words kept me pondering), I approached the band if we could look at the possibility to make RM a professional project. There was much discussion over a few weeks and then the RM boys took a life changing step to do so, no more amateur gigs. The boys all quit their jobs or completed Uni and we decided to practice at least 4 hours a day as a band, compose our own original music and try and make this our career, much to the dismay of our parents. There was NO infrastructure in place to do this, so they were obviously worried. We took the gamble. No safety net, nothing to fall back on! No income.

1987, We did our first major PUBLIC Concert at Rang Bhavan (a 3000 seater, open air amphitheatre) with the help of Power Productions (Farhad Wadia and Mark Selwyn). It was called the Rock n Roll Party. The band invited the cream of the Mumbai music scene to join the band on stage, each singing a few songs. The Concert was a sell out. No local band had ever managed to fill or draw in 3000 people at this venue. The band was established.

July 1988, along with Gary Lawyer and Remo Fernandes the band toured the USSR (Russia) as part of the GOVT’s FESTIVAL of INDIA program. The band showcased all it’s original music and the audiences loved it. At the FINAL ceremony the CEO of CBS India, watched the concert in Moscow and met the band backstage and offered the band a recording contract on return to Mumbai.

The Vegetarian Gujju

This was to be the band’s debut album – Rock n Roll Renegade. CBS, planned a Tour around India to promote the album but as things are in India…the album wasn’t readily available at the Concerts. Some smart person from Delhi, somehow managed to get a copy of the album, went to Bangkok, Thailand and ripped it off and started selling. Unbelievably, he had an amazing network and his”cassettes” made it across the Country.

We only found out, when the band reached North East India – Shillong, we were presented with this pirated cassette for an autograph. The organisers were so enthusiastic, they took us to the shop where this was being sold. Shillong was also the first city where the audience had already heard the material prior to our arrival. They actually sang along to all the original material at the Concert…that was some moment. We were treated like ROCK STARS!!

July 1988, along with Gary Lawyer and Remo Fernandes the band toured the USSR (Russia) as part of the GOVT’s FESTIVAL of INDIA program. The band showcased all it’s original music and the audiences loved it. At the FINAL ceremony the CEO of CBS India, watched the concert in Moscow and met the band backstage and offered the band a recording contract on return to Mumbai.

September 1988, Mumbai had it’s first INTERNATIONAL Rock Concert in a Stadium in Andheri with 25,000 people attending, featuring NAZARETH (UK) and EUROPE (SWEDEN) (of the Final Countdown fame). All the gear was flown in from the UK and sound and lights all handled by a PRO sound company from the UK. RM was invited to be the opening Act. It was unreal. We played for about 45 minutes, once again showcasing original material, with a couple of covers from The Beatles and Santana. Mumbai audiences were over the top to see a Mumbai band on stage with these massive Acts. For me as a drummer, had never experienced this kind of setup. My fall back monitor was the size of a large wardrobe, just behind my back. At sound check, the engineer started with the drum sound check and I started with the kick. The first thump and I almost flew off the drum throne…it was monstrously LOUD! It took awhile to get used to that kind of sound. Unbelieveable. By the end of our set…my ears were ringing…I was deaf completely for over an hour or so. Couldn’t hear anything. We weren’t aware of in ear monitors or ear plugs…LOL!!


The Europe Concert was another step up for the band. We countinued to tour around India, North to South, East & West and with the band’s popularity, came the upgrades to 4-5 Star Hotels and flights and being treated well. Gone were the crappy days of unreserved II class train and bus travels, hauling gear, being mis-treated, arguing with officials, paying bribes to get your job done! And now the God of Sound and his team,were your best mates!! We hung out….

IN 1990, RM had a 2nd album out – The Second Coming! This time through Magnasound. For this 2nd album, I suggested trying to incorporate some of our ethnicity into our music. We did the whole Bon Jovi, Def Leppard routine and very Westernised approach to our music till then, why not be Indian.

We can’t wear tights/leggings or leather jackets, nor were we tall, blue eyed and blond…short stubby Indians…

My suggestion was affectionately responded with a single RM expression; ” Chooth” generally a very nasty expletive in the Hindi vocabulary…however in polite terms, it’s like being called a dick!!

So it was a NO!! One afternoon prior to band rehearsal, I had returned early from a recording and was sitting in the rehearsal room. A 4 track machine was always setup and a song was recorded with just guitar and vocals. I had my LINN drum machine, so started playing around with this, adding in programmed tabla drums…Mahesh was sleeping and hearing this, awoke and came in…WTF are you doing he said! I told him…just trying to see if tabla’s would work on this tune. Slowly, he started toenjoy the sound of guitar, tabla and vocals to a very poppy tune. Later that evening Uday, after rehearsal, also had a listen and thought….yup….this could work!! The song was PRETTY CHILD! The band won an MTV award for this song (Most Popular video in Asia) and was rated NO 09 on the MTV charts that year, ahead of some notable international artists, including Madonna. This became “THE” band song and still remains the foremost played song from the RM/IC catalogue! No, I didn’t play tabla…the very illustrious USTAD Fazal Qureshi did the honours.

On release of this 2nd album, the tours continued to flow, around India as well as to the Middle East, Media Moghul, Rupert Murdoch’s STAR TV and MTV came into India in a big way and the band did a few Videos for the MTV channel, songs like Rock n Roll Renegade, Top of the Rock, Pretty Child, which thanks to the VJ’s, had repeated airplay through the day. In 1992, MTV also did a 30 minute

ROCKUMENTARY on the band. This was another feather in the cap for the band. Rockumentaries were really done for prestigious TOP NOTCH international Acts – QUEEN, THE WHO, ELTON JOHN etc etc….so to be chosen to have one done, was super special. The ony INDIAN band to ever have this accolade, till date!

Over this period between 1989 and 1992…some of the boys got married and started another chapter in their lives. I had to call it quits with RM and move to Hong Kong, as my wife was based there with her work. RM changed names to Indus Creed and carried on till 1999, recording a 3rd self titled album.

In 1994 in LA, this time incorporating much more of their ethnicity!

In 2006, thanks to a very good friend, Brian Tellis, who organised a Reunion Concert as part of his One Tree Festival at the Bandra Kurla Complex, with Indus Creed, Uriah Heep, Kool and the Gang, The EWF Project, Derek Trucks and The Blues Brothers Band. Flew me down from NZ and Jayesh from NY, recruited Taufiq Qureshi (Fazal’s brother) to make this gig possible. Was a blast!