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'Having an education, is crucial, as one needs to develop an all round personality'

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Bass guitarist Sheldon D’Silva speaks to Monarose Sheila Pereira about music as his profession

What is your area of specialization?
I am a Bass Player, Composer, Music Producer. I give  Live Performances as a Solo and Freelance Session artist, Studio Recording, Solo Performance, Ensemble Performance, Music Production, Music and Song Composition, Music Programming and Arranging.

What is your job profile?
My job is mainly being a session Bass guitarist. That means, I get called in to perform with different artists, write, compose, record and perform with them. I need to be versatile, musically educated, practiced and proficient in my skills. As a music producer, I need to be well informed and up to date with modern styles and techniques and how to execute them through my instrument or additional software. Good communication and people skills are a boon in the music industry, as people always enjoy working with those they are comfortable with. You can lose work, by just having a bad attitude, in spite of being an amazing musician. Finally, being well groomed is also an essential part of this profile.

How has your education helped you?
Having an education, is crucial, as one needs to develop an all round personality. You develop good character and communication skills, learn to be a team player, work with compassion and more. Broadening the mind with information that stretches beyond what you are comfortable or good at, helps one learn new skills, in turn making you more innovative as you can easily assimilate more into whatever you are doing. As you can see I went from studying science to graphic design, which in the bigger picture is all art, is beautiful and is all connected. Music eventually becomes a voice of everything that you are molded from, so the more knowledge and experiences you fill yourself up with, the more profound your music will be.

What are some of your latest achievement?
Produced an entire Album for my band Violet Chords, along with Reenie Mansata, Tubby, Gino Banks and Ravi Chary, which it is available on all major platforms for download and streaming. Performed with the legendary Guitarist John McLaughlin, Performed at the Capetown Jazz Festival 2018 with the Louiz Banks Matrixx band, Lead my band Ravi Chary Crossing along with sitarist Ravi Chary at the ACC World Music Festival 2018 and 19th Ulsan Jazz Festival in Gwangju South Korea where we worked with the Culture Centre children, teaching them an Indian melody and performing with them at the festival. Also included a collaboration with the the band ‘The Tune’ from South Korea. 2018 included performances with legends like Ustad Zakir Hussain, Avishai Cohen, Trilok Gurtu, John McLaughlin, Louiz Banks and many more.

What inspired you to take up this career?
Music is my greatest inspiration. I never dreamt it would one day be a career, as I always thought I would be a Pilot or something nerdier. I was an A+ student in St. Stanislaus High School Bandra and then moved on to do Science at St. Andrews college and eventually pursued to study Applied Art at B.D. Somani School of Art and Fashion Technology and throughout all of this, Music was my only constant, my liberation from the world. It etched at me and showed me a world far greater that the one forced upon children these days.

What is special about it?
When you choose to make a living doing something you love and that makes you happy, it doesn’t feel like work, and in turn you put more effort, heart and passion into it. That eventually serves a much higher purpose, you become a better person, you innovate and become a role model for future generations. Materialistic gains can only take you a certain distance, but the respect and satisfaction you get after doing what you love, is priceless, as you get to change the world and make a difference with innate qualities that you have been uniquely designed with. It’s a superpower, don’t ignore it, implement it.

Why did you choose your career?
Like I mentioned earlier, I surrendered to its power. I realized that I never chose it, it chose me and all I had to do was stop resisting. My parents were my greatest source of inspiration and encouragement for me to follow my dreams. I learnt the guitar from my father Trevor, who supported me constantly with pride, teaching me all the fundamentals, one being of how to ‘rock out’ without any fear. My mother Rekha is a true beacon of patience and perseverance and she nurtured these qualities within me. They taught me how to fish and then be humble when you succeed or how to never give up when you fail, these qualities are prime in any career choice, not just music. The music industry is an insecure and unstable one, you have to stay balanced and strong and the rest will follow. For those wondering about how lucrative it is, let me tell you, there is a lot of money up for grabs in the music business, just make sure not to lose yourself, do what’s true and the rewards will follow. God takes care of artists, so don’t be afraid.

Describe your training days.
Music practice is something that shouldn’t stop. Discipline is mandatory if one wants to become a professional. I believe I never stop practicing. I’m constantly thinking, breathing music. One should spend time with the instrument of choice, learning it from the ground up. Don’t rush and be impatient, learn the nuances, learn it’s history and let it play through you. Do it as much as possible, and look into a practice regime by finding constant inspiration. Listen constantly to artists and watch them and copy them before you can find your own voice. Increase your vocabulary at the instrument, so you don’t stammer on your instrument. Ear training is a must. Thinking fast is harder than playing fast. As a professional, see that you do your homework before you reach the workplace. Broaden your mind to all kinds of music without judgment, it will benefit you. Be present at all possible music events, watch and meet musicians and learn from their experiences. Play till your hands drop! Once in a while, shut yourself off and do something entirely different other than music and then restart. Very importantly when applying the above methods, make sure you are always happy doing them!

What investment did you have to make?
I was very fortunate that my father never hesitated to invest in me, by providing equipment and knowledge that helped me reach my goal faster. My parents were so supportive that it made the process comfortable and encouraging, so to make sure I never let them down, I had to invest my time, energy, effort in first completing my education, then honing my skills as a musician and eventually giving back to them everything they invested in me. You have to invest yourself whole heartedly with love and passion, time is your best friend and greatest enemy, so respect it and make the best of it. I don’t stress on thoughts of worldly possessions, and instead put my focus towards being the best version of myself no matter what it takes and trust that worldly gains would follow on their own. In the words of Sting – “Let Your Soul Be Your Pilot”

How much can one earn as a fresher?
It’s hard or rather unrealistic to answer that question, as its all relative. It will all vary and depend on the artist, their qualities, effort and experience. So let’s assume, one needs to simply pay their own phone bill and have a lifestyle of being able to go out with friends, that’s very doable for a fresher. Like I said, there is a lot of money up for grabs, but it depends on the artist’s investments, their desires and goals, and their eventual effort. All this and more can be achieved depending on the direction an artist takes ethically, so for instance one can earn as much as supporting a family, to owning a theme park with a mansion, its all possible.

How many years does one take to become a professional?
Just remember you have to be good enough, that someone will want to pay you, for what you do. The more the payment, the more you need to be able to deliver. Professionals are capable of producing art that’s packaged well, is moneys worth, is innovative, serves the requirement in a timely manner and have the morals and ethics essential for a work environment. However long it takes you to achieve this, is how long you will take to be a professional.

Where does your income come from?
For me, thanks to the grace of God, I have been able to sustain my lifestyle and family by earning purely through music, whether it be life performances, recordings or as an educator. Let me tell you, its not easy at all. As mentioned earlier, multiple factors contribute to this. An ever growing competitive industry, that has its flaws, can be demoralizing. Today the use of technology has put tons of musicians out of work, it’s a growth and understanding that we need to evolve from to realize what is more important. We need to challenge these obstacles constantly in order to be at the top of the game. We as a community need to help one another, otherwise it’s a whirlpool that will eventually pull everyone down, including the ones who think they are in power. Artists are supported by their audiences and audiences are regaled by these artists, it’s a give and take, if either side stops, it will all end. Music is not a hobby, it’s a part of human growth and sustenance, so we should fund music and other art forms. Musicians and artists are the closest form of magic, perfection, and connection to God, that stir the audience’s soul and guess what, they have bills too.

How much can one earn as an established professional?
Depending on their proficiency, and their perseverance, they could earn either 100 Rupees or 100 Million Dollars.

What are the advantages in your field?
The advantages are countless, you get to travel the world, stay in the fanciest of hotels, see places in the world you would have never dreamt of going on your own, meet people of all sects and societies, rich and poor, celebrities to heroes, enjoy plenty of luxuries, but more importantly make a difference to society and the world. You can have a voice than can change history, have the ability to help people and create awareness. Your name could be immortalized through your contribution, becoming an inspiration and guide to the youth and future. You can be the miracle and crux of evolution.

What are the difficulties in your field?
Sustenance I guess. The music business is a very insecure one like I mentioned earlier. The highs and lows are contrasting and you need to ride the tide. One moment you can be on top of your game and at the very next moment at the bottom. You can never be the best or ‘think so’. Financially you will have to learn the trade as musicians aren’t very good with their business skills. It’s a task keeping up musically with growing trends, as kids nowadays are on a very different wavelength and have also grown accustomed to being fed music on a platter that is easy to chew. So they have a shorter attention span, a know it all attitude, impatient, or the need to judge before even absorbing the information first. Scrolling through has become a norm amongst youngsters, so even though there is a lot of choice out there, they connect with nothing. Technology has isolated individuals, in turn making them more unsocial, which destroys building communities, leave alone making music together.

What advice do you have for those who want to take up your profession?
Be sincere! Follow your heart and listen to your mind. Learn your craft to the best of your ability from the ground up. Learn the roots of your instrument and music, before you adapt it with other styles. Don’t rush, and be impatient to be famous, successful and rich. There are no shortcuts, the quicker you go up, the quicker you will come down. Do not bring others down, when moving up, build your community and help each other. Respect, respect and respect, your seniors, colleagues, juniors and your audience members and remember there is always something new for you to learn and grow from. Share with those that are less fortunate. Music is bigger than all of us, we will only see the full picture if all the pieces are placed correctly. Don’t forget those that have supported and helped you, you can do the same for the next generation. Music comes from a sacred place, it will feed your body and soul, so treat it with love and respect.

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