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Pradyumna Singh Manot: Advancing The Cause Of Jazz

Music is the only life Pradyumna Singh Manot has known. Starting off with studying the piano at the age of six, he has traversed the world of Western Classical, Indian Classical, Latin, Jazz, and Latin Jazz. Paddy has performed at venues across the world, played alongside stalwarts such as Grammy-winner Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, collaborated on compositions for varied dance forms, and founded two bands and a music school; his life has been devoted to advancing the cause of music. His dedication to the cause is most salient in 12 Keys, his music school, which draws heavily from the famed ethos of Indian gurukuls. As he mentors the next generation of musicians from across the country, we caught up with Paddy at the recently concluded Jazz Festival at the Piano Man Jazz Club, and struck a chord with the musician for this #DSSCExclusive.

You’ve studied Western and Indian Classical music, in the end what drew you to jazz for it to become your mainstay?

I left Western Classical music because I got bored of playing the same music over and over again. It was not my music; it was not my expression; and composition is a whole different ball game when it comes to Western Classical. That being said, I always love listening to Western Classical. Indian Classical music is improvised and great music. But what drew me to jazz were its rhythms, its swings, and its improvisations. Similarly, I’m also very attracted to Latin music for its rhythmic structures and variety.

What led you to found your own music school? How’s the journey with 12 Keys been so far?

12 Keys has evolved from its date of inception in a few ways. Now, we don’t call it school. It’s been closer to a gurukul from the beginning and finding the right nomenclature is always a task.12 Keys is a space devoted to mentoring musicians.

Ahona (Co-Founder, Design 12 Keys) and I needed to teach music holistically, not just give a music lesson, because a holistic education is key to becoming a musician. Central to our philosophy is that everyone can become a musician with the right training and consistent hard work. At 12 Keys, students spend six hours a day practicing, they see day-to-day results. They work through their weaknesses and strengthen their skills. No student is judged, and the environment encourages all students to help each other. The journey has been amazing, we bond with each other at a very human level and music is the expression. I’m grateful for being able to do this.

Image: Avishek Bagchi, Shutterbug Studios

What has led to jazz becoming one of the most popular genres among Indian audiences in recent years?

It is definitely on the rise again, and many musicians are studying it. I would say it’s many, many reasons. First of all, the music itself. It is powerful. It hits people in the heart. Secondly, there are musicians and people such as Arjun Sagar Gupta (Owner, The Piano Man Jazz Club) and Sunil Sampat (Jazz Critic) pushing the music. So, there are many reasons for this resurgence.

What is your take on the evolution of jazz in India?

It’s growing slowly. People are understanding what jazz is and where its roots are. Slowly, but surely. Musicians are always the ones who try jazz first and then they spread it to the audiences. The future looks very promising. Many musicians are taking to it, and that is what ultimately holds the music together and keeps it going.

According to you, what is the one change that is required for the music landscape in India to grow further?

To point out one change is hard. But if I have to pick one thing to change, it would be the average parent’s disapproval of their children pursuing a career in music. Many parents don’t allow their kids to take up music as a career or are scared to do so. But it need not be that way. If parents can be made to understand that musicians have viable careers, then the amount of music will grow exponentially. Many kids will happily take up music. And we will flood the country with far more music! The market can never ignore that!

Coming to a close on our conversation with that high note, we play the signature DSSC Rapid Fire for Pradyumana.


Music is the only life you’ve known — if you were to pick an alternate career, what would it be?

Stand up comedy! Humour is something I love a lot. I love joking around all the time.

Your favourite up & coming musician in India?

Rhythm Bansal is already very established as a musician. But he is really someone who I love listening to. Every time I hear him play, he is better than the previous time, and plays with depth and thought. He is clear about what music is and what it is not. He understands what jazz is. He is honest and humble. I have only respect for who he is and for his music.

One musician who never ceases to inspire you?

Wynton Marsalis. He always plays so brilliantly and is a legend. But also, he is a great spokesperson of jazz, a great teacher, and a great writer.

One pro-tip for those looking to embark on a career in music?

Know your goal and sacrifice everything that takes you away from it.


*The responses in this interview have been lightly edited in the interest of brevity and clarity.


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