CHRIS POWELL – THE legendary drummer in the Indian Music fraternity
Chris Powell is one of the most respected and legendary drummers in the Indian Music fraternity. He has a career spanning 25 years and has made a place for himself as a dynamic progressive and power-packed performer! His fans and the music fraternity swear by his natural and fluid style of drumming. He is one of the very few and the first by far to innovatively use a mix of acoustic and electronic drums in his hybrid set-up bringing him nationwide acknowledgement. Chris is the recipient of “Deakin Rock Award 2016-17” for his contribution to Indian Rock Music and was also the Brand Ambassador for the renowned legendary Roland V-Drums from 2013 -2017. Chris started his professional musical journey in 1995 when he joined the then reigning Indian super band Euphoria and was part of their success journey by contributing his unmistakable pulsating sound to 2 albums and 1 single over a period of 9 successful years!
In 2006, Chris founded his own band, Bandish’ and released his first full-length album titled Kaise Kahoon’, including 3 music videos. All songs for this album were composed, arranged and produced by him under the banner of Times Music. The album was a huge success and the song Goonj’ went on to top the MTV world chart express for 14 weeks. In 2010 Chris came out with Bandish’s second album, self-titled ‘Bandish, under the flagship of Universal Music. The album was unique due to the collaborations with National & Inter-national artistes that were featured there-in and highly accepted by the audiences. Chris featured world-renowned UK based percussionist Pete Locket in the album and the title song “Bandish” went on to be the #1 song on B4U.
Chris has toured around the world, performing live and sharing the stage with various international acts like Bryan Adams, Sting, Foreigner. Foo Fighter, Creed at the Beale Street Music Festival, Memphis, USA, popular Sufi rock band Junoon’ at the UN General Assembly Hall, New York, famous Pakistani pop band Strings in Dubai and Australian Rock Outfit, Nail Factory at the World Music Festival, Leh/ Ladakh. Chris has also collaborated with Padma Shree Awardee Shubha Mudgal, Sarod maestros Amaan and Ayaan Ali Khan and playback singers like KK, Mohit Chauhan, Krishna, Harshdeep Kaur, Romi, Vidhi Sharma and Himanshu Joshi of India Ocean. In 2018, Chris started his solo venture as an independent artist songwriter, composer-producer and music director. He released his compositions as Singles such as “Naina’, Teri Aankhon Mein’, ‘Ek Shikayat’ and ‘Namastasyai’.
In 2020. Chris was approached by the Indian Air Force to reproduce their Anthem Song for a new sound and feel. The song was released by the IAF Chief on 8th Oct 2020 and was telecast on television to a live audience. Post the success of the Indian Air Force Song. Chris yet again composed and produced a song for the Tri-Forces (Indian Air Force, Indian Navy & India Army) to commemorate 50 years of victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war. The song (‘Chaukas’) was released on Indian Republic Day, 26th Jan 2021. Presently Chris is working on a collaboration with Padma Shree Awardee and renowned Indian classical vocalist Shubha Mudgal and Himanshu Joshi of Indian Ocean for a brand new single to be released on the event of International Women’s Day 2021.
Here is Chris Powell in a conversation with GOGO Magazine.
1) When did your journey as a musician begin?
My journey as a musician began way back in the year 1985-86 when I was just in my teens. But then it was never a serious business for me. My brother Desmond and I along with a few guys from our locality formed a band called Nirvana.(Not the Seattle based Curt Cobain’s-Nirvana)). We were a super tight cover band doing covers from bands like Iron Maiden, Rush, Police, Led Zep, Doors, Dire Straits, Europe and Deep Purple etc to name a few.
During the period, we enjoyed the fame we were attracting from the youth of the country. From winning Rock Band competitions all over India at various colleges and Universities (3 Times IIT –Delhi) to performing for corporate events in India and Nepal (5 years) The band was certainly doing good business and created a good fan following in its reign.
I however never really imagined taking it up as a profession as all music festivals and concerts were seasonal and decided to quit to continue with my studies in light to get a real job. (Putting aside the music as just a hobby) Thereby, I went on to complete my education and joined an aviation company in 1994 to find in search of job stabilization.
But as fate would have it and the music caught up with me, I was yet again questioning myself at the crossroads of life where decisions were to be made. The choice was mind-bending between The pursuit of happiness that I found in music or the monotony of a job at the International Airport. I guess history had to be written…. with me in it!!
2) How was your experience being a part of Euphoria?
In 1995 I was a well-settled bachelor working at the International Airport with an aviation company until I was approached by Euphoria to fill-in as a drummer for a series of Concerts that they had lined up for performance. What started as a gesture of helping the Band out, ended up with me quitting my job with the aviation Company and took up the offer of becoming a permanent drummer for the band.
Even at that time, I had no idea where the future would take me with this decision of mine, but as history would have it, Euphoria created a movement with their music and had the entire nation singing their songs. I had the good fortune to be performing on some of the most memorable stages in the world to thousands of fans everywhere!! Even today I cherish and acknowledge the fame and experience I gained as being part of such a super band. This phase of my life was certainly a dream run for me!!
3) Which has been your first track?
My first ever track titled “Namastasyai” as an independent artist, which was an experimental one and had nothing to do with any of my musical influences of the past or present. The song features Indian Classical vocalist and Padma Shree Awardee, Shubha Mudgal and was released and distributed under the flagship of “Underscore Records” way back in 2005. Needless to say, the track was well appreciated and acknowledged by the many that tuned into listening to it. This move also inspired me to venture into the possibility of songwriting and composing my own music as well. It was indeed such a huge privilege and honour to collaborate with the legend!!
4) Who has been your inspiration?
I come from a small town called Chakradharpur (now in Jharkhand). This peaceful and beautiful place was the home of many an Anglo Indian community, where the Railways was its only major source of livelihood. Having said that, It was indeed a happy go lucky community and always reminds me of the famous Astrix & Obelix comics where Eat Drink and be Merry was the mantra of most families!!
Being the youngest of the 9 siblings, I had a lot of exposure to music and films as a child and heard all genres ranging from good old Country artists like Willy Nelson, Kenny Rodgers or Elvis to the Beatles to Jimmy Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Deep Purple, REO Speedwagon, Eagles to name a few and of course the amazing R D Burman and Kishore Kumar combination (which my mum would happily tune into!)Those were the days of Radio and LP Records. Music was inbred into me at a very early age and my inspiration came from everywhere including my awesomely talented Rock star brothers, Steven and Desmond and not to forget the local talent within my hometown who were just Mind-blowingly amazing!!
5) What are your plans for the future?
Through my journey as a musician, I believe that there is no end to learning and I continue to be a student of life. From being just a drummer of all my bands, I have at some point now evolved myself into a Songwriter/Composer/Music Producer. In fact, in 2020,I had the good fortune to compose and reproduced the anthem song for “Indian Air Force”. Based on its huge success, I was yet again approached to compose and produce a brand new song for the Indian Tri Forces (Army-Air force & Navy) to celebrate 50 years of victory of India over Pakistan in the 1971 war.
The song titled “Choukas” was widely appreciated across the Country and formally released by the Indian Navy this Republic Day 2021. This was indeed one of my best productions among the many songs I wrote for the band.
I also love collaborating with other artists. I truly feel that creating such music can be fun and sounds better when feelings and ideas are expressed and shared. I plan to explore more of this aspect of my creativity further in the future and let’s see where that takes me!?
6) Which has been your most memorable performance?
All performances are memorable for an artiste, but for me the most etched are two specific ones. The first was at the Beale Street Music Festival 2000, “Memphis in May” on the banks of the Mississippi river performing to a crowd of 100,000 people present and sharing the stage with some of the greatest bands in the world like Foreigner, Little Richard, Foo Fighter, Creed, Allman Brothers Collective Soul and many others. These were our idols when we were growing up and to perform on the same stage, was an unimaginable dream which came true!
The second most memorable performance was at the UN General Assembly, New York in 2001 performing in front of the world leaders (then secretary-general Kofi Annan)for a peace concert representing India featuring Euphoria & Junoon!! This couldn’t have got better or bigger for any musician to ever have this honour!!
7) Tell us something about the journey in building your own Band?
For decades I have always been a band guy and tried to play my role to its best as a drummer.
In 2005, I decided to quit Euphoria (for personal reasons) wherein I needed to take a break from the band business and ended up with a year’s sabbatical.
In 2006 I was offered the drummers role with Shubha Mudgal’s fusion band “Koshish”. After a series of concerts nationwide it was her (Shubha Mudgal) idea that I form a band of my own and ended up naming it as well…all this on a flight from Delhi to Bangalore!!
Building your very own band takes a lot of research work initially. Finding like-minded musicians who could possibly share the same vibe or believe in your vision is the biggest challenge. (Its usually always about the money) The rest is pure magic. I was fortunate to have my brother and ace guitarist Desmond Powell who was my backbone and wingman at all times!!
In 2006, I finished a series of writing songs for the band and Bandish Launched its debut album under the flagship of Times Music and produced hits like Goonj & Kaise Kahoon.
The band grabbed attention very quickly and was nominated for Best band of the year at the “Jack Daniels Rock awards” and “Goonj” for Best Rock song!! Goonj was further featured on the MTV World chart express and remained among the top 3 songs for several weeks on various music platforms on TV.
After a glorious run of non-stop back to back concerts for a period of 4 years,I decided to release the next full length self-titled album “Bandish” with a 3 album deal with music label, Universal Music India.
The album was featured as one of the best collaborations by Universal Music and featured International Percussionist UK based Pete Lockett, Bollywood Playback singer and performer KK, Krishna Beura, Mohit Chouhan and our very own vocalist Deepak Nair.
In, 2014 I decided to release an EP with just 3 songs with the Independent music platform SongDew. The song “Naina” & “I Believe” were well received among the masses and was performed at every concert on demand.
8) How did you feel when you were approached by the Indian Air Force to reproduce their anthem song.
I was approached one morning in the month of September by Ad filmmaker Nairrit Das asking me if I was interested in reproducing the Air force Anthem song which was an old version parked there for some years. I was told that they wanted a kind of facelift for it and left the rest up to me to create.
Initially, I wasn’t sure about taking it up but a conference call with the Wing Commander sealed it for me. It was nothing less than a rush of passion and the opportunity to serve and be associated with my favourite forces. Had the privilege to record and orchestrate a 20 piece Brass band from the Air force at the T’series studio film city. The project was huge and required many musicians and vocal choir artist to complete the song. The experience was just Mind Blowing!! It was indeed an honour to be felicitated at the Air force headquarters by the big guns in the presence of wing commanders and Squadron leaders. their comment? We gave him Doordarshan he gave us back Netflix!!))
9) How was life in quarantine ?
Life as we know it in 2020 was nothing less than a disaster for millions the world over. On a personal note, the music industry took a huge hit as well as all other businesses leaving artists and musicians fetching for their livelihood. I feel most blessed and fortunate that I had and continue to have unflinching support from my wife, (partner and best friend) who constantly keeps my spirit afloat and reminds me that, Everything’s going to be Ok.
And then in the month of April, there was this blast of creativity where I managed to collaborate with some fantastic musicians from the south of India with 2 Lockdown session music videos. Also released 2 Independent singles,”Teri Aakhon mein” & “Ek Shikayat” featuring the amazing and beautiful vocals of Vidhi Sharma.
In November 2020, Composed and Produced a song for the Indian Navy which was released on 26th January 2021 to celebrate 50 years of victory of India over Pakistan in the 1971 war. The song was written by renowned Indian poet Kumar Vishwas and sung by Romi (Challa fame from the movie, URI)and was arranged and produced by Raja Narain Deb, mixed and mastered by (Multi-award winner) Biswadeep Chatterjee.
Currently finishing post-production of my new single featuring yet again the amazing vocals of Indian classical vocalist and Padma Shree awardee “Shubha Mudgal” and the Outstanding Classical Vocalist” Himanshu Joshi” from the band Indian Ocean!!
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