Dinushan Shanmuganathan is the drummer/percussionist for one of biggest acts in India, Lucky Ali live and also renowned session musician, arranger, composer, Music educator based out of Bangalore. Born in Sri Lanka, Dinushan started playing the drums at the age of 7, inspired by the Jazz players of the day including Buddy Rich, Dr. Steve Gadd, Tony Royster JR, Simon Phillips and Thomas Lang.
Being self-taught he has explored many styles of music and currently specializes in rock, pop, metal, and jazz fusion and has played the drums, djembe, congas, tabla, Tavil and many more percussion instruments in the studio and live for internationally acclaimed artists such as Lucky Ali, Eli Essar, Sanjith Hegde, Guru Kiran, Sinchan Dixit, Naveen Sajju, Inchara Rao, Ananya Bhat, Ginny and the bottle and more. Dinushan has received innumerable awards including the Most hummed tune of the year 2014 (E-swara DNA Magazine awards), Best Drummer for the year 2015 (Pineapple Express-Christ College Bangalore), Best percussionist award 2013 (E-swara- Naalam, Kochin).
Dinushan gigs extensively all across the country and overseas and has supported some of the biggest acts such as Amit Trivedi Dwijing festival 2018, has opened for Ne Obliviscaris 2014, Benny Dayal 2020. He has also worked on the background score for the movie, K.G.F (part1). Dinushan was the former drummer and percussionist for bands like Pineapple Express and Groove Tantriks. Currently playing drums for Lucky Ali, Sanjith Hegde (percussions), Ginny and the Bottle, and Guru Kiran.Live, Ananya Bhat, Live Banned.
Here is Dinushan Shanmuganathan in a conversation with GOGO Magazine.
1) When did your journey as a musician begin?
Ever since I could remember grasping onto memories, I have been playing the drums. I was seven years old when I started doing solo shows and annual concerts. Then there was a break for a few years. Then I moved to Chennai for my senior higher secondary education, that’s when I started formally playing with bands. I was miles away from home and I could do what I was passionate about. Only after coming to India, I could experiment with a new personage and start my professional career as a musician.
From playing at annual concerts to playing with Lucky Ali, there were a multitude of obstacles that I had to overcome. Each wall of obstacle that I broke, provided me with more evidence to new perspectives in life.
2) Which was your first performance, and how was it?
Thank you for asking this question. It’s a walk down memory lane. I still remember my first performance. The memory is still vivid and vibrant. It was for an annual concert for an institute in Colombo in 2000. Even if I was given only a few parts to play, it was nerve-wracking and yet exhilarating.
3) How has your journey been with Lucky Ali Live?
My life changed when I started playing for Lucky Ali Live. I grew up listening to their songs, and it was a fan moment when I first met Lucky. Ever since then, it has been very fun and fantastic. Every day is new learning for me. More than being a band, we are a family, and travelling with the band has made me understand and learn about the audience’s different cultures, and it’s always fascinating to learn and embrace new cultures. This has helped me engage better with the audience and cater to their needs by modifying the styles that we play for each song.
Our show doesn’t end with just performing for the audience. All the other band members and I come back to our rooms and jam until the dawn to perform even better.
4) How was your experience working with the Legend Lucky Ali?
He is truly a legend. As I said, I grew up listening to his songs, and for me, playing for him has been the highlight of my career. Words can’t describe how I feel when I work and play for him. He has taught me a lot about music and life. He gives the best advice, and I look up to him. What I like about him is that he treats his band like his family. He’s a straightforward man and is very down to earth.
He knows what he wants to hear when we get together for a recording or when we are rehearsing for a gig, and our jams are always fun and filled with moments of exhilaration and excitement.
There have been times when we have changed the lyrics of certain songs, and we jam it just for fun and then laugh at it.
5) To someone who doesn’t know much about music, how would you explain him the role of a drummer in a band?
A drummer is the beat of the band. Drummers provide the pulse to a song and help it come alive. It’s the most crucial role in a band; usually, they also call drummers the backbone of the band. A drummer lays the foundation in a band and keeps time and metronome steady. They listen to every other musician in a band on stage and hold them together.
6) Who has been your inspiration?
When I was a child, I used to watch videos of drum solos of Buddy Rich. Every time I’d hear him play, jolts of electricity would pass down my spine, and I would get goosebumps all over my body. That was my “aha” moment when I knew that this is what I want to do in life.
Few of my all-time favourite drummers are Dennis Chambers, Simon Philips, Thomas Lang, JoJo Mayer, and Tony Royster
7) Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
Since I started playing drums and percussions, I always wanted to write my EP where there are songs that are drums and percussions driven.
Hopefully, in the next few years, I’ll be producing and releasing my drum albums and write a book on techniques that you can incorporate to make playing the drums easy for anyone.
8) Which has been your most memorable performance?
There are many, the most recent and epic one was Guwahati International Music Festival 2020.
There was a Marathon that was going on the road, and there was too much traffic. Bharath (keyboardist) and I just decided to get down and walk through the shortcuts, and at one point, we literally reached a dead end, and we got lost. Then we found a small opening through a wall and went through it, ending up in the parking lot of the venue, then we ran up to the stage to perform. I still can’t forget that experience, and the support from the audience at that festival was amazing and bewildering. It was the best experience to play for them.
9) How was your experience, and what sort of work did you do in the movie KGF?
I worked for the movie’s background score, a bunch of drummers were called to a godown, and we recorded playing the same grooves together. It was a lovely experience working with Ravi sir and also with many other drummers from the industry. It’s always fun when you get to collaborate with other drummers in the industry.
10) Which is your most preferred genre?
My most preferred genre is progressive rock/pop music.
11) How was life in quarantine?
Quarantine was very sudden and unexpected. Most of my time in Quarantine, I was practising on my drum kit and was trying to make drum videos for my YouTube and Instagram channel and also did a good number of collaborations with artists like Chintan Trivedi, Shalini Mohan, and so on.
Initially, it was very difficult than when I figured that I could use this time to develop my skills and learn new things, Quarantine became better!