Percussionist and teacher Atma Anur on why our love of all things quick is killing the music
When he was 10, Atma Anur saw his first drum—at a school show-and-tell. He remembers a classmate bringing a snare drum (“I guess it was for marching), which Anur then played the entire day. “Once I got back home, I announced to my family ‘I can play the drums’ and the rest, as they say, is history,” says the internationally-renowned drummer, who has recorded 145 CDs and played with artistes like percussionists Bill Summers (Herbie Hancock) and José Chipito Areas (Santana), among others, in his over-four-decade-long career.
Currently at the Swarna-bhoomi Academy of Music (SAM)—having joined their faculty of international artistes—Anur is not someone who pays much attention to ‘transient’ trends. Like EDM, which he feels doesn’t even need to be acknowledged. What he feels more passionately about is developing original music and improving its quality.
Art of learning
According to the 55-year-old, there are more people playing music today, but the quality of musicians has dropped. “Every generation has those who excel, but I think we have fewer and fewer of them as time progresses,” says Anur, who studied orchestral percussion, jazz and drumming performance at the Manhattan School of Music and the Berklee College of Music. “I believe this is because of a lack of societal attention to the importance of learning and having discipline. Those qualities were coveted in the past; today’s culture wants things fast and does not care for or understand quality,” he adds.
Having played a variety of genres—from rock and jazz to funk, avant garde and more—the Krakow-based drummer believes what needs to change is musicians’ attitude that they “are somehow original because they don’t understand (or care about) what has already been done”. While not discounting the fact that, because music is an art, many unorthodox methods can be quite successful, he advocates that if you want to be a professional “something”, you are always better off actually learning the subject you intend to work at.
On his second visit to SAM (his last was five years ago), the musician—a fan of composer Ranjit Barot, especially of his work with English guitarist John McLaughlin—says he’s excited to explore Indian classical music, the “Carnatic concept” and even work with a few composers. On a parting note, Anur, who owns six drum sets, including a Pearl and DW, says to make great music you need great instruments. “Indians need to deepen their relationship with instrument manufacturers around the world, to keep the standards high,” he concludes.
Three to go
Best performance: Playing at the 40th Woodstock anniversary concert in Poland, in 2009
Off duty: I practise and make even more music!
Current favourites: Instrumental progressive bands like Animals as Leaders and Special Providence, and the classics, of course
Surya Praphulla Kumar