Musician Amrut Bhat Is Trying To Achieve A World Full Of Happiness, One Drum Circle At A Time!
Lucky are the people who do what they love. Amrut Bhat of Beatmaker Enterprise is one of them. Majorly propelling the street culture credibility of Mumbai, percussionist Amrut Bhat has been facilitating free drum circles in impromptu locations all over the city for the last 5 years with only one aim, i.e. of spreading happiness.
First Tryst With Djembe
Amrut, a Gold Medalist in Computer Science and a trained Tabla player, came across the Djembe at his first workplace, when a friend brought the instrument to office. This was the first time he had seen this instrument and he felt a strange pull towards it. Amrut says, “Playing an instrument is like cycling, you never forget how to play. Because I had played the Tabla, I could immediately try some beats on the Djembe and was completely hooked”. He remembers reading all he could about the instrument and learning to play by watching online videos. A lover of information, Amrut deep dived into the world of Djembe, which he discovered was much more than a musical instrument.
Djembe – A History
Amrut’s passion for spreading the popularity of this instrument stems from his deep understanding of its background and place in African culture. He says, “Djembe is not an instrument, it’s a 700-800 year old thought process. It has no written music, only repetitive rhythms which are passed from one generation to another by singing. There are more than 100 different rhythms and each has its place in African culture. For example, there are different rhythms for different customs or times; like harvest, war, ceremonies like Voodoo, marriage, etc. It’s much more than an instrument for just enjoyment or pleasure; it’s a way to communicate, to connect and to express emotions using drums”.
His Drum Circle – Initial Days
Initially, Amrut joined the Mumbai Drum Circle, a group of percussionists who would jam at Carter Road and other places, to participate in their jamming sessions. He became so involved that he became the admin of the group, organizing their jam sessions for a couple of years. But in his heart, he always felt a desire to go beyond a close group of musicians and involve the larger public. He wanted people to experience this beautiful instrument by being a part of the drum circle. That is when he started to facilitate drum circles for the public. But with organising unofficial events in public spaces came its own logistical and legal hassles. The scale was also a road block for Amrut. Typically, a circle would be of about 15-20 people and he wanted to reach a much wider audience.
Achieving Critical Mass With Beatmaker Enterprise
Although Amrut loved his impromptu jigs, he started looking for other avenues. This is when he started his venture called Beatmaker Enterprise and started pitching this idea for corporate events, parties, music festivals, etc. He became quite well known, especially for birthday parties as he was great with kids. A big breakthrough came when he signed a contract with Phoenix Market City Mall in Kurla to facilitate drum circles every Saturday which were open to all. Slowly and surely Amrut’s popularity grew and today he is proud to say that he has introduced almost 15,000 people to an instrument that they had no clue about.
Free Drum Circles
Amrut says, “One can’t put a price tag on happiness. Even if I charge money from corporates, to the people participating in the circles this experience is completely free. All my drum circles are free and I want to keep it that way. The minute I put a price to this, it becomes a roadblock for many people. My aim is to reach as many people as I can and spread the joy & ecstasy I feel day in and out. Being in a drum circle is like being in a trance. One forgets their inhibitions and stresses and is totally present in the moment. It’s almost like meditating and the best part is, with a drum circle it only takes about 30 seconds for you to start to feel that way”.
Drum Circles – A Therapy For All Ages
He recounts many instances of people benefitting from his drum circles in ways beyond entertainment. At times it has been a way for families or colleagues to bond and relieve the stresses of the day. Sometimes parents of children with special needs get their children to participate. Even people with chronic pain have benefitted from his circles. “Kids and adults alike enjoy these sessions. I remember a one and a half year old kid from Navi Mumbai who would came regularly with his parents and seeing us play, would enter the circle and start to play without any fear or inhibition. He would watch videos of my drum circles at home and could recognize me even in a large crowd. It amazes me that a child so young, who couldn’t even talk properly, could understand what was going on, could communicate through this and know what he was supposed to do. There has to be something in our instincts that connect us to this form of community drumming activity”, says Amrut.
Collaborations & Recent Gigs
Along with the Djembe & the Tabla, Amrut is trained in the African, Latin and Peruvian style of music. He also plays the Cajon; a Peruvian percussion instrument and the Doumbek; which is mainly used in Arabic Belly Dancing music. An innovator at heart, he is always trying to do new things with his music. At a recent event for Shaimak Davar, he along with a circle of drummers played the music for the dancers to perform on. This was the first time an entire show’s choreography was based on only the live beats of his drum circle. This event had about 800 people participating, another at Lodha had 550 people participating. With Phoenix Mall he claims to have had over 6,000 people participate over the past year and half. He recently also closed a deal with Seawoods Grand Central Mall to facilitate circles on the first Sunday of every month. With these events and collaborations, Amrut seems to be achieving his dream of reaching the masses.
His future plans are to continue to spread happiness through his drum circles. He also hopes to convince the Association for the Blind at Worli to collaborate with him. He feels it would be a great challenge and learning experience for him to be able to communicate with the visually impaired through the language of music and sound.