Nish Raj is a British Tamil drummer and chef by passion. Widely known for his blend of cinematic film music, he is known also known as #sikdruMMer. Owning a own YouTube channel, Nish Raj uploads drum covers of various songs there, with some of them amassing over a thousand views.
Team Storiyaan had a chat with the ChefDrummer about his inspiration and passion for food and music.
Questions and answers
Can, you start by telling us how you fell in love with the symphony of music? What spiked your interest in drumming?
My parents noticed my interest in music when they would see me tap proper beats on surfaces and enjoy music. So around the age of 10, they recommended me to learn Mridangam. Four years hence I did my Arangetram, and next thing I know, I’m performing at various London events!
By playing at marriages and functions to collaborating with diverse musical artists, how did the journey transit?
I never play at weddings/receptions/parties unless the acquaintance is very dear to me. I was getting the odd Carnatic gigs to play Mridangam, but there were a lot of Mridangam players in London, so gigs were rare unless I was asked to play Ghatam or Morsing. While learning Mridangam, I also had an interest in drumming.
I was doing a lot of Light Music events, but it became boring after a while. So I decided to focus on Carnatic shows and became a Carnatic drummer performing at many shows. This is more fun as there is a lot for me to freestyle / improvise in my playing. I didn’t want to move away from Cinema songs either, so I started working on my project. This was something that inspired me after watching Kappa TV / Masala Coffee Band on You Tube.
What is your opinion about independent artists in India and their struggle to get honest recognition and fame in the present context?
It’s quite interesting to compare Indian artists to those across the world, such as the US. When it comes to the known pop stars such as Justin Bieber or Cold Play, all their songs are independent, whether it’s a single or an album. When it comes to Indian Artists, in this case, singers, they only seem to be recognized more for songs that they have sung in films as oppose to their independent stuff. I am hopeful that the reach of an Indian artist’s independent music can go much more global!
A musician by day and a chef by night. What made you drift towards cooking?
I work full time. Music is always me and distracts me from all my worries and stress, whether listening to songs or chilling in my drum room. Cooking is something I do for fun to give my mother a break from the kitchen too. My dad was great at cooking non-veg, so I got inspiration from him. My mother has always been a huge fan of my cooking, so I cook only to see a smile on her face.
Your Instagram page is flooded with innovative dishes. How do you come up with new and unique recipes?
We always eat Sri Lankan food at home. So whenever I cook, I experiment with tastes and flavors! Most of my recipes are from online, where I will tweak a few things here and there, but I am creative with whatever ingredients I have at home.
Can you tell the story behind your epic collaboration with your cousin Roveena for the song 'Beautiful People'? What is the one thing you're going to cherish from this?
Roveena has her own style of music and audience, which is different from mine. She focuses more on Western Pop while I focus more on Tamil songs. Even though we were in separate directions, we always kept saying that we should jam together. But, she lives in Canada, and I live in the UK, so the only time we were together would be to go there on holiday. But during COVID, we both decided to collab virtually as were both in lockdown at home.
Do you think stereotypes concerning race and ethnicity are prevalent everywhere, be it India or the United Kingdom? What is your opinion on this?
In my opinion, I don’t think that it is an issue anymore. Music has evolved a lot, and one of the best things about music is the unlimited opportunities for collaboration, no matter the race or ethnicity. This is where the concept of “Fusion” comes in. At the same time, I think the Western has always appreciated Indian Music. We see big-time artists sampling Indian tracks to their songs.
Now that the new education policy has also allowed music to be one of the important learning subjects, how do you think the module should be planned out?
The key thing is ensuring students are always allowed to perform on stage, whether it’s a solo or group performance. Classroom training can be boring for a while. Still, if a student is given the goal to perform on stage once in a while, it will motivate them to practice more seriously, boosting their confidence and motivating them to explore in the musical journey.
What are your plans for your YouTube channel? Talk to us about the process of making a music video.
I don’t have an end vision of what I want to do as of now. All I do want is to keep making good music covers. As I said, there are many amazing talents in London, so I aim to be working with them whenever I can be heard.
I send the original tracks of the covers to the musicians telling them exactly which part they need to focus on. Then after a careful adjustment in our schedules, we planned and recorded the cover. But that process usually takes 3-4 months. But the time we work together is enjoyable and eventful. I have key musicians such as Jeevan (Guitarist) and Sam (Keyboard Player & Producer) who have been a great support for me and my covers. They know what I want as they can sense the correct vibes of my heart!
Talk to us about the process of making a melody. How do you practice it to perfection?
I use some of London’s top musicians. These amazing people’s talent is that they don’t require notations and can improvise on the spot.
So when it comes doing a cover, I send them the original track, letting them know which bit to focus on, and on the final day, I hum it to them so that they get a feel of what I want, as well as it often helps them to do their jobs perfectly and beautifully.
1) Cooking or Drumming – Drumming
2) Favourite genre of music–Tamil (upbeat)
3) Favorite cuisine to cook and eat– Tamil Food
4) Biggest Musical influence – A. R Rahman- Celebrity wise
Sam Suri – Independent Music
5) One phrase to describe art – Imaginative