By Suchita S.

Growing up, like a ton of other kids, I wanted to be in a band. You know, as the lead guitarist/drummer {I’ve always loved Ringo Starr}, write songs, jam with my band, have an audience of screaming fans who’d sing along and break into a Mexican wave when I’d belt out my mind-blowing solo on the guitar. I wanted the whole rock rebel sort of life. Let’s fast forward to 2011.

Reality check- I don’t know how to play a single instrument, my “audience” is my reflection in the mirror. I happen to be a one-man band as well. The only wind-in-my-hair moment I’ve had is blow-drying my hair, if that counts. Evidently, the whole music thing didn’t work out for me. There was always this stereotype associated with ‘musicians’- they’re all drugs and rock n roll, its not a viable profession, there’s no money in music, and of course it isn’t a “real job”. While I cannot blame these stereotypes for my unsuccessful {to say the least} tryst with music as a career, I can see why they dissuaded many of us wannabe-rockers from pursuing and perceiving it as a big-ticket job. But things have changed, and today for every Parikrama there’s a Bare-Faced liar, Five 8, Half-Step down and countless other bands, which have a stake in this 200 crore industry! Music isn’t all that unapproachable anymore, and there are two brothers who have carved a niche within this dynamic field. Starting up a band? Been there, done that buddy! They’re bringing the Berklee College of Music experience to India, and they’ve opened one of Delhi’s bespoke music education centers, Global Music Institute.

 {Aditya & Tarun Balani | GMI Faculty Performance at Habitat Center}

Tarun and Aditya have always pursued music in one way or the other. From playing in their school bands, to starting one of India’s first fusion groups, Advaita, teaching music to kids in the summer whilst studying in Delhi University, completing a Masters from Berklee, and  now GMI. In fact, the first time I met Tarun was through Music Basti, an organization that works with street children, for which he wrote and composed a song for kids and volunteers to sing. So pretty much, they’ve given a shot to any and every form of teaching or learning music. But how do you know when a hobby is more than just that, and how do you take the leap from making a passion a legit profession? ‘You know its funny story, but back in school we had one of those Career Launcher workshops. The guy conducting the session asked me- what do you want to become? And god knows where the answer came from, but my immediate response was- I’m going to playing music with my band five years down the line. Five years later, I was actually playing music with my own band.’

Rewind to 10 years ago, when music wasn’t even close to as lucrative as a field it is now. ‘I helped Adi make a presentation in front of our parents. So we literally set up a table, with pictures and records of some of the biggest musicians, and gave them a step by step approach to what Adi had in mind, trying to soften them into looking at music as a career with promising returns.’ By then Advaita was pretty well known and had made a strong impact in Delhi’s music circuit with their off-beat fusion tunes, a kind of Hindustani sangeet meets rock. Fusion music, which is common now, was a first back then. ‘The music I made with Advaita was very different from what was typically played and composed in those days.’ It was almost like breaking the rules, giving a new twist to the sounds and rhythms that personified the beginnings of western music in India. Turns out, that was just the first of many inventions from Adi and Tarun.

{GMI Faculty | Aditya Balani-Guitars/Ear training/Harmony}

So where did this idea of GMI come from? ‘When I was 18, I attended Drummers Collective in New York. It was absolutely amazing… it had the vibe of a music institute, and was a place for musicians to come together and just play some great music. The three months that I spent at Drummers Collective gave me a chance to see the music scene from the audience’s point of view. You know, gauge their responses to what was being played and really understand what sits well with them.’ Inspired by what he saw and learnt from the music scene in New York, Tarun wanted to bring this to India. ‘I always knew I wanted to bring a community feel to music back home, where people from different walks of life and different schools of thought become a cohesive force with a simple plan in mind…. create good music!’ All that was left was figuring out a how and when. For them, it became important to make GMI a fruitful organization, a company that stands for quality in education and gives its students all the knowledge and skill that they have acquired over the years. Between the two, they probably have over 20 years of experience in music- whether it’s through the bands they’ve started and played with like Advaita, Faridkot, Tarun Balani Collective, or time spent studying towards a degree at Berklee, or teaching students throughout their college and school. They make it seem so easy. Or maybe it was just meant to be, which is why things have fallen into place seamlessly. ‘We have spent a great deal of time, and put in a lot of effort into learning and becoming the musicians we are today. We want GMI to be a place where we can bring all of that, coupled with our Berklee experience, which taught us a truck load in terms of skill and discipline, and give it to our students.’ While they’ve pretty much put everything on a silver platter for their students, Tarun’s pretty clear about who gets access to all of this. ‘We obviously have expectations from students enrolled at GMI. They need to work hard because every class is graded. Excuses don’t count, and you need to want to live, eat and breathe music. We’ve turned down applicants because we know the product we have in hand, and we can judge who stands to gain from it the most.’ Fair enough. If you believe in your product, you have to stand by it.

When I spoke to them about what GMI and their plans for it, there’s this child-like enthusiasm, an incredible zest and excitement. It isn’t naivety. It’s confidence and grit. That right there is the difference between a dream and reality, between an idea and an action. Personally, I like to treat a job as a job. If I had to make money from something I was truly passionate about, I think I’d be a neurotic control freak. For the amount of passion they have for music, Tarun & Adi are the opposite of neurotic control-freak. They’re calm, collected, extremely talented and indomitable, yet very grounded about what they’ve built for themselves. ‘You kinda reach a point when you’re ready to take a leap and live your dreams, but you should know where you’ll land before you jump. I’m all for following your heart, but at the same time you’ve gotta use your mind’ Does the same approach work for you, Tarun? ‘When you start something on your own, irrespective of the confidence you have in yourself, I think its important to remember that it’s an investment of your time, money, years of hard work, and you need a return on it. You’re answerable to people at the end of the day so I’ve always felt its important to have a plan, interact with people who are in the same field as you, take their advice, and then whole-heartedly chase what you want and make it happen.’

{Sharik Hasan, Bruno Raberg, Tarun Balani & Aditya Balani}

For more on Global Music Institute, check out their website here and Facebook page here.

Image courtesy: Shiv Ahuja

About The Author


The former events manager, and PR and Marketing executive decided to give up the good life, to take on something greater- running her own start-up. Give her a non-fiction book, some place in the outdoors, running shoes, Bombay Bicycle Club and Jay Z, and you've got a happy camper.

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