In Talk with Kapil Srivastava, Founder of Guitarmonk

In Talk with Kapil Srivastava, Founder of Guitarmonk
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Kapil Srivastava, an eminent name in India’s Guitar scene, has won accolades both on national and international waters for his spell-binding musical repositories. Known for his eclectic blend of Indian classical and pop guitaring, Kapil Srivastava has authored 6 books that explains fine nuance of playing guitar and is also founder of Guitarmonk, a music institution that is pioneer in teaching thousands of students’ music, across globe. ACTFAQs team got an opportunity to engage the musical dynamite in a private conversation about his musical journey, excerpts from the same.

Thousands of students learn the fine nuance of music under your tutelage every year, is there anything you have learned from them?

Besides professional development, job satisfaction and improvisations of ideas from every guitar batch we take. There is a spiritual attainment that I want to share here. I don’t meet most of my students as they are from various countries and learn through my teachers of Guitarmonk College. But I always see their videos through practical tests and whenever I see them, I have a strange realization of me in them. I can tell if anyone is my student by listening to their playing. All those tunes they learn and perform, I go back to the moments, when I transcribed and even composed some of these tunes, one by one, for them. I feel a great sense of personal satisfaction whenever I take this beautiful art of ’playing guitar’ and give it to a ’starter’. Their smiles and achievement add to my smiles and achievements and gives me a sense of unique spiritual growth.

From Irish, Arabic, Bluegrass, to Indian Ragas & Fusion, you have mastered just about all styles of playing guitar; is there any key difference that sets the music forms apart?

The basic grammar and vocabulary of guitar is ’universal’. It is like your same computer keyboard, but you have choices to type what you want. Key differences are the language and audience, cultural ornamentations or mood, while the instrument is the same. The same ’C Major’ is used in a Bollywood song ’papa kehte hai’ and Bryan Adam’s song ’Cloud No: 9’. Instrumentally, knowing the instrument thoroughly is like learning to ride a car, once you have mastered it, you can take it in the direction you want. Generic difference is just horizontal in nature, it’s not vertical. Ragas has same notes that country music has, the foundation is same.

You are renowned for giving popular Bollywood numbers your signature spin, what new lineups are slated to release? Is there any original composition you are working on?

I am privileged to say that I am one of the lucky guitarists, who have chosen to compose on guitar rather than following the set accompaniment path. I have always composed on guitar, so far 2 albums, which are full of my solo compositions. I compose every now and then and there are a few Bollywood movies, some of whose scripts, I am reading and others whose tracks I am already composing. I can’t disclose names right now considering privacy policy and legal aspects.

You have penned over 6 books that cover every aspect of playing guitar from basics to the advanced level, how has it revolutionized the learning process for the budding guitarists?

I must tell you that I started the company ’Guitarmonk Entertainment Private Limited’ in 2007 as a publisher, with the goal of meeting international standards of music training. The whole objective was to create a system that guarantees return on time investment for students, unlike, the SUPW periods that we have in schools, where after investing 4 years and 2 hours every week, one gets nothing. And that’s the idea behind breaking our learning into hourly model and levels. It was a great revolution as today we receive so many established teachers’ mails, messages, who are following our books for training.

As a mentor who has led more than 7000+ students across eight countries, what do you perceive are the shortfalls in Indian music arena as compared to its western counterparts? And how do you propose we correct it?

We have covered students now in 11 countries. The main difference is ’evolved social attitude’ in west vs. ’evolving social perception’ here in India. We have yet to accept and understand music as integral part of our society. How many feel proud and confident to be a musician? We have government supporting cultural music preservation and that is why many so called musicians are eating good food with big infrastructures, but we don’t have adequate support and industry opportunities for local contemporary musicians. When I started music and wanted to run an institute in Noida with Rs. 200 an hour class, at first, nobody was ready to lend me a space and authority was sending me notices to stop activities. I was not even able to meet my expenses with the paltry sum I earned. Later, when I got to hire a commercial space, they charged me per square feet, the same rate they charged any car selling vendor making lakhs of rupees on daily sales and I went in loans and liabilities. When I want to promote my event, media wants money to promote me. What is a musician’s fault? When students approach you, they want an air-conditioner and 5 star hotel facility and they want to behave like a customer, but not pay you professionally. When Malls and hospitals call you, they want to ignore your bills and want you to perform for free. These are the same malls that spend lakhs of rupees for alcohol catering and thousands on tissue papers. When people in lion’s club organize a party in 5 star hotels, they want to hire a musician at a price lesser than cab charges. Many simple musicians can’t sustain the cost and they feel inferior, financially. The scenario is changing in metros and in other areas, but our society needs to be real and respectful. Arrogance and superiority complex is too much here and there are biased towards musicians, unlike Doctor, Engineers, Lawyers, CAs etc.

You have collaborated with top recording labels including Sa Re Ga Ma HMV, T-Series, and Doordarshan, what does it take to get your music signed on by top record labels?

Frankly, I never advise artists to coordinate record labels without having a professional manager. To me they are companies with big distribution channels, run by employees, but with biased interest. Negotiation and relationship takes you to top record labels, besides or irrespective of content, unless you have a ’real, honest and responsible operations head’ at top, who can listen to you. I advise all musicians to learn to promote themselves.

Any other aspect of music you are interested in other than producing/mentoring and recording albums?

I have some gifts for music aspirants, be it a beginner or an accomplished musician. Special Launch-Me program that covers everything from training to launching a music video and studio exposure, video shoot, PR and more.

Traditional song structures verses contemporary mix, as an artist which style do you think is in more favor with audiences today and why?

Both styles have audiences. Social media today has changed the rules. People watch you for different reasons, be it entertainment, skill or creativity. Today being popular has no fix rules, it’s whatever that turns in to a hit is the rule!

Any piece of advice, you would like to give new and upcoming talent looking to make their presence felt in the music arena?

Make your plan and clear your goals in music. Be specific. Take help of your mentors..

What is next for Guitarmonk?

Guitarmonk Galleria is one of the new vertical which we are investing in Dehradun this year, Launch-Me – music launch pad program and more guitar centers in various zones of Delhi NCR and other Indian states.