‘Finding The Rhythm Within’ with Varun Venkit-The Percussionist & Drummer

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Varun Venkit poses with the djembe at his Studio in Pashan [Photos by Jignesh Mistry]

He is called the ‘indien fou’ by his master Mamady Keita….. It means the ‘Crazy Indian’.Yes, Crazy he is, about the djembe and drumming ‘to find the rhythm within’. The djembe is his life and he would want in eventuality a djembe in each house… when in the evening one wonders where to go and what to do…one needs only to say…’let’s drum together’ – the true meaning and significance of the djembe.

The name djembe comes from the saying “Anke djé, Anke bé” which translates to “everyone gathers together in peace.” “djé” is the verb for “gather” and “bé” translates as “peace.” So profound is the significance and purpose of the djembe.

Varun’s compassionate heart wants for everyone to get lost in the rhythm to find that peace that we all seek for.

Drumming to a rhythm can take you to a different and elevated state of consciousness. The Taal Inc drum circle by Varun Venkit was born with that purpose in mind.There was a much larger vision behind the initiative. It was not just an idea that started only as a source of living.

The Burning Desire

Varun Venkit followed his master round the world to understand and learn the true meaning, the significance, and the science that surrounds the djembe. His journey started when he saw a video of his master Mamady Keita. Instantaneously he knew he had to learn this instrument that attracted him so. He followed his master to Singapore, Sandiego, Indonesia, Africa, Mexico, China, Japan. The rhythm within kept guiding him.

Over the last 10 years, the djembe has gathered momentum and is one of the most popular West African percussion instruments today. A variety of sounds such as the bass(low) tone (medium) and slap (high) are created by striking the different areas of the djembe skin (made of goat skin) with bare hands creating a rhythm that makes you eventually acknowledge yourself within.

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8 years of investing time in learning and acquiring certificates from his master Mamady Keita…. has made Varun Venkit one of the best in the drum circle bringing rhythm to the lives of plenty in Pune, Goa, and Mumbai.

Playing for the dignitaries

Whilst Varun was pursuing his vision he one day received a call from a friend saying that there was someone special who would be a part of his drum circle. The friend certainly wanted to keep the suspense until the last. To Varun’s sheer astonishment and delight, it was none other than the First Lady at that time…Michelle Obama. Also, inherent in her is the rhythm. This experience certainly gave Varun the push and boost to his career.

The excitement does not end here. The ex-chief minister of  Gujarat Ms. Anandiben Patel was also a part of one of the drum circles by Taal Inc. Taal Inc played also when Mr. Modi met with the Japanese Prime minister Mr. Shinzo Abe in Varanasi. They had a performance for the dignitaries.

The Heart needs to certify

Is being certified and earning certificates crucial to playing the djembe?

According to Varun, “It is not about the certificate you earn. Playing the djembe is about the feeling with which you play and about what your experiences are when playing the djembe.”

I am given to understand that it takes 20 years to earn the title of a master?

“No sane djembe player is going to pronounce himself a master. It is a title bestowed upon you when your teacher feels it correct.”

varun venkit

“The djembe is my life and I have these quote-unquote qualifications of being a ‘certified teacher.’  I have spent 8 years of my life with the djembe, and I know people who have spent twice as much and who have not done as much as I have, and vice versa where they have spent little time and have done a lot. So the aim is to just keep doing it. Whatever title has to be bestowed will be when and if I am worthy.”

I asked Varun if the djembe really brought him peace and collectively what has been the experience of his participants?

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“The djembe connects you with nature, with the source. The rhythm that you bring to the drumming raises your spirit. However, one must spend enough time with the djembe and the teacher, and spend time in Africa when learning, if one is really serious, to truly experience this feeling.”

Varun Venkit speaks of his euphoric experience every time he plays the djembe. There are times he has played for hours where later his hands have felt like lead for a moment, the next minute it is forgotten.

“I have played for hours together and at one point I don’t even realize my hands are like lead. Next, I am on the plane and I am a part of this other amazing rhythm, it’s dancing; it is truly being in a trance, being in a different state of consciousness.”

He goes on to explain how there is technique and structure to the African djembe drumming. And if played consistently one would be able to experience the drum circle concepts at a deeper level. Varun Venkit has the ability to make the most complex sound simple. He explains a few things about the djembe in detail and it’s a joy listening to him. His comforting voice makes you want to listen to him.

varun venkit

The Drum circle he says is an interesting concept that mimics the traditional group drumming concepts that are prevalent in other cultures. Like the dhol tasha in India, the Samba drumming in Brazil and the Second Line in New Orleans. It is a concept of drumming together.

Varun says, “Arthur hull is the father of the modern day drum circle movement, also known as the rhythm ambassador. He has impacted the lives of many through his music and inspirational rhythm using the djembe.”

Building Modules to facilitate human potential

With sheer hard work, persistence, tenacity, and single-mindedness Varun Venkit has been running the drum circle Taal Inc where he has created courses that he takes to his audience. Courses to build and nurture the inner self, courses to have fun and come out feeling happy and motivated, courses to nurture the leader in you, courses that help you to stay connected within and the world around you, courses to help the disabled and the underprivileged.

Read Also: ‘Kashmir is much beyond guns and stones’

Being a clinical psychologist and a certified NLP trainer, Varun puts a lot of thought into his modules to make them effective in-order to bring about the desired results.

According to Varun the drum circle is an amazing gift of drumming together where you can be yourself, void your mask. For the time you are drumming, you are lost in the RHYTHM. In the process ‘finding the rhythm within’!

To satiate your intrigue further a second volume on the courses that Taal Inc offers is en route. Courses that will only make you feel alive!

I cannot sum up Varun’s journey other than quote someone who so rightly said, 

“no drums, no life; know drums, know life.”

 

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