ROBERTO-NARAIN

Location: Bangalore, India
drumjam.in
communitydrumjamfoundation.in
roberto@drumjam.in
+919844066216

Village Music Circles Trainings

VMC 3 Day Basic Kassel: 2006
VMC 6 Day Advanced Hawaii: 2009
VMC 10 Day Mentor Hawaii: 2011
VMC 3 Day Basic Mumbai & Bangalore: 2013
VMC 3 Day Basic Kuala Lumpur: 2016
VMC 10 Day Mentor Scotland: 2016
VMC 3 Day Basic Bangalore (Co-facilitated TTT with Arthur Hull) 2017
VMC 10 Day Mentor & TTT Scotland: 2017
VMC 3 Day Basic Bangalore (Co-facilitated TTT by Vasundhara Das with Arthur Hull): 2018

List of Playshops Co-Trained with Vasundhara Das and others
Drumjam VMC India Playshop Bangalore: Feb 2019
Drumjam VMC India Playshop Bangalore: Oct 2019
Drumjam VMC India Playshop Bangalore: Jan 2020

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Roberto Narain

Bio

Music aficionados in India have long delighted in the inspiring talents of this drummer extraordinaire. An extremely versatile artiste, Roberto is constantly exploring new dimensions in music.

Roberto has trained extensively in Drum Circle Facilitation with Arthur Hull. He has been facilitating drum circles from 2006, and, along with his partner Vasundhara Das, started Drumjam in 2008. Roberto is an experienced, skillful facilitator who has facilitated Drumjams for groups as small as 5 people and as large as 10,000 people. Roberto’s passion for rhythm is communicated to everyone who takes part in Drumjam events, and his exuberant energy creates a compelling atmosphere that participants in his drum circles remember long after the last beats have faded away.

Drumjam, over the past 10 years, has exposed over half a million people to drumming and rhythm with an extensive touring program doing 80 to 100 drum circles a year. In the year 2013, Roberto along with Vasundhara, started the monthly Community Drumjam at Rangoli Metro Art Center, Bangalore. Community Drumjam is a free family friendly drum circle, which is open to everyone. Community Drumjams are completely funded by Drumjam, enabling it to remain agenda free and completely for the benefit of people. In August 2017, Roberto and Vasundhara started Community Drumjam Foundation aimed at taking drum circles to populations who cannot access the monthly Community Drumjams.

In addition to his work as a Facilitator, Roberto is a Village Music Circles Certified Trainer for India and is one of 14 International Trainers who now constitute the VMC Global Team. As part of the work of the Community Drumjam Foundation, Roberto along with Vasundhara, now run Drumjam VMC Facilitators Trainings in India to enable more people to take the positive impacts of this work to larger populations around the country. At the first co-facilitated 3 day Basic Facilitators Training held in June 2017 in Bangalore, Arthur Hull along with Roberto co-facilitated the first batch of Drumjam VMC India graduates.

As a performer, Roberto has performed in a number of bands, bringing his own brand of electric virtuosity to a rich variety of musical styles. He has studied with T. A. S. Mani of the Karnataka College of Percussion and classical Carnatic rhythms ripple through some of his music. Other than that, with respect to drumming and music technology he is self-taught.

Roberto’s journey with live electronic music began in association with Roland V drums, in the year 2000 with ‘Sounds from My Mind’, his first performance in this genre. This stunning display of Roberto’s talent in an entirely new form took away the collective breath of musical heavyweights. Roberto is known for pushing the envelope as far as solo drum performance is concerned, and with electronic drumming, he has been setting standards in a dimension that others are just beginning to discover.

Presently, Roberto is busy with his ongoing projects, Drumjam for drum circles, facilitator trainings, solo performances as well as recordings but places the highest priority on performing live and sharing his amazing rhythmical spirit with people through his Drumjams.

Roberto's story

My name is Roberto Narain. I’m a self-taught drummer playing the drum kit since the age of 13. I played and managed India’s first and most famous Heavy Metal Band – Millennium, from year 1985 to 1987, and again from year 1994 until 1999. I founded a heavy metal band called W.A.R.D.E.N. in 1993 which stayed active until 1995. I have been playing on the edge of my learning in the Live Electronic Music space with solo performances on the Roland Virtual Drums since year 2000, the first one being a performance titled “Sounds from my Mind”. I’ve also played with accomplished musicians such as Maynard Ferguson, Larry Coryell, Konarak Reddy, L Subramaniam, and many more at the Jazz Yatras and other festivals.

Vasundhara and myself were in a world music band together called Arya between 2003 and 2005. I have also worked as a music producer on projects she was involved in namely Mission Ustaad (2007 - 2008) – in association with the United Nations Millennium Development Goals in India as well as The Shah Hussain Project (2013 - 2015)– a collaboration between Vasundhara, Sufi singer Mir Mukhtiyar Ali and myself. Vasundhara and I continue to collaborate as artists on indie music in our studio till today.

In addition to being a musician, I’m a serial entrepreneur and have been working since before I quit college. With my parents, having lived in Italy in the late 50’s and 60’s, and myself being born there, I had opportunities to work with companies there when I was old enough to do so. So I leveraged those opportunities for myself, working in import & export for various interests including - exporting Indian granite; importing Italian marble; exporting hand crafted wooden hangers for apparel; working as a Buying Agent and exporting finished leather apparel to some of the most famous European design houses in the world (60 in all, such as Armani, Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, and so many more); importing finished Italian gold chains - developing the market in India and being instrumental in revolutionising the way gold and its purity was viewed in India (the biggest market for gold in the world). In 2005, after having been the Area Sales & Marketing Manager for leading Italian gold chain manufacturer Technigold S.p.a for South Asia, South East Asia and the Middle East (23 countries) – I decided to finally be a full time musician and started facilitating drum circles in 2005 for corporations along-side my performances as a solo artist. In 2008 I officially started Drumjam along with Vasundhara.

While I was busy being a drummer and entrepreneur, drum circles quietly happened to me. I had a call one day sometime in 2005 asking if I would facilitate a drum circle for a corporation. I had been contacted because of my reputation as a drummer. I had just heard about drum circles a few weeks before this call but had not heard of Arthur Hull. I remember telling Vasundhara about the call and deciding to give it a shot.

My first drum circle was for 80 people. So immediately we had to find a way to make 80 drums available. So I approached the local distributer and rented the full Remo kit. As I think back to that time, I decided to facilitate the drum circle with my safety net – my drum kit. I was my own schill before I heard about the concept. The drum circle was a success and ticked a lot of boxes for my client. I was intuitively able to connect the dots for them in HR jargon thanks to my experience as an entrepreneur. For the first time, two worlds that had always been running parallel in my life – drumming & entrepreneurship – were converging. And the outcome was magical. I was hooked.

Right after that first session, word got around and more calls started coming in for me to do this with different teams and different companies. I was elated. I had wanted to step out of my conventional job and spend more time drumming and that desire was manifesting through the drum circle. We did a few more sessions renting the Remo kit and then were able to purchase it, setting us up well for the road ahead. After facilitating around 10 – 11 drum circles, curious to learn more about the philosophy behind it, I looked up its origins and practices, learned about Arthur Hull and signed up for my first Drum Circle Facilitator Training in Kassel, Germany in 2006.

Meeting Arthur for the first time is usually an unforgettable experience for most people as it was for me. And away we went together on this adventure.

I returned to India with a new understanding of what had become a very possible new direction for me. It was an exciting and anxious time. I really wanted this new venture to succeed – it was too personal for me. In the first year, we were averaging one drum circle a month. The next year we were averaging 3 drum circles a month. The next year we were up to 6 a month and the next we were up to 10 a month. And we stayed at an average of 10 drum circles a month for the next 10 or more years.

During this time, even though Vasundhara was a partner in the company, she had her hands full with her concerts and recordings and was yet to get to a training. So I was the only facilitator, and in addition, was running all operations of the company singlehandedly.

Right from the word go, numbers were large in India. It’s just the nature of life here, being the second largest population in the world. So our average number of participants in a drum circle was seldom below 100. We had to grow our inventory rapidly. So for a long time, everything that came in by way of revenue went into investment of instruments and soon we had quite a large collection of instruments to work with.

I was looking ahead to a time when we would both be facilitating multiple sessions in different parts of the country. India is a large country geographically too. So we then set up our logistics in different parts of the country. We shipped instruments to New Delhi and Mumbai and set up not only a kit that could accommodate up to 1000 participants in each zone of the country, but also put into place a logistics team that would move the kit between places where corporate offsites were a regular feature – Goa, Pune, Lonavala, Alibaug, Ahmedabad, Diu Daman, Jaipur, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Agra, Chandigarh, Chennai, Coimbatore, Kochin, Trivandrum and so many more. Before we knew it, I had facilitated Drum Circles across the length and breadth of the country, all the way from Leh Ladakh in the Himalayas to Trivandrum at the southern tip of India and all the way from Kolkata in the east to Mumbai in the west. Ten drum circles a month meant that I was on a flight every second day – for ten or more long years. Soon we were doing drum circles with participants in the thousands in different parts of the country. The largest one we did was in Bangalore for 10,000 people. In between this I was able to get some reprieve when I was at Arthur’s trainings in many places around the world connecting with my rhythm brothers and sisters. Somewhere along the way, at the Hawaii Playshop in 2011, I got my priorities right and asked Vasundhara to marry me on the beaches of Waikiki. She agreed, we were married in December that same year and the adventure continued.

After ten years of constant travel and facilitating drum circles every third day, when I had a moment to look up from running continuously and tirelessly, I realised that, just like that, we had facilitated drum circles and around half a million people had been through the Drumjam experience. But my body had taken a beating in the constant running around and running things. It was soon going to be time to slow down again but there was still so much to do. Fortunately , by then, Drumjam had grown into a team.

While building the infrastructure for the growth of our company, I never lost sight of the social impact of our work. In my opinion, a corporation here in India is a community by itself – in view of the amount of time people spend at work, in commuting, and with their colleagues outside the workplace. And we are dealing with first and second generation Corporate India. Our economy only opened up to the world and began to grow in the late 90’s. Our culture makes it difficult to draw clear lines between work colleagues and friends. I truly believed that I was deeply impacting each person’s life even in a corporate drum circle, especially since I had people coming to me after most sessions, describing how they were going to follow their passion and their heart going forward from that day. I would be stopped multiple times in the airports by people who had been part of a drum circle I facilitated, and they would tell me stories of how that experience changed not only their lives, but also their relationships with their children or parents or spouse when they took home a drum after being in one of my sessions. It was so humbling to get this appreciation and feedback.

During this time, Vasundhara and I had been approaching many venues in our city – Bangalore, to partner with us and open their doors to the people of the city and allow them to come and participate in a regular free family friendly community drum circle. No venue was willing to offer their space for free. But we were sure we wanted them to be stake holders in the community building aspect of it with us so that we were valued. So we waited until the right opportunity arose. Meanwhile, we started approaching schools across the socio-economic spectrum. We were met mostly with resistance or silence. So again, we decided to wait. Then, in 2013, we were approached by the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation to start a recurring community building program at their newly constructed performance space right next to their central metro station on Mahatma Gandhi Road, Bangalore’s central business district. The venue ticked all our boxes. They were in it to engage with the citizens of Bangalore across socio-economic lines and so were we. They were willing to partner with us, helping us with the venue and all permissions the authorities would require such an event to have. So this arrangement was perfect. We started a monthly free family friendly community drum circle there called Community Drumjam and it was immediately embraced by the people of the city who showed up in the hundreds. From then until now we have facilitated 85 Community Drumjams there only to be halted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The human stories coming from people who have wanted to come talk to us after the Community Drumjams have changed me forever. People on the brink of suicide have changed their mind after drumming with us for 2 hours; families who had lost connection with each other have found a new equation drumming with us; multitudes of special needs children make their parents bring them to the drum circle every month; oppressed women find release here; diverse and differently abled people feel welcome; street kids come and dance and drum with abandon; migrant workers from other parts of the country come and have fun; we are on the tourist map of things to do in our city and we now average between 300 and 500 people at each Community Drumjam.

Even with the venue being open to everyone and easily accessible, kids at risk, well elderly, elderly with neurological conditions, women at risk, and so many other sections still couldn’t make it. So in 2017 we set up Community Drumjam Foundation so that we could take the drum circles to them. And since then, with the help of volunteers from our ever growing community, we have been serving these different populations with drumming joy as often as we can.

I believe that we need to be self-sufficient in all our endeavours, and we have, to that end, tried to self-fund most of our community work as much as possible. That way we are steering it the way we feel it would benefit our people the most. This is a very exciting turn of events for me as I have slowed down my corporate engagements and asked Vasundhara to take the wheel while I go back to being an artist for little pockets of time. And the gift of time and space during the Covid-19 pandemic is proving to be a time of rest, reset and change in direction for a little while.

Every single moment so far has been a defining moment and an adventure that I am happy to share with Vasundhara and also the broader family of my drum brothers and sisters around the world. As I look back and as I look forward, I cannot imagine my life being any different. I feel fortunate to be in this place of facilitating human potential. And as I look around me at my tribe, each and every one doing this work is an inspiration with their unique story and their own personal journey. And more than anything, the people who come back and tell me how that hour in my circle changed them forever – that is what takes me to the biggest joy I’ve experienced.

It is said that life takes on a greater meaning when you just know what you were born to do with your time on earth and I found my reason when I discovered the joy of sharing what I love to do ( drumming ) with others and helping them discover their truths about themselves and being a part of building a community which is truly global in its essence, because we all have a heartbeat and we connect with each other in the universal language of music to celebrate the human spirit. What more can anyone ask for?