Nitin Shankar’s musical journey with RD Burman and Asha Bhosle

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Nitin with Asha Bhosle at Sydney Opera House (Pic courtesy Amitya Mishra Photography)

By Manju Mittal

Nitin Shankar is a percussionist, rhythm arranger, rhythm programmer, music composer as well as a music director. He has been working in the Indian music Industry since the last 36 years. He is an exceptionally talented musician. Nitin Shankar, who had spent nearly eight years with Pancham in the late eighties, has even named his music venture “Rhythm D’vine”, after RD’s initials.

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Nitin can play the classical Indian as well as the Latin and Indian folk. Nitin started his musical journey at a very young age, he further learnt tabla under the guidance of the late Ustad Allah Rakha and late Marutirao Keer, who was rhythm arranger for R.D Burman.

Nitin Shankar was in Sydney recently. Here is an excerpt of our conversation after we witnessed this talented musician and his skill  on stage the night before in Asha’s unforgettable performance at the Sydney Opera House.

Is this your first trip to Australia? How do you feel being part of Asha Bhosle ”˜The Last Empress Farewell tour’?

This is my third trip to Australia with Asha ji. I feel privileged and honoured to be part of this farewell tour with Asha Bhosle. I have been extremely lucky to work with the living legend Asha bhosle and her entire team. It was an amazing feeling that night. Sydney audience were very warm and encouraging. My brother Anup Shankar also performed with us, he is a great musician and band leader of reality show Sa Re Ga Ma Pa.

I have been working with Asha ji as a musical director for the live concerts since last 10 years. Having composed and arranged music for Asha Bhosle albums such as the popular “Precious Platinum”.  She is certainly the world’s most recorded artist. Asha ji is like my mother to me. We have become a close knit family.  Working with Pancham and Asha ji has been a great learning experience for me. They both inspired me to do my best.

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How did you start your musical journey?

I was born in a musical family my parents were in the music field and had their own music banner by the name of musical Melodies. Both my parents were performing artists. I was very passionate about music from an early age and I have been a professional from the age of sixteen.

I have been performing in National and International Concerts and events all over the world. I have worked with leading music directors like RD Burman, Jatin Lalit, Anu Malik, Kalyan ji Anandji, Sajid Wajid, Pritam and many more. I have also done recently rhythm arrangement and percussion for Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s film ”˜Bajirao Mastani’.

Do Share your experience working with RD Burman”¦

I left my Pune home and school at the age of 15 and headed to Mumbai in search of Pancham. There is something about the rhythm of his music, the unmistakable groove. As a child, I had learned all his music and started appreciating and getting obsessed over his music, wanted to meet him and thought of trying my luck of getting to play for him. At Tardeo’s film centre where Pancham often recorded his music, I finally crashed in and met my hero.

In 1987 I got the chance to play with him. I had learnt the octapad well by then and began playing for his compositions, when I began playing, Pancham da was curious as to why I had attached a sampler keyboard to my Octapad. I demonstrated the different sounds one can get with it and he was impressed. He was a perfectionist. Soon after my Octapads and conga became a regular fixture in Pancham’s rhythm sections for a dozen Hindi film scores from Ghatak, Gardish, Gurudev to 1942 A Love Story, a string of Tamil, Bengali films and a few private albums. I especially enjoyed performing many live shows with him; London, South Africa, Bangkok and all over India. I have   many fond memories of him. Nitin says with a smile “Pancham da ke bhakt hai hum log unke aage kuch soch hi nahi sakte”.

Nitin, you have not only produced the film ”˜Mai’ but you have given the music also in the film, could you tell us a bit more about your film ”˜Mai’?

Yes I have produced a film Mai in 2013 directed by Mahesh Kodiyal, which marks the debut of veteran singer Asha Bhosle as a lead actress. Mai is a story of an old desolate mother ( Asha Bhosle ) suffering from Alzheimer and is being tossed between her four children. Asha Bhosle dedicated this film to her mother, who was lovingly called ”˜Mai’. The audience responded to the film very well.  I have composed & directed the songs. The songs range in different emotions and types ranging from classical, sad song and spiritual song.

It was pleasure meeting Nitin Shankar and share his journey of music. He has come a long way from his childhood days. Nitin also added that he plans to visit Australia soon for his concert. We sincerely wish him best of luck.





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