Ananth Pradhan needs no introduction. Hailing from the hilly state of Sikkim, Pradhan is a seasoned musician with years of experience behind him. One of the most respected figures in the Indian rock music scene, Pradhan has been a part of the famous rock band Still Waters and is also a former RJ.
It was way back in 2011 when I first interviewed him for the media house I was working for then. What struck me the most about Ananth Pradhan was his humility and jovial nature, which hasn't changed a bit in these 11 years.
After getting connected with him via Facebook, I felt why not talk to him once again and voila!
Hi, how has life been? I hope everything is well.
Ananth: Hey! Life's been good... So far, so good.
Well actually, it’s been particularly exciting for the past couple of days owing to the fact that I just gave two onstage "comeback" performances very recently after literally a full decade's hiatus. And now, I’m really looking forward to performing some more!
I would like to know a few things about your initial days. I mean, how did you get inclined towards music?
Ananth: Music, or rather, western music, in particular, entered my life really early. My father was an avid listener and, as far as I can remember, vinyl records and tapes of Deep Purple, The Beatles, Eagles, Elton John, etc. were always playing at home. My mom’s more into traditional and folk stuff, though. Moreover, most of my friends at school were into rock music big time as well. And I performed onstage for the first time when I was 12–13 years of age.
When you first ventured into rock music, how was the scene in the Northeast, especially your home state?
Ananth: The rock scene was quite vibrant, especially around Shillong and right next door in Darjeeling. Gangtok was doing pretty well, even though shows weren’t as frequent as nowadays. In fact, I was inspired by international acts just as much as I was inspired by my predecessors, whom I saw performing in and around my hometown.
I will say this, though: before Still Waters, the local rock scene was mostly dominated by cover acts. And one of the main reasons Still Waters made such a profound impact around the region was that we focused on original compositions from the very beginning. That’s what got us twice into GIR, and we took off from there.
What more do you feel needs to be done to improve the overall music scenario of the northeast?
Ananth: Whatever needs to happen for the scenario is already happening in most of the NE states. For example, state governments are much more supportive of musical artists and events than in previous years. Traditional, as well as western music programmes, are comparatively abundant these days. Plus, even in the private sector, many top-notch live music venues, pubs, and clubs keep solo artists and bands busy and financially stable as well.
All in all, we just need to maintain this and keep at it with unwavering passion, conviction, and interest.
You have also been associated with the radio. How did that help you grow as a musician?
Ananth: My stint as an RJ helped me a lot in communicating and understanding the overall listenership. It provided me with a broader perspective on what is popular both within and outside of the rock music scene. To put it in simple words, I went in as a rock enthusiast and came out as a full-rounded overall music fanatic.
Everything was going on well until COVID happened. How did it impact you first as an individual and second as a musician?
Ananth: Just like the rest of the world, COVID was depressingly bad for me too, both as an individual and as a musician. My family and I were fortunate enough not to become infected.
However, going through more than a full year of inactivity and boredom was really frustrating. The only saving grace for me was to immerse myself in writing some new songs, and as a result, I recorded my new Nepali solo effort/song called "Yo Hawa Le" and uploaded its video on YouTube. Be sure to check it out!!!
According to you, what could be the one major thing that the pandemic had an impact on in the music industry?
Ananth: More than anything else, I believe that the biggest impact was the sudden inability of anyone to organise, host, and/or perform onstage for an audience. And even though I was not performing around that time anyway, I’m sure things got really frustrating for active performing musicians.
Do you feel musicians can be political commentators? If yes, then do you feel musicians today are doing enough as political commentators?
Ananth: So many legendary musicians have always been great political commentators. For instance, even today, artists like Bob Dylan, U2, Megadeth, Rage Against The Machine, etc. are highly admired and famous for their songs based on political scenarios and various social issues.
Even some of my own songs have politically relevant undertones.
What is your take on the national reality shows? Do you feel the hype they create is worth it?
Ananth: Well, national reality shows are super popular today, but not without their fair share of pros and cons. So, while I really feel that pointless shows like Big Boss and Splitsvilla are a total waste of time, energy, and intellect, shows like The Voice, The Stage, Indian Idol, Shark Tank, etc. provide great opportunities for ordinary people who are exceptionally talented in their respective fields.
Do you have any experience being a part of a reality show?
Ananth: Back when I was fronting Still Waters, around 2010/2011, we were invited by MTV to participate in their reality show/band competition called "Pole Position". We spent a whole month in Mumbai for it, and in the end, we came in second place.
If given a chance to work with five Indian musicians and five non-Indian musicians, who would they be and why?
Ananth:I doubt I could name a specific number of bands here, but at random, 1974-AD and Albatross from Nepal are two that I'd be excited to collaborate with.
As for Indian artists, I guess I’d love to work with Parikrama, Motherjane, Zero, Vishal Dadlani, etc. The reason is the same for all of them: I enjoy their music and admire their efforts.
Besides that, in a bizarre dream come true kind of scenario, since I’ve had the privilege of performing with guitarist Rudolf Schenker from the legendary Scorpions, I wish I could do the same with his entire band.
If you were given the opportunity to be born as yourself again, what would you like to have in you and what would you like to have taken away from you?
Ananth: I guess I’d like to add more patience and remove laziness from my character.
So many young and brilliant musicians are making their presence felt in the industry today. How do you feel about it?
Ananth: I guess I feel happy for them and their success. What more can I comment on this?
One message that you would like to share with the people reading this interview?
Ananth: Keep encouraging and supporting all forms of music and musicians, since a lot of effort goes into creating good music! And, of course, do go to YouTube and check out my music, both with my ex-band Still Waters as well as my solo effort called "Yo Hawa Le"!
Connect with Ananth Pradhan on Facebook by clicking here or you can email him at email@example.com.
Partha Prawal (Goswami) is a Guwahati-based journalist who loves to write about entertainment, sports, and social and civic issues among others. He is also a published author.