Ujjwal Kumar aka Ujjwallive is a Ghatam and Handpan player from Delhi who's leaving everyone mesmerized with his skills!

Mishkaat Imrani
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Ujjwal Kumar

Ujjwal Kumar aka Ujjwallive plays 20 musical instruments, including some rare names like Udu, Kanjira, Sitar, Congo, Bongo, Marching drums, and more. He is a full-time UX designer who fell in love with rhythm when he was just 7.

The musical journey of Ujjwal Kumar began when he was picked up for the school choir as his basic understanding of melody was good. His music teacher taught him to play the Congo drum, and later, he got an opportunity to perform for the RedCross on Doordarshan. Throughout his school and college, Ujjwal was setting himself up for a music career. At the age of 18, he even opened up a music school, which then expanded to 3 branches and 150 students.

During his under graduation, he used to perform all over the country with his band. But in the second year of college, Ujjwal felt that taking up music and especially instrument playing as a full-time career would lead to a life with limited resources. Thus he enrolled in a design course at NIFT, Delhi, that helped him leap into User Experience design.

"When I started working as a User Experience designer, I started to feel that this is how life is going to be from now onwards. I will be a full-time working professional with a back story of a cool drummer. I started to look at music as a thing of my past. But as I was making great progress in my career, I started to feel that something was missing. I would show my old youtube videos to my coworkers and was clearly missing the stage", said Ujjwal Kumar aka Ujjwallive.

Playing an instrument after 4 long years!

This realization of missing the stage in 2018 made Ujjwal practice music every day. He played an instrument after a gap of 4 years, and it made him realize what he was missing all this time. "I practiced for a year and then one of my friends suggested uploading it on Instagram. I was never in favour of social media and always felt that the need to validate oneself could be toxic. But I still ended up uploading one video of me playing ghatam and that was very well received", he told Local Samosa. After this, Ujjwal did not look back and kept uploading, starting with one video a month, to one video a week, to today, where he posts around 20-25 videos per month.

Throwback to Ghatam and Handpan

Ujjwal found Ghatam in 2012 when he was in Old Delhi while the Handpan said hello to him in Ladakh a year earlier. "Manu Delago, who's an Austrian Handpan player, and percussionist was supposed to perform at a music festival in Ladakh. I was at the time in love with a woman from Ladakh. So, everything about it impressed me and still does. This music festival used to happen every year. I thought if I become a part of this fest, it will be a nice way to spend some time with her", he added.

But sadly, the concert was cancelled, but Ujjwal's curiosity and interest in handpan started increasing. "At that time you could only get a handpan in Switzerland where it was made. There was a waiting period of 2-3 years and a whooping 3500-4000 USD, plus 2 trips to Switzerland, you had to visit once to order and then again to pick up", he mentioned. Ujjwal had no choice but to leave things on their own, and after 9 years in 2020, he finally got his hands on a handpan.

For Ujjwal, Handpan was a dream until recently he contacted another handpan player Vikram. He asked if he would like Ujjwal to promote his instrument. " The day I messaged him on Instagram, he was on a train from Mumbai to Delhi. And guess what? He had a spare pan! It was March 2020, and right after I got the handpan from him, lockdown happened and he had to rush back to Bombay. So I feel it was all destined", he said.

Next year Ujjwal found the Ghatam at a music store in Old Delhi where he was about to give a live background score for a theatre in Mandi house and was looking for interesting percussion instruments. " I saw ghatam, and I was surprised that what is this pot-shaped thing doing in a music store. I played it and I instantly fell in love with it", he said. After this, Ujjwal went back home and researched more about it. He was surprised to know that ghatam was the main inspiration for the makers of the first handpan. A handpan is basically half ghatam and half steel-drum", said Ujjwal.

18 more instruments!

Other than these 2 fun instruments, Ujjwal can also play 18 more instruments, which include Marcas, Keyboard, Congo, Bongo, Harmonium, Marching drums, Tabla, Guitar, Recorder, Sitar, Violin, Mouth Organ, Piano, Drumset, Djembe, Cajon, Udu, and Kanjira.

"I happened to learn all these instruments partially because I shifted from Tabla to Drums and spent a decent amount of time collaborating with different musicians, and partially because my guitar teacher tricked me into opening a branch of his music school in my room when I had only asked him to give private tuitions for Tabla", he explained.

"The audience will crave original more and more"

It's a delight to watch him play Ghatam, handpan, along with other instruments on different songs. This fusion is soothing and will definitely bless your ears. Even though he doesn't play all 20 instruments frequently and his core is Ghatam and handpan, Ujjwal feels these instruments will revive in the future.

" I think anything authentic at this point will gain a lot of ground because of content saturation overall. The audience will crave original more and more. By that logic, I also believe the future for instruments like the handpan and the ghatam looks very bright. But one will have to stay relevant and adapt to changes in technology and user behaviour.", he added.

Quick Questions:

1. Give advice to those who want to learn Ghatam, handpan, or any new instrument.

Don’t wait for the perfect time or the perfect teacher, just start. Be regular with your practice and see the magic in 90 days.

2. What are the skills required to learn Ghatam and Handpan?

For someone who is just starting out, I would recommend learning classical ghatam. If not, then you can start learning tabla and then later transport that knowledge to the ghatam. Handpan is a fairly new instrument. One can create their own style or watch videos on youtube and pick up lessons from there.

3. Your most cherished project?

Apart from music, I also talk a little bit about the things or philosophies I believe in. I do that on my separate page called “The Infinity Projekt”. The idea is very simple, to let go of our own biases of ourselves. And to remove any limiting definition that tags us to a personality type or anything else.

4. Your future plans?

I am releasing a 10-track album on Spotify and other streaming platforms, with some of my classic ghatam mixes. I am also travelling with my instruments and studio to shoot more videos in different parts of the country and hopefully the world.

Also Read: Sagar Patel, a.k.a Kartaalistic, is a Kartaal player from Ahmedabad you should listen to!

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