WHO A clinical psychologist, trained percussionist and ex-drummer with Agnee, Varun Venkit holds a Grade 8 Drum Kit certification from the Trinity College of Music, London. Based in Pune, he is the founder and director of Taallnc, an organisation that popularises Drum Circles through music therapy.
When did you realise your passion for music?
My dad was a drummer when at IIT Kharagpur during college, my mother an on-campus VJ. Music was always part of life. In 2005, my teacher Joshua Banks introduced me to djembe grandmaster Mamady Keita’s work. I attended his course in singapore in 2010 and that’s when everything changed. I realised I needed to streamline my career and channel my insatiable hunger for percussion into something larger.
How did you connect music to therapy?
I realised that I could marry my innate love for rhythm with my acquired love for psychology to create something new. I learned from the Drum Circle Facilitation under the Arthurian Guiding Principles, pioneered by Arthur Hull. I developed newer exercises based on Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) and linked those to meditation. In a drum circle everybody, from the musician to the novice can learn and enjoy. It’s not whacking away, but telling a story.
How do you adapt for an Indian audience?
Drum Circles aren’t classical or western. In West Africa, djembe music is synonymous with life. I see the same spirit in the Nashik dhol for Ganpati. Drumming has always existed in India.
Why use the djembe over other instruments?
Djembe doesn’t require fine motor qualities like the tabla. It’s a simple instrument and even a child can find a tune. Plus, it’s loud. In drum circles you need your rhythm to be heard. In smaller groups, subtler instruments such as cowbells and gimbals can also be used.
How do you convince non-believers that music therapy actually works?
Music therapy has traditionally been a passive field. Drum Circles are active and participative. I ask the non-believers to participate and then make a decision. It is cathartic and has made people into believers.