One of the influential guitarists of Northeast India, Amborish Saikia, who comes from a family of musicians and artists, is known for his quirky taste in music. His deep connection with music and passion for his work, in due course, introduced him to success and fame in quite a short period.
Saikia, who began learning music since he was in class 5, now plays as a lead guitarist for the renowned pop band of India, Euphoria, besides teaming up with other popular
The musician travels to many places and learns new things every day. In fact, he describes each day of his life filled with adventures and stories.
While one can visualize a guitarist as an alpha male (or female), with an extrovert nature, and loud, Amborish is quite the opposite. He is an introvert who is also poised, thoughtful and is highly disciplined and punctual. And apart from music, he also takes an interest in driving and swimming.
Explore Saikia’s journey with music in this interview where he also discusses his personal life and interests:
How was your childhood like? Would you like to take us to those glorious days of yours? How did you get inclined toward music?
Well, my childhood was alike any other middle-class boy. I used to be quite an obedient child at school doing fairly well in my studies. I also had a penchant for outdoor activities. Besides the guitar, I learned swimming, karate, table tennis, etc. And like any guy of my age, cricket was of course a sport that I enjoyed playing with my friends, the whole day.
Music has always been an integral part of my life. Most of my family members are deeply into music. They either sing or play an instrument; or if that’s not the case, then an ardent follower of good music. This subsequently helped me to understand the concept of music and take it as a profession.
Do you have a musical background? How would you describe your family members’ musical interests and abilities?
Yes, I have a musical background. My father used to play the Tabla and the Mouth Organ, while my mother used to play the Mandolin and sing, and my Grandmother was an All India Radio artist. Most of my family members play an instrument or is a singer. Although everyone couldn’t take it up as a profession yet some who choose it, are well known in Assam.
Why did you choose this career? Do you have someone in particular who inspired you a lot in choosing your career?
I picked up the instrument when I was probably in my 5thstandard. So, I really can’t say who influenced me back then. (Haha). But yes, my mother was the main reason I started learning the guitar. She always insisted that I must learn it.
And apart from my mother, I have been inspired by many people in my musical journey till now. I must mention that one’s taste toward music changes with time, and you gradually start exploring new and different genres. Back then, I was influenced mostly by classic rock guitarists like Ritchie Blackmore and Van Halen. Gradually, I started developing an interest in Blues, Jazz, Funk, Country, Rock n Roll, and even Electronic. Music is such a vast and deep subject that there is no end to it. Even a lifetime is too little to understand a half of it. So, my list of influencers will go on and on with time.
When did you realize that you wanted to opt for music as your career?
I was unsure whether to take up music as my profession until I got the major break to join the band Euphoria in 2010. I shifted to New Delhi and from then onward, my life has changed tremendously.
When did you start playing music professionally?
I have always been involved in cultural events during my school days and also formed my first rock band in school. Since then, I went on to form my first professional band when I was in class 10 by the name Voodoo Child. During my graduation time I formed a funk rock band called Casino Blue and joined an all India rock competition where we won the contest. This was the moment when we got the opportunity to perform as opening artists for International bands like Megadeth and Machinehead.
And talking about International bands, Smokie was also a band that we have opened for when they came to India. This was with my band Mo & The Shooting Stars, which is more of a Rock Fusion band from Guwahati.
Oftentimes, like poetry, music,
too is embedded with untold emotions and interpretations. Is there a hidden meaning in any of your music?
Every song has a message attached to it and till now I have played and arranged many as such. One song I can recall was about a girl and her friend who was molested in their childhood and how her friend ends up taking her own life. The song is called “Someone You Know” by Late Too Soon.
Another song I have been involved is “Kabootar” by Euphoria which is about how our minds can be our best friend and worst enemy at the same time. Being alone and stuck inside the game of life only to realize that life is playing with us.
Another Assamese song by the name “Jajabori” with Rishi Bora which was featured in the much reclaimed Assamese movie Aamis, talks about time and how it is vagabond. So, there are many such songs which has a deep hidden meaning in itself.
Which instruments do you play? Do you remember the first tune that you learned?
I am a guitar player but I also play the keyboards for recording and arrangement purposes. I really can’t recall that (laughs), I am sorry. Though “Holiday” by Scorpions comes to my mind as I remember playing it a lot during my early days.
How many hours do you practice? Do you collaborate with other musicians?
Well, I can’t really say that as I have not set any timings for that. I sometimes play the guitar as long as I feel like or the keyboards a little or get busy making or creating music.
As a freelancer I get the opportunity to perform and interact with different musicians. So, besides playing with Euphoria, I also play with Bollywood singer KK and have performed with other singers from the industry like Papon, Divya Kumar, Ankit Tiwari, Asees Kaur, Payal dev and Aditya Dev, Meghna Mishra, Ritu Pathak, Abhijeet Sawant, Abhay Jodhpurkar, Kshitij Tarey, and so forth.
I am always open to collaborate and learn from different musicians. I believe, we need to grow and absorb whatever comes in our way with a good spirit.
What is your favorite part of this line of work? Or probably your least favorite?
Haha. The favorite part of my work is I am doing what I love to do in my life, i.e., music. To get love and respect in abundance from people, travel around the world, and meet new faces every day, is something that I always wanted in my life. And who would not want that?
Like any other artist, I am sure you too deal with performance anxiety? How do you deal with it?
The fear of getting my task wrong has always been there with me many times. When you are working on a National level there is little or no room for mistakes and I would have to admit that I do have a rush just before getting on stage.
Who’s your favorite musician or name a musician you admire the most and why.
While the list is really long, I would like to name a few artists who have really influenced me in my musical career. These include JJ Cale, Lee Ritenour, Frank Gambale, John Mayer, Mark Knopfler, David Gilmour, Jason Mraz, Yanni, Jeff Golub, Allen Hinds, Jeff Beck, and Scott Henderson.
How were your struggle like? I am sure you must have had a long one?
I was quite fortunate enough to take up music as a profession because of my parents and my family. They always encouraged me. I even remember doing live shows in between my final exams.
There are continuous struggles in this profession. Following the passion and earning through it is the biggest struggle. Moreover, our society is always curious to know what do you do besides music and that’s a question I am sure every artist or musician faces at least once in their lifetime
My real struggle started after getting into the national band Euphoria which taught me the real professionalism, punctuality, and showmanship (since I am quite an introvert). However, Polly da (Palash Sen) and the band taught me a lot of things just like their brother and contributed to what I am today.
A big struggle began when I moved to Mumbai recently. There is no dearth of talent there and the competition level is unimaginable. There are high levels of insecurity among artists and for a new entrant, it is arduous to get assimilated. To integrate is a task and a constant struggle. However, I am fortunate enough that within a short span, I have performed with various popular artists of the industry. What kept me going during this struggle is perseverance, patience and belief in myself, faith in God, and the support of my wife Tasha and my friends and family.
What are the three good qualities you have in you?
I am calm, judicious, and hardworking. Also, the fact that I believed in myself and took up the challenge and completed my MBA from IMT Ghaziabad. I still remember touring with a book and studying at hotels and aircraft’s and going for shows and recording sessions during my examination breaks. So, I think I have another good quality of completing what I take up with immense determination.
Have you worked for any labels?
Yes, I have worked with Universal and Times Music.
How do you perform in public? In particular, can you tell us how do you handle mistakes during a performance?
I have performed a lot of public shows with crowds ranging from 30,000 to a lakh. The stage is the place where I deliver my best, no matter how many spectators I have. The moment I get on stage, I could think of nothing but just do my job.
We are all humans and error at times is inevitable. Of course, I too jump into mistakes at times. But it is imperative to move on. Because if you keep on reflecting and regretting the past mistakes, there is a high probability of ruining the entire show.
How do you balance your music with other obligations such as your job, family time, or other things?
Music is my full-time job. Because we do not have fixed working hours, it becomes a little taxing to manage normal routine life, but then life itself is all about balance. If you wish then you can always take out time for yourself and your family. One should not be so selfish thinking just about himself or herself all the time.
What’s your favorite genre of music?
There is no such favorite genre of mine. I love to explore and listen to all kinds of music starting from Blues to Jazz to Country to Rock n Roll as well as from Techno to Pop.
What is that one song you can listen to all day long and still not get bored?
It is Texas Sun by Khruangbin and Leon Bridges.
What do you believe are some of the main attributes to become a good musician?
There are many factors involved. Practice, determination, honesty, and intelligence to name a few. One must forego his or her ego to be successful in life. Practically, you need to be smart enough to know what to implement and when.
Musicians or music are often associated or said to have a connection with drugs. What do you have to say about this?
Honestly, I really do not believe in that. Till now, I have not met any such musician who is really into drugs to create music. As a matter of fact, many people consume it who belongs to different professions but only musicians are being blamed which is really sad. This attitude must change.
What would you like to say someone wanting to follow your footsteps?
All that I can say is if you really want to achieve something in life, you need to give full dedication and be honest with yourself. Talent cannot be hidden for long and therefore one has to be patient, hardworking, and believe in their credibility in order to achieve success.
What are your future plans like?
To tell you the truth I don’t have any plans for the future yet. To live at the moment and take things the way they come is all I want to do and to rather stay focused on learning and creating music. But I really hope to make a music album of my own someday and also do charity work for the animals and birds.
How do you plan to revive yourself post lockdown (or the Corona crisis)?
The pandemic has brought certain positive changes in our lives alongside the negative ones. People have started staying at home and spend time with their families and also survive with the bare minimum necessities of life, rediscover themselves, etc. One such good thing I have learned during this time is yoga and meditation.
To be frank, I haven’t decided anything. I just hope and pray things get back to normalcy and we get back to our work. The music industry is one of the worst affected ones and since we as musicians are mainly dependent on live shows, things are really tough and trying for us now. Even after the lockdown ends, we must always be careful and maintain proper safety measures as this virus is not going to leave anytime soon.
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