From being forced to learn music as a kid to playing Bollywood film tunes on a Hawaiian guitar while impressing friends at school, to finally mastering the Indian slide guitar, Manish Pingle sure has come a long way. Manish is also a professional sound engineer from Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune, and is a self-confessed Govinda fan. Goa happens to be one of his favourite places, and that’s where Sunday Herald caught up with him...
In the beginning
“The mahaul (atmosphere) for music was always present in/at my house,” says Manish, as both his parents were ardent music lovers, and his mother also played the sitar. But he has no qualms in admitting, that if it hadn’t been for them, he would have been happier playing cricket than a musical instrument. It was at their behest that he started learning classical vocals, followed by lessons on the Hawaiian guitar, and then was drawn towards the Indian slide guitar — which is a modified arched-top guitar, with different string arrangements, to make its sound more suited for Indian classical music.
His introduction to the slide guitar was by his late guru Vishnu Waliwadekar, after which he trained under sitar maestro Ustad Shahid Parvez of the Etawah Gharana.
As for joining FTII, Manish is reminded of a time when he struggled as a young musician. “After I completed my graduation in Physics from Indore, I came to Mumbai to pursue music. But I realised that it was not easy to be a performing musician. I also played an instrument that was not popular,” he recalls. He adds, “I wanted to utilise my music and physics background, and decided to join FTII for a course in sound engineering, which I thought would help my music grow.”
As a qualified sound engineer, Manish had lots of work coming his way, but the one thing that he never gave up on was his music. His persistence paid off. One of his first students uploaded a video on YouTube of him casually playing the slide guitar. It received an overwhelming response and Manish was flooded with requests to conduct lessons online.
Today, he has about 30 students from as far as the US, Australia, New Zealand and the Middle East, all of whom he tutors on Skype. The video also paved way for him to start playing internationally, which, he says, was a dream come true for him. Since then, Manish has travelled to more than 25 countries, and has played for diverse audiences and performed with international musicians. One of his most cherished performances till date happens to be at the City of Canning Festival in 2014, where, in a beautiful setting next to River Canning in Perth, Australia, around 200 musicians and dancers collaborated with the Fremantle Symphony Orchestra, along with a choir of 100 singers, to put up a mesmerising show. But for him, home is where the heart is. “I always look forward to performing at music festivals and playing for an Indian audience,” he says. This time around, during his performance at the Museum of Goa (MOG), he says it was encouraging to see expats in the audience. As for the venue, he adds, “MOG is a special place, apt for playing Indian classical music. It is structurally meant for acoustic music where you don’t require amplification.”
Body of work
For Manish, his journey as a commercial sound technician began with MTV India, but it is notable how he has successfully collaborated with musicians across the globe, including the late Hector Zazou, the French music director with whom he cut his first music album, ‘In The House of Mirrors’. He also released an album with Michael Messer titled ‘Call of the Blues’, which topped iTunes in the UK. As a seasoned sound engineer, he has worked on prominent Hindi film and television projects, such as Anurag Kashyap’s Last Train to Mahakali, Ram Gopal Varma’s Rann, Kunal Kohli’s Teri Meri Kahaani and Aamir Khan’s Satyamev Jayate. Internationally, he was a part of the technical team for the Julia Robert’s starrer Eat Pray Love, Ang Lee’s Life of Pi etc. “Music gives me more energy. Even at the end of a busy day, I come home, have a shower, and then play till I fall asleep,” says the dedicated musician in his sign-off note.