I AM... Paulom Mistry

“I am Paulom Mistry. Paulom is a Sanskrit name and it means Indra- leader of Devas. (Deva in Sanskrit means divine, heavenly like in God). Indra is also considered deva of rain and thunder.”

I started self-learning Indian folk drum called dholak (a double-headed drum played with bare hands) by watching and imitating other players during a festival or gathering. Then the Rock bug hit me and I started learning drums (American drumset or as they call it Trapset). Played Rock n Roll in local bands. Further on, I studied drumset and related rhythms a bit more formally, at Drummers Collective and privately in New York City. Later on re-found the love for Indian drums and rhythms and started exploring folk rhythms on Indian folk drum Dhol (a cylindrical double-headed drum, played with sticks and sometimes with bare hands). This drum used to provide rhythmic accompaniment for folk dances. The urge to explore classical and traditional rhythms of India is very strong and I am currently studying traditional South-Indian rhythms on mridangam drum (again a barrel-shaped double-headed drum) – considered to be one of the oldest and sacred drum of Indian culture. The drum is used to provide rhythmic accompaniment during temple ceremonies, accompany other musical instruments as well as Indian classical dances.

Since I have explored different types of drums, I have spent and spend different amount of time behind each drum type. However, my overall journey for rhythm exploration and learning started more than 30 years ago and continues to this day. I don’t think I will ever stop exploring rhythms and rhythmic instrument because I don’t want to stop doing what I love the most.

I run my own part-time/seasonal drum school in Gujarat, India under the name Lotus Drum School and also teach drums as a visiting faculty at local music schools in Gujarat, India. In Brooklyn, I work through Brooklyn Arts Council’s Art-in-Education program and Folk Arts program as a Teaching Artist / Performer and teach / perform at Public School after-school programs or conduct workshops at schools and other arts organizations and festivals.Lotus Drum School and also teach drums as a visiting faculty at local music schools in Gujarat, India. In Brooklyn, I work through Brooklyn Arts Council’s Art-in-Education program and Folk Arts program as a Teaching Artist / Performer and teach / perform at Public School after-school programs or conduct workshops at schools and other arts organizations and festivals.

 

“Performing and sharing my love for rhythms is a very spiritual, healing and satisfying experience for me. Even if there is no drum in my hand, my hands and fingers are always moving and drumming out new ideas on arm of a chair or table top or my knees.”

And for this “not a good habit in public” I have got the stare, the eye, the frown and head swaying from people (known and unknown) around me. But my take on this “bad habit” of mine is People click their thumbs on smartphone and drum out sounds, I drum on my knees or chair or table.

I like drums and percussion of different cultures. I collect things that help me make rhythmic soundscape. Depending on what I am performing or for what purpose I am playing drums, accessories may vary from simple and colorful scarf adornment to brass temple bells, bird whistle, rain stick, shell/seed pod shakers, frog croakers, stainless steel plates/spoons and other items that when struck with stick sound pleasing to my ear.

I was born and brought up in Vadodara, Gujarat state, India to parents who are also of South Asian Indian origin.

My last name is Mistry. In certain parts of India, the last name indicates family trade, profession, business, vocation. Mistry means Craftsman. My ancestors (paternal and maternal) were carpenters and worked as temple carvers, furniture makers. Recently we came to know that probably there was somebody in the maternal ancestral lineage who were musical instrument makers. I need to research it and find out, but just hearing this info started making all the sense about my obsession to find nitty-gritty nerdy details on how a particular drum is made. In Gujarati language (my mother-tongue) our ancestors were called Suthars (carpenters). The community of Suthars were also known as followers and descendants of Lord Vishwakarma – the master builder craftsman for the Gods. Lord Vishwakarma laid the treatise for building temples, houses and various objects including all the tools to be used by the Craftsman community. The word Mistry is said to be derived from the Portuguese word Mestre (master craftsman). Portuguese came to India before the British and French. In the context of Mestre / Mistry, my ancestors were wood working craftsman/builders morphing into Architects. We are 7 architects (3 generations) in the family, including myself. And after 13 years of delving into architecture, I ventured out into rhythm making. My younger brother is a sculptor and a potter and professor of ceramics and pottery and a performing artist. And my late Mother was learning Indian string instrument Sitar and underwent training for singing. She had a beautiful voice that we all miss today.

I think the most important thing I have learned from my family’s background is perseverance. Perseverance is a necessary ingredient, especially in the field of arts. My Mother taught me to be patient and things will come to you when the moment is right. Rushing will take you off-track leading to frustration. So be happy in the journey, rather than just concentrating on the end result / destination. From my father, I learned to observe with keen eye as it leads to more learning.