Remember how you dreamt of becoming something entirely different in your childhood and then as you grew up, became practical? You joined the race towards a ‘well-paying ambition’ and yet daydreamed about that childhood dream. Then somewhere in your heart, you cringed and regretted having chosen a job that was so dull.
That is the story of most millennials who are trying to make sense of why they are born in the first place.
Now we are going to tell you a completely different yet real story of a man who chased his passion and now manufactures his own instrument!
Meet 25-year-old Rishi Mutha, an electronic engineer turned full-time guitarist who now runs a music school named ‘Catalyst School Of Music’.
When asked about why did he choose such a name for this school, he said, “Had to use my engineering knowledge somewhere. I had been studying chemistry since childhood and there’s a term in chemistry – ‘catalyst’ – an element which affects the rate of reaction. It either increases the rate as a positive catalyst or decreases it as a negative catalyst. So basically we’re a catalyst, a positive one obviously. Our music school increases the rate of learning in our students, giving impetus to their passions.”
Rishi taught guitar as a part-time job when he studied in college. That is when he became popular as a musician. After college ended, most of his friends decided to take up a job in an MNC. Rishi also got a chance to appear for an interview in an MNC at Pune but he decided to pursue his passion and break free from the monotony of the routine that the life as an employee would have.
We asked him how difficult was it for him to undergo a transition from the field of engineering to the field of music and whether it was easy in the 21st century, to which he simply replied, “To be honest, it is not difficult to choose the path I chose in this century at all but the society is a big barrier. Luckily, I have the best parents who supported me throughout everything. I wasn’t forced into engineering, I opted this course because as a kid, I used to open every single toy and see how it worked. It is during the time when I was studying engineering that I got attracted to a guitar. My transition phase was smooth.”
But there were times when people said harsh things to him that were disturbing, Rishi shares his experience and says, “People’s thinking hurt me the most. Their statements, like, ‘Guitar is good as a hobby only’, ‘Engineering 70% se karli hai, don’t waste it on playing the guitar, go for a job in an MNC’, and the most irritating question ‘Aur abhi kaha job kar rahe ho?’ I used to tell them that I am not doing a job anywhere and have started my own music school. Then they would say, ‘Woh sab theek hai but job karo!’. This was disheartening. But all of them stopped nudging me after seeing my school’s growth and success.”
Rishi began the Catalyst School Of Music in Jodhpur, Rajasthan with his two friends Gaurav and Varenya. But shortly after they had to leave due to personal reasons. How difficult was it for him to handle it alone? “I did not feel bad at all as from my engineering time I had been teaching guitar part-time. I had an experience of working alone. I understood why Gaurav and Varenya had to leave due to some personal family reasons so I never felt bad and kept going. In a year, I recruited four different faculties to teach at the school,” says Rishi.
The financial part of his story was also not easy. Talking about it he says, “Initially I never had my own guitar. I started practising on my brother’s guitar for years and used to save some money, which I earned from part-time guitar coaching. After some years I had enough money to buy my first guitar.”
Furthermore, he says, “After college, I founded Catalyst School of Music. I had clear goals in my mind. I wanted a school where music enthusiasts can learn and explore music and also start considering it as a career. I was teaching the guitar and after one year, I expanded the school, added more courses and faculties. I had saved a good amount of money from my guitar class earnings and bought some instruments for the school. It was a slow process. I used to save and buy an instrument for class. I did not have enough to invest it in one time so years of saving helped me.”
Rishi and a few friends have also formed a band named ‘Exile Diaries’. Talking about it he says, “We’re currently working on our first music album. We’re a group of five people – the other four are Gaurav, Varenya, Rajat and Pratyush. The album will have 8-10 songs. These songs represent our thoughts, frustrations about the society. One of the songs named is Corporate Kutta which shows how an engineer works in a private company and lives a monotonous life; he wants to do other things but is bound by the job. And to earn his bread and butter he lives and works like a dog. We’re expecting our album to be recorded by July.”
There has to be a story behind why the band is named so, explaining the name he adds, “We had a long discussion before naming it so. Our music and our work take us away from this society and we’re in our own world which is kind of an ‘exile’. So this was named Exile Diaries.”
Rishi wishes that a school like Catalyst would have existed a decade ago, so he could have developed his skill as a guitarist long back.
At Catalyst School Of Music, he teaches the guitar and the keyboard. But there is one unique trait that Rishi has that we haven’t heard about much in musicians. He manufactures his own instrument – a cajon!
“Cajon is a wooden box which is basically an African instrument which is used as an alternative to drums in bands nowadays. Cajons were rare in India when I started around 2012, so we thought of making it on our own. I used YouTube to guide me! Eventually, as I perfected it, it sounded so good and we began using it in live local gigs and shows and people were surprised seeing a wooden box sounding this good. We started getting many inquiries about it and that is when I decided to manufacture cajons. ‘Catalyst Cajon’ is one of the most prominent brands locally,” Rishi says.
Rajasthan, is famous for its folk music. And Rishi has also tried his hand at it, “In our society on occasion of Holi, we have a cultural night named as ‘Faag Mahotsav’ in which traditional, classical bhajans, songs and ‘horis’ are performed. I played the guitar and tried to blend the western and Rajasthani music. Have even received an award for it by the Chief justice of The High Court of Rajasthan. I think Rajasthani music is the richest folk music of India. Folk songs like Kesariya Baalam and Ghoomar are famous globally. Every Indian classical artist prefers to sing Rajasthani music in his/her style. I learnt Rajasthani folk music and Indian classical music concepts, theory and playing style from my Guru, Abhishek Purohit, who is right now teaching vocals, tabla at Catalyst.”
Here is a melodious instrumental cover by Rishi:
He has taught more than one thousand students so far – the youngest student being four and the eldest being seventy-years-old!
As a teacher, there is one incident in his life that he cannot forget. He says, “There was a student who was working as a labourer and wasn’t capable of depositing the fee of my school. I knew it and I never asked him to pay for six months. Suddenly he stopped coming! After a couple of months, one day, he visited the school to meet me and said, ‘You’re the best mentor I could ever get. Never did you ask me about the fees and taught me so much. No one has ever been so kind to me’, and started crying.”
Other students who have been mentored by Rishi have become successful in life. Some have formed their own rock music band and some are teaching music in a school. There were many who thought of it as a hobby but after learning music from Rishi’s school, they began thinking of it as a career.
There are some priceless things that the formation and growth of Catalyst School Of Music taught Rishi. He expresses, “Working alone made me independent. Some bad experiences with people made me learn some lessons which eventually helped me grow in life. Having a good sense of photography and editing also helped me in making videos of my students playing, so I did not have to rely on anyone.”
Sending out a message to aspiring musicians out there, he says, “One should never stop practising. Music is like an ocean, go as deep as you can, it is limitless. Everything initially is a tough task, but to hold onto it is the real challenge. It takes time, so be patient. At my school, I have also formed a rule called as CP/DP which means continuous practice and daily practice. It’s better to practice half an hour daily rather than practising for four hours once in a week. Consistency and regularity are the keys to success.”
“Music helps one explore the creativity in you. It is like meditation,” Rishi believes.
Before you go, here is another cover for a lovely Bollywood song: