His Passion For Flamenco Took Him To Spain & Back, Raj’s Story Is Full Of Music

“The hands find the way to do what the hearts want to say,” rightly said famous guitarist Paco De Lucia who inspires 27-year-old Raj Bhavsar, a musician, a music teacher and a cafe owner who has had the courage to follow his dreams.

His story is an unconventional one. In a time where most of us are finding it hard to even find our passion, Raj went to great lengths to pursue it. If you are looking for some hard-core inspiration, this man will surely provide it.

Cafe Arco’s ground floor

Raj is a flamenco guitarist, who has opened up a cafe called ‘Cafe Arco’ in Mumbai’s Kandivali area. This cafe that is located in the popular Mahavir Nagar of the suburb stands tall as an epitome of what Raj believes in life. It is a hub of music, where you can learn guitar from him and at the same time enjoy the lip-smacking food. Cafe Arco – where Arco stands for ‘Arts & Coffee’ – has a music room on the first floor of the three-storied cafe where one will be delighted to find vinyl records of some amazing bands in this time and age. That’s not it. The wall is decorated with guitars and photos of some of the greatest musicians that will make you feel like you have stepped into a different world. The small glass filled with coffee beans on every table is sure to neutralise at least one of your senses, while the music will enhance another.

Raj’s cafe recently hosted a ‘Poemunity’ where budding poets got together and shared their work. It was a night of poetry, stories and the spoken word. They keep having ‘Poemunity’ nights often. If it’s not that then you might walk-in to a paint party!

Raj who is a BCom graduate completed his Masters in Philosophy and is planning to go for PhD in Philosophy. In an interview with Cocktail Zindagi, he tells us about his journey. Let’s hear more from the man himself, here are the excerpts:

Cocktail Zindagi: What made you take up a career in music?

In my childhood, I grew up listening to various kinds of music. When I picked up the guitar for the first time, my interest in it grew gradually. 4 years into playing the guitar helped me discover different genres of music.

How did your family react to your pursuing an off-beat career?

Initially, they were concerned about what I was doing and where I was going in life. They had seen me as a guy who plays the guitar – that’s it! I was a guy without plans regarding my music career so they were worried. Then, they sent me to a music school in Chennai – the Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music, which was my first certificate diploma course in Jazz. After that, my parents have been the pillar – supported me through thick and thin.

What did you do after coming back from Chennai?

I was working with a recording studio in Malad, after that, I started teaching.  I also took up freelance projects, then worked for Colours Viacom, doing sessions as a guitarist for around 3 years.

We’ve heard music took you to Spain?

I had a fantasy of living there since a long time, so I took off and added another chapter to my musical journey. I lived in the country with the locals which was the best part for me rather than being a tourist. I went there to learn Flamenco, which acted as a connecting point between me and the people there.

What is Flamenco? How did you develop an interest in it?

Flamenco is basically a song or a poetry which was sung by the gypsies living in southern Spain. The ‘Flamenco’ of that time told the tale of the pain of the gypsies which they were going through during the rule of the king. Now it is a musical genre. I want to create awareness about this genre, by getting more shows and performing. I enjoy playing only Flamenco, I keep on practising it forgetting the outside world.

Who is your inspiration as a musician?

Only one – ‘Paco de Lucia’ who is the God of Flamenco. In a way whenever I listen to him (Lucia) his music talks with me. He is responsible for changing the phase of Flamenco back in the 1960’s and 70’s. Lucia took an art form changed the whole course of the Flamenco music.

For how long were you there in Spain? Whats the best thing about the place?

I was there for a year and 2 months. Everything is best there, even the routine of waking up, having breakfast or going on walks was amazing. I was residing in a suburb called ‘Albaicin’ which is a world heritage site. The style of the home we were living in was of the 19th century and older. People are very friendly there which brings an amazing vibe to the city.

Why did you think of opening Cafe Arco once you were back to India?

I personally wanted to create a space for artists;  an offbeat place. I was enchanted by a museum in Europe which had everything about coffee – right from the history, chemical properties and a lot more. I learned how to brew a good cup of coffee and roast coffee from some people I met in Granada and Barcelona. Then, I bought green coffee from a person in Karnataka and began roasting them. Now I have my very own coffee roaster. Initially, I thought that the cafe is meant for creative people, who come here have coffee or tea and do their work, but then I was overwhelmed by the response and introduced food as well.

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So now at Cafe Arco you also teach guitar to those who are willing?

Yes right from the basics, their favourite songs, theory and the technical part. I teach music to my students almost every day. My basic motto behind teaching is that I enjoy the playing of my instrument, that’s what I want my students to learn. Doing something that you enjoy is what brings meaning to life.

We’ve heard you use only organic products, is that true?

It is personally a big aim in life that I want to use things which are good for the environment, ecosystem. I take coffee and tea only from the farms which want to protect the ecosystem, organically, rather than doing conventional things like the others. So I get tea from Assam, Kanoka estate and Prithvi estate and coffee from 2 estates in Karnataka. If you are Arco, try the Chemex black coffee – I am suggesting this to change your perception of the real black coffee.

You did a music show recently – tell us a bit about it.

A Flamenco show actually.  I and my friends in Mumbai blended Flamenco and Kathak into one, we did both of it in the dance and music form in a cafe in Lower Parel.

What do you want to do next?

I want to go to cities which are community centres, Barcelona for instance. Currently, it is art capital of the continent. I want to go where there is art and I want to grow myself and my projects.

I also have a preference of going to ‘Gangtok’ in India. The music and art ecosystem in North East is booming right now. After growing ‘Arco’ I want to go to ‘Gangtok’ and open a similar cafe as tea and coffee have a larger hand in that particular area.

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How is the food in your cafe so tasty and delicious?

When it comes to food, we have worked on many recipes. I personally have made many observations whenever I am out. We use many things at the time of making and yes we believe in uniqueness, unconventional things and no compromise in the taste.

You’ve done a lot of things to chase your passion, any message you want to give to others who are struggling to do so?

In life always believe in perseverance, believe it will happen, donate your time and energy to make it happen. Just keep doing what you are doing if it fulfils you.  Do what you love to do.

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Samyak Sheth
Samyak Sheth

A traveller and journalist who views the world wearing multi-coloured goggles. He believes that life is to live not to survive.

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‘Cocktail Zindagi’ is not just a publication, it is a journey in itself in which you play an important character. We work to bring you stories not only from the crème de la crème but also from the grass root level.We also write content that portrays the beautiful shades of life, thus the name ‘Cocktail Zindagi’.