“My ultimate goal would be to be a performing / touring drummer and make ‘em orders while travelling from one show to the other! And of course, to have this tightly knit unit of awesome drummer-students.”
Every day you come across so many new people, but every once in a while, you see someone who catches your attention without even trying. I was fortunate enough to meet one such amazing person a few years ago. The first time I met Siddhi Shah, I couldn’t believe all the things she does for a living, and happily if I may add!
Siddhi is 5 feet 3 inches of pure brilliance, and is often referred to as ‘extremely creative and hardworking’. 26-year old Siddhi Shah from Pune is best known as a progressive metal drummer, a revered teacher at her drum school ‘Drum Core’, an avid traveller and the founder of Dark Reflections, the epitome of her creative potential where she makes handmade products out of recyclable material. I asked her to tell me about all the things she has made so far and she replied, “This list would be really extensive since I make something new almost every day! For most of my DIY projects, I try and recycle as much as possible. I started off with obsessive level of drawing and painting in my early childhood, then I moved on to making smaller items like unisex jewelry (earrings, necklaces & pendants, wrist bands & anklets, head bands & hair accessories) key-chains, home-decor items like lamp-shades, wind-chimes, wall clocks… and I cannot even fathom counting the number of dream catchers I’ve made in the last 7 years. Not long ago, I started making organic soaps and the response has been terrific. I also get random orders for custom-made ashtrays and incense stands/holders once in a while, hand painted and tie-n-dye t-shirts, coasters, utility items like pen stands/holders and paper weights too. Sometimes I also get off-beat custom orders for things like tarot accessories (pouches or crystal feather fans) and huge dream catchers to be used as event decor in psychedelic music festivals or a corpse for a metal gig…” (Yes, you may drop your jaws now!)
I’ve seen Siddhi play live a few times and she’s blown my mind away each time! There was this one time when she borrowed my reggae cap to shoot a drum cover of ‘Could you be loved’ by Bob Marley on the occasion of International Women’s Day and when she returned the cap to me, she also gave me one of her exquisite dream catcher babies as a present which only goes on to prove how strongly she believes in ‘no free lunches’.
The girl has earned her respect from the local music circuit owing to her talent, her ever-evolving skillset on the drums and her badass fighter attitude in general. She is a self-taught drummer before pursuing her education in drumming from Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music, Chennai. “I cleared Grade 8 Drums from Rock School (UK) with merit and I am a topper in West India (November 2015)”, chimed a proud Siddhi when I asked her about her educational credentials in music. Contrary to what it appears like, Siddhi’s extremely soft spoken and quite awfully shy too. You’ll spot her with a retarded grin, zoned out in her own world on most occasions. She has always been musically inclined. “I am extremely influenced by female drummers like Anika Nilles and Meytal Cohen. They have really inspired and influenced me. I follow drummers like Jojo Mayer, Benny Greb, Ferenc Nemeth and Dafnis Prieto. I also love George Kollias’ techniques and style, and keep myself inspired by watching younger talents and prodigies. Gino Banks, Jai Row Kavi, Yasmin Claire Kazi and Sivamani have been a source of inspiration from the very beginning.” she says. Her experimental instrumental band ‘Reverie’, is a relatively new band, formed in October 2015. When I asked her about her music, she said, “Our music has a dominantly instrumental and dynamic approach with elements like odd time signatures and ambient aspects. We have recently finished recording our EP and are now in the process of mixing & mastering these recordings.” (Click here to check out Siddhi’s YouTube channel)
If all of this wasn’t badass enough for you, you have to take a look at her tattoos and her travel expeditions. Her first tattoo was from Sabby’s Tattoo Studio (Koregaon Park, Pune) at the age of 17. Her mom accompanied her and she got this really random tribal design on her left leg which is now covered up by a massive tree that is currently an ongoing piece with artist Neelix Bihani from Pune.
Then she got a symbolic tattoo on her right shoulder after watching Iron Maiden Live in Bangalore in 2007. The next one she got was her parents name in the Gujarati script on her lower neck. She also has drum sticks on the side of her index fingers from Andy Chadwick of Inkalab Tattoo Studio, Koregaon Park.
The most fun and interesting of all her tattoos though is a bamboo stick-poked tattoo on her left index finger. It’s the head of a lioness tattooed by a ‘Tarly Marr – Bamboo-tattoo-on-the-move’. He travels the world while tattooing people.
She also has some music notes behind both her ears, clearly due to her love and interest in drum theory. “It’s a really weird place as people would say, but all these tattoos are for me and not to show anybody. This tattoo was done at Blue Frog Pune during Goa Grill.” she says.
The girl saves up money for three things in life- drumming gear, tattoos and travelling which brings me to the next part of her fascinating life, her travel expeditions. Let me tell you a little bit about her most recent trips. Siddhi has taken an impressive trip with her mother to The Andaman and Nicobar Islands, then one with her best friend to Kodaikanal and then one to Thailand last year. She has already taken trips to Singapore, Coorg, Mysore and Bali this year. “My most recent visit to Bali was just unimaginable. That place flows with art and creativity, with amazing people and energies. It was definitely the most unique travel experience I’ve ever had! I also had a mad time in Thailand with my bestie. Two girls in a place like Thailand has gotta be fun!” she smirks.
The girl is living the dream, she seems extremely happy with how her life turned out and it’s so refreshing to actually meet someone who has no complaints and is rather content in where he/she is in life. I asked her if the society is judgmental about her because of her tattoos or if she faces any challenges in life due to her counter culture choice of living to which she replied with exactly what I had expected of her, “Over the last 10 years (since I got my first tattoo), the general mind-set of people has definitely come to being more receptive, also because tattoos are now quite a common phenomenon. But yes, society can be very judgmental about the inked community. They are mainly curious I think. Some people take interest and come forth and ask me about my tattoos and the way I do my hair. After understanding what I do for a living, they are surprised but eventually become quite accepting. Then there are those who’d stare from a distance, form their judgments and become critical of my life choices, that’s the kind I’ve become indifferent to. You will be judged and questioned, sometimes even by your closest people. It’s tough to stick it through. But you have to be strong and know what you really want and build the perseverance to work your way to get what you want. It’s SO worth it. Because all the crap gets filtered out automatically and then you are left with things that actually matter to you, things of real value!”
If you take a second look at this story, you’ll see that Siddhi Shah is just an ordinary girl trying to make the most of life. She is on a journey of self-betterment and simply tries to apply her skills to her optimum capability and that is ridiculously inspiring!