One of my colleagues is this wonderful gentleman named
I was lucky enough to get invited to one of his concerts at Sheesha Café at Koregaon Park and it was an experience that I still cherish even today.
The beautifully ornate dim lights, the heady aroma of the sheesha, the sizzle and warmth of the flavourful kebabs with the audience nestled in couches and settees listening to some breath-taking music churned out by his band.
This was where I witnessed Roger’s first performance and have always wanted to come back for more, but alas I left Pune. Years later as I have started reconnecting with my friends from Pune, I decided to write about Roger and his band on The Lifestyle Portal. It is my way of saying thanks to a wonderful talented ex-colleague and now a friend.
The Lifestyle Portal is proud to showcase the journey, the story behind Julpandra – a Pune-based progressive band that incorporates elements of jazz and rock, with a collective live performance experience of over 100 years.
The band was formed recently, and its repertoire includes mostly original music, with some covers of music that the band members hold dear.
Julpandra consists of three members:
- Derek Julien ~ guitars
- Roger Dragonette ~ bass
- Sanjeev Pandkar ~ percussion
So, sit back, grab that cup of coffee and get to know them through their musical journey…
I started performing in 1966, and my first jobs were in New Delhi’s South Extension, which had four restaurants that hosted bands—Rennie’s, Shagoofa, La Cabana, and Madonna’s. I performed mainly at Rennie’s and La Cabana, with one contract at Shagoofa.
For the next few years, I shuttled between Delhi and Bombay. In keeping with the hippie days, I helped put together a band with psychedelic leanings called Living Dead (in honour of the Grateful Dead) and we performed at Delhi’s (and probably India’s) first discotheque, the Cellar. When Roy and Desmond Grant (the other members of Living Dead) emigrated to Australia, I headed back to Bombay, and formed Waterfront a couple of years later.
Waterfront toured Europe in 1973-74, without much monetary success, but we gained a lot of experience. The travails of Europe helped the band to bond together as friends, and this bonding manifested itself when we performed….there was a breathtaking effervescence to our playing that put us on a higher level than other bands in India.
Waterfront drifted apart when Derek and I moved to Pune with our wives, who are sisters. A stint on the hotel circuit in Delhi and Goa for a few years followed. We returned to Pune, and started performing again. We were roped in to join Fusion Ensemble, where we teamed up with Sanjeev, flautist Milind Date (the founder of Fusion Ensemble) and Uday Deshpande, a fine tabla player. Many bands later, we’ve put together Julpandra.
Originally from Bombay (Mumbai) but living in Pune since 1979.
No formal qualifications to speak of.
Work experience covers a span of 46 years. This includes live performances all over India, with occasional trips abroad. Recording studio experience- as a performer, recording engineer and music programmer.
Started playing guitar professionally in 1967. The band at the time was called the ‘Mystiks’. Then came a few short-term bands before joining ‘Waterfront’, a band that Roger and our keyboard player Adil Battiwala formed. Again, there were a few more short-term bands, till ‘Azure Hades’- a band with a similar music philosophy as Waterfront, but purely instrumental. Then yet again a few more bands more or less on a freelance basis.
Earlier, I’ve played with bands like Hook (Rock Band as vocalist), Mystic Frost (Alternative Band as drummer), Fusion Ensemble (Indo-western fusion band as a drummer).
Currently associated with rock band Strange Brew and Julpandra as a drummer. Also with the Indian fusion band, Wasabi, New Breed and Moon beans, where I play lead guitar.
I have five albums to my credit, which include 3 rock albums (2 with Mystic Frost: Rip Cord Moksha, Indivisual), one with Strange Brew (Just Brewed) & 1 each with Fusion Ensemble and Wasabi.
I also take time to mentor students in various aspects of music, which includes not just drums but also guitar & bass.
What was your initial investment when you started and how did it grow with time?
My initial investment was a Tiesco bass guitar and an amplifier from Delhi’s Chandni Chowk. I now have three bass guitars—a Music Man Stingray (my favourite), a Fender Precision and an Ovation acoustic-electric—a Fender Musicmaster electric six-string, and a Guild acoustic guitar. I have a small Laney bass amp too.
What do you call your band? How did you come up with the name for your band?
The name breakdown is Derek JULien, Sanjeev PANdkar and Roger DRAgonette (the first three letters of each of our surnames—Julpandra).
Now we have a band that I truly hope is going to be the next big setup in my life. ‘JULPANDRA’. In case one of the other members has not explained how the name came about … Roger came up with the name and one is slowly getting used to it. In fact, I like it more and more each day, since it’s been so long that we have got to play in the way we have always felt music should be played and enjoyed.
The challenge is always to stay true to one’s values, to not compromise. Often enough, a musician has to perform a song that he or she detests. For example, when we were in Germany with Waterfront, we were given to understand by an agent we knew that we would have to wear turbans and distinctly Indian outfits if we were given a contract, and would have to perform the popular pop songs of the day. We turned down the offer, and ended up playing on the streets, but that was so much more fulfilling, and anthropologically enlightening. Five Indian musicians—guitars, bamboo flute and tablas—performing on the streets of Frankfurt…we made a killing until we got busted by the cops; but that’s another story.
The challenges are often enough a pain in the butt and mostly because of outside factors. People who exploit people, and sadly sometimes (rarely, but it does happen) even by fellow musicians. Overcoming these challenges is riding with the flow as best you can.
What is the USP of your band/ group? What makes your band so unique from other similar bands?
An uncompromising approach to the way we perform. Music is meditation for us and we strive for that perfect note, OM! We walk the chromatic tightrope without a safety net. The hell with it if we don’t make it to the Grammys. I’ve wept tears of joy when we’ve performed a particularly beautiful passage of music. That’s reward enough, to be enlightened and to enlighten.
The USP of Julpandra is the spontaneous energy that on a good day can be quite staggering, for the audience and for the band. The individual parts of the music are very clearly defined but because we don’t rigidly tie ourselves down, the song is always performed a little or even a lot differently each time it is played.
The repertoire is 90% original material. The covers are tracks we like, where we usually put our own spin on them.
Sanjeev is a rock steady drummer who is presently treading uncharted territory with Julpandra. He’s never played jazz, but is quickly getting into the swing of jazz and heavy improvisation.
Derek is undoubtedly one of the finest guitar players in India. He plays with a feel that sears, and soothes, the soul. He has performed at the prestigious Jazz Yatras of yesteryears and has held his own on stage with some of the greatest musicians to visit India.
As for me, I became a bassist by default. When I started performing in Delhi, I would play solo from Tuesday to Friday, and join up with a band called the Quavers as their bass player on the weekends, although I didn’t have a clue about bass playing. But, within a year, and after a hell of a lot of practice, I could replicate the bass licks of Paul McCartney and Bill Wyman, the bassist of the Rolling Stones.
Roger and I have been playing together a long, long time. He is a unique, solid bass player who fulfils the role of a bassist in a way that not many do these days. He is also a great songwriter whose lyrics paint pictures, for those astute enough to see them. By virtue of us having married sisters, we would still be closely connected even if we weren’t making music together.
Sanjeev has been playing with us on and off over the years, in one band or another. He is the only drummer in a long time to actually call us and say that if we were planning to do some of the music we have always wanted to do, he’d be interested in being part of it. In a way, he is the catalyst for the birth of Julpandra. He is a talented and energetic drummer and we mean to bang him into shape towards being the best he can.
I can only add that we rehearse at my current home, a flat in Viman Nagar, and I’m always wary of disturbing the neighbours. We had no such problem, day or night when we were living in our mother-in-law’s bungalow. The surprising thing is that though we are a bit toned down in volume we still manage to generate some pretty good energy. Sadly, Sanjeev is at a serious disadvantage with his very abbreviated kit, so for live playing, he goes nuts.
Where have all you performed in India and abroad? Please share some memorable concerts.
Too many performances to name, although Derek and I performed a memorable gig at one of the earliest Mood Indigo festivals, and at Rang Bhavan when we were with Waterfront.
I have played all over India, in Africa, Dubai a few places in the east, and Roger and I had a long spell in Europe with Waterfront.
We intend doing as many gigs as we can as Julpandra and to that end have sent out a demo comprising snippets of some of the tracks we performed at the only gig we’ve done yet.
With regard to how people can get in touch with us for concerts…this will have to be your payback Tanya, in exchange for this lengthy reply to your questionnaire which has taken me ages to ‘one-finger’ type. You have to do some magic and get this great powerhouse of a band, even if I say so myself, as many shows as possible. I can assure you that no one will regret hiring this band.
How to contact Julpandra for concerts and shows?
You can connect with Roger, Sanjeev and Derek through their official Julpandra Facebook page, and are in the process of establishing a means of being contacted.
For the moment, you can contact the band by phone at 020-40039086 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
5 Tips for new bands:
- Get together with like-minded guys, people you connect with as friends. If you can’t get along as people, you’re not likely to do so as musicians.
- Work hard individually to polish up your craft.
- Buy the best equipment you can afford. In today’s high-tech world, even middle-of-the-road, inexpensive gear sounds good if you know what to do with it.
- Rehearse as much as possible. Apart from tightening up the sound, what needs to develop is the subconscious communication between musicians. Know each other well enough, musically, to pick up on vibes, instinctively know what’s likely to happen next.
- Be true to yourself. Pick things you like by other musicians, even copy in the early stages of musical growth, to learn and understand how and why something works. BUT your goal has to be to interpret that knowledge to translate what YOU hear in your head and heart into what you want to project. Because all humans are unique, if you play what comes naturally to you, you WILL find your own voice.