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‘The Best Way to Bring in Change is to Enter the System Yourself,’ – Ashish Manchanda

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The multifaceted Ashish Manchanda wears many hats being an award-winning Entrepreneur, Music & Video Producer, Sound Engineer, Record Label Executive, an A & R  and now a Mentor. Having worked with the stalwarts of the global music industry the virtuoso shares his life experiences and journey from being mentored to being a mentor himself today, in an interesting conversation with

Inspired from Startrek from an early age Ashish Manchanda captured early lessons in life to have the ability to stay, sustain and afloat. Having graduated from the Full Sail University FL US way back in 1997 Manchanda was selected on campus by Bruce Swedien who was then Michael Jackson’s multi-Grammy-winning engineer and producer. Having worked with  American music veterans like Garth Brooks and James Taylor and Indian music wizard A.R Rahman, Manchanda still lives with a spirit of a battle-cruiser and guides many to stay focussed, disciplined, and to be cautious  about self –defense which he himself imbibed from the martial arts which prepares us to be a complete being!

Talking about his inspirations in life Manchanda says, “When I see people achieving excellence in any discipline be it sports, music, art, I see divinity in that and a very strong connection of the divine. I believe that if we surrender to that without any doubts there opens a superhighway, and I aspire to do that on a more regular basis as it starts from the way you think. It’s important to stay inspired, motivated and positive  and aware of our goal, so much that you instinctively think of it all the time, and the universe gives you that.”

Manchanda reminisces his early years and beginning of his musical journey starting as a Drummer, “Music came very late in my life as I started exploring music in tenth grade when I was 17 years old. At home as I heard a lot of pop in my early years and some of my favorites were Abba and Tina Charles. Eventually, I started playing drums in school in a band which we gave all sorts of names from ‘We 9’ since we were nine of us, to ‘ The great elastic rubber band’. It was the time when I used to play for 3-4 bands for Dandiya nights to Rock and Pop, including the Band Agni which was not formally launched, when I played with them being one of the early members of the band. I was fond of films, live music shows and attended a lot of dance parties and still have cassettes of the popular playlists of those days. Once I got little serious into music I listened to more of the progressive music of the bands like ‘ Earth Wind and Fire’ and ‘Return to Forever’.”

Meeting Ranjit Barot gave a definite turning point to his musical path says Manchanda, “Before listening to him we were in our own zone and then one day we heard his band. I was clueless of what this music was or the technique he played, it was a different vocabulary and it seemed I knew nothing. That’s how my next musical journey began and I went to learn from him in Pune, where I spent all my growing up time. Our association is from 1987 till date and it’s been a lovely journey. It’s just about being with a person like him who’s larger than life, being the son of the legendary Kathak Exponent Sitara Deviji who herself was a powerhouse in her own right being rebellious, revolutionary and innovative in her times. Ranjit has those attributes, he is an innovator and an experimenter, a great mentor, a great friend always like family.”

Talking about the lessons learned Manchanda adds, “So, learning about life and music was just to hang out with him. It helped to learn how to talk, conduct yourself and building your values. I feel to be blessed to have got an endorsement from Ranjit who’s a super listener. He believed in me when I didn’t even know its meaning and where it could take me. I got a gig with him and since then have done a whole lot of super projects with him. I strongly believe that it’s important to identify and be around with the best people possible in whatever discipline you want to pursue.”

Manchanda was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the prestigious Full Sail University, FL, USA. Manchanda gives glimpses of his sound recording training at the institute, “I had made up my mind to study sound engineering abroad since it was difficult to find material on recording engineering, music production, and entertainment business in India. Eventually, I came across an advertisement in the Mix Magazine by the ‘Full Sail University in the US which read ‘We take your dream seriously’ which took my attention and in 1996 I went to Full Sail which had a one year course focussing towards what was then required in the recording industry and what it takes to work in the industry. The course had lots of hands-on and practical training, instructors and many more guest lecturers.”

Bruce Swedien, Multi-Grammy Winning Producer of Michael Jackson’s records became his second Mentor and later featured Manchanda in his book ‘In the studio with Michael Jackson’. Talking about meeting Swedien Manchanda recalls, “He came in Full Sail for the event called success seminar, where they called industry professionals like filmmakers, live recordists, and technicians once a year. I had followed him already as he was known as the pioneer in the recording arts globally being the man behind Michael Jackson’s and Quincy Jones success stories in the 50s. I went and talked to him and asked a couple of questions which he answered. Eventually, He brought me as an observer to work on Michael Jackson’s last album  ‘ Invincible’ and later he took me under his wings to become my mentor. Recently Bruce mentioned about me at the Full Sail Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony saying, ‘Now Ashish has got some ears’ and that means a lot!”

Ashish Manchanda has worked on more than 100 film projects, ranging from India’s popular Bollywood films to mainstream offerings – including DevDBhaag Milkha BhaagKhosla Ka Ghosla, and The Chronicles of Narnia. In the music world, Ashish has been a close collaborator with independent artists Ranjit Barot and Raghu Dixit, Grammy & Oscar-winning artist A.R. Rahman, and a host of renowned composers. Ashish is also a four-times winner of the IRAA (Indian Recording Arts Academy) award for Best Sound Engineer & For Outstanding Work on the movie DevD, Sona Mohapatra’s debut album, and as a live concert engineer 2013 for Coke Studio , A.R Rahman live concerts and MTV Unplugged. Manchanda received  the award for the Best Music Producer of the year along with his team member Aman Moroney for the Flying Carpet & Springboard Records Artist  & Band ‘ALIF’ in 2017.

Working with the Master Craftsman of Sound A.R. Rahman in India Manchanda Said, “I got introduced to Rahman on a project which I was working with Ranjit. Rahman is immensely talented and is extremely quick and very good with his feelings, so it’s not just the craft but also he’s blessed as I feel he’s a prince of melody and composition. Working with him is like each one picks up their skill sets to make something magical. Apart from the films I have worked with him on live concerts as a ‘front of house’ to mix the shows.”

Ashish Manchanda had worked on MTV Unplugged in its US Edition and was the Audio Director for both Coke Studio & MTV Unplugged in India.  Giving insights on the show Ashish tells, ” It has been a lovely series which focussed on bringing an established entity with an unknown or a lesser-known Artist from across genres to instrumentalists to folk artists, giving them visibility. The show brought a lot of brand value to MTV and enjoyed success in Pakistan and by the time its fourth season came and India Studio was set up by MTV & Coke. It was a time when we were roped-in including Lesley Lewis and sound engineer Fali Damania.”

While in the U.S, Manchanda established Flying Carpet Productions, a 360-degree entertainment solutions production company. Talking about its inception he says, “I had incorporated it in India in 1999 even when I was still in the US, so it was a part of the India story for me as I wanted to come into the system i.e Bollywood to develop a parallel system which I thought here was a great opportunity. Since there are no such institutions to churn out artists and help them to produce and distribute their work.”

Eventually, the production house extended into an award-winning institute called ‘The Media Tribe’ which  imparts training to the young students in Mumbai in sound engineering and music production which Ashish runs with his wife Ujjla, while His company ‘Boon Castle Media & Entertainment’ provides allied services such as designing live music experiences, video productions, and music education.

Talking about his journey from being Inspired to inspire others Manchanda says, “At full Sail, I got inspired to open my institute in India which is today a full-fledged conservatory within this region which equips people seeking knowledge about the contemporary arts, sound music, production, recording. We also plan to start courses in design and visual arts by the next year. We really want to pioneer and develop super kids and super artists, who really want to excel in the creative arts.”

“I believe that creative people are very vulnerable and thus it is important to protect themselves from all sides and hence was inspired the name of his company ‘Boon Castle’ as it’s an initiative to make our artists empowered and super successful. The company has a core team of 17 people and are in the process of expansion and need more people now as live concert promoters, digital marketers. We are in the process of designing our own kind of reality shows and will be a platform to promote independent artists across genres. So we have our own vision, how we would love to be seen will come out soon.” adds Manchanda.

Talking about the inception of the Totem Pole Music Festival Manchanda said, “My wife and I always felt a need to come up with a festival for kids which offers a safe environment for them to groove to the music. We came up with the idea of Totem Pole Music Festival to promote a festival for young people. Now, Kids can also come in by themselves without their parents worrying about their safety. The festival provides a lot of opportunities for young artists from the age of 12-25 to present their music, art, and dance. We call these new and unseasoned artists as the “state talent.” We consider ourselves perhaps the only “state talent” investors in the creative arts, as there are very few companies across the world today who want to invest in “state talent.”

Manchanda concluded with how he nurtures youngsters telling them the importance of awareness, “The First step to start is to train yourself about your core goals which need to be identified. There needs to be an awareness as to what you need to achieve in life without which you cannot do anything. Thereafter they are given exposure as we start developing and guiding them on how and what one can pursue further to achieve the goal. What is more gratifying is to see the success of the people who you have believed in and it’s similar to what my mentors achieved, and that’s what the power of belief can do to one and another.”

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