Executives who rock


By Papri Das

During the week, they put on their best Hugo Boss suits, Piaget watches, and Italian handcrafted shoes, during a typical day at the office. But come the weekend and late evening, you see them donning jeans, boots, bandanas, tight T-shirts, as they head for the bright lights of the stage, guitars or haversacks slung over their shoulders. Meet the modern day rocker CEOs.

These are the guys who continue to pursue their musical gifts, even as they drive their corporate charges to new financial and growth milestones. They spend their time rehearsing and getting into the groove with their band mates before a performance at either a Blue Frog or an NH7 Weekender. And when they really let it all out, just playing to the thousands in the audience, nobody would guess they are the corporate types.

Take Universal Music India CEO Devraj Sanyal. He has gained a reputation as a CEO who is re-imagining and recreating his recording company into a new organization ready and fit for the fast evolving music ecosystem. But Devraj is also famous amongst the metal heads in India for his band Brahma, one of the forerunners of India’s metal scene from 1994 to 2005.

“We got our first big break through the IRock festival which used be very huge. After 10 years of active presence in iRock opening most major rock festivals in India we saw ourselves doing two hour and three hour long sets,” shares Sanyal crediting the success to they have achieved to their diversion free focus. “Unlike most rock bands, none of us had any addiction to drugs or the like. It made us tighter as a band and extremely focused on what we wanted to achieve,” he reveals. 

Of the thousand plus gigs that Brahma has played, Devraj says their act at Manipal in --- is a standout.  “Mad  monstrous crowd! They didn't let us leave the stage for 30 minutes more than the rehearsed set. At some point we were playing the metal version of ‘Smoke on the Water’ by Deep Purple and the fans set the side walls on fire as we sang the chorus ‘fire in the sky’,” narrates Sanyal. “At that time it seemed the ultimate show of love by ours fan but on hindsight it was a scary experience.”

Leo Burnett India CC, Rajdeepak Das reveals he has taken a shot a deejaying and hangs out with a lot of deejays. “Being a deejay is the coolest thing,” he confesses, with his top DJ being David Guetta. These days however he is busy building up his music playlist. “I am massive on Bob Dylan. I also like Rodrigues. I have all his released and unreleased work as well,” he says.

 Mumbai-based digital content and distribution company 120 Media Collective CEO Roopak Saluja used to do night shifts as a trance deejay. And he even has a record label Procyon Records, which signed on and released other artistes in the past.

 He recollects zipping from airport to hotel across different countries while at ad agency Young & Rubicam. But the hectic schedule could not get the deejay out of him. He would continue spinning records and getting trance fans to get into the groove in the EDM capitals in Europe. 

He shares: “I was literally living my life out of a suitcase. There would be times when I would fly in from Singapore airport and not even go home, catch another flight to some place like Portugal or Amsterdam over the weekend. I would then play a gig  or gigs and come back to Mumbai  airport on Monday and directly go to office.”

 Roopak rubbishes all claims that deejaying is relatively easy and can be done even when holding a day and week job. “People believe that you simply need a playlist of two or three hours of the popular tracks but they don't get the hard work  which goes into creating that music set of two or three hours. As a deejay you need to be constantly listening and exploring new music and keeping up with the world’s trends While the three hour play happens once a week or so, you spend the entire week and you burn the midnight oil listening and researching. So yes, it is hard work indeed, but the people I met and parties I had made it worth it,” says Roopak.

 Apart from running a creative ad agency, Bartle Boge and Hegarty CEO and managing partner  Subhash Kamath has built up a fan following for his music being a regular performer at advertising industry awards functions and dos.  “I used to sing in a band when I was in college but it was short lived after I started work years later I found myself jamming with friends in parties or office gatherings, and at one time I was asked to form a  band to perform at an advertising event,” says Kamath. “I was surprised to see how well we were received. Soon after a few more people (some from advertising and some professional musicians) got on board we formed the band Wanted Yesterday.”The name reflects the ad industry’s plight of short deadlines for creative as well as his love for the classic rock and blues era.

 There are others in the south east Asian region who mix their music with work. And that too pretty well. Consider the band Uranus which has some media heavweights as its members.

 Among them: event and conference company Branded CEO Jasper Donat, TigerGate boss William Pfeiffer, ad and documentary film maker Ocean Vista Films CEO Craig Leeason, Siren Films founder Ed Bean and former Channel V VJ Dominic Lau. The motely crue has been performing for quite a few years now and they even have a booking agent and play in clubs and bars in Hong Kong and at industry events.

 However, most of the corporate chieftains we spoke to, confessed that their musical careers are important – but they rank lower on the priority list after their day jobs and family. Says Sanyal: “My job as an MD and CEO always comes first and the band second. It’s a conscious decision I have taken a long time ago and the boys have been very respectful of it.” However, the band is fiddling with the idea of releasing their third album.

 Kamath finds the time to rehearse and jam but he finds the coordination piece between all his mates a major challenge, because each one of them is pre-occupied. Gigs therefore are limited.

 Ditto with Uranus. The rockers have regaled their fans – especially in the industry – over the years, but play only at select venues. “Music is in our blood,” says Donat. “And we will continue to play as long as we can.”

Rock on!


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