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Interview with a Darjeeling guitarist who won 'The Great Indian Guitar Solo Contest'
The curly haired boy from Kalimpong in Darjeeling, Sharad Dipesh Diyali loves to strum the guitar whenever he gets time to lay his soft fingers on those strings. Once he gets the guitar in his hand, it goes on for hours. It is an ordeal sometimes to separate him from his guitar. He hates to divorce with his first love, guitar. It brings him to mood, where the guitar acts as a mood enhancer. It is his love and passion for the guitar, along with the hard work and dedicated hours, which helped him win the 'The Great Indian Guitar Solo Contest'.

His love story with guitar started from an early age, where his father, Late Dilip Dayali gifted him an acoustic guitar, which he still treasures it dearly and considers to be the greatest gift till date. After the first guitar in his hand, there has been no turning back for Sharad, who left the hills for Kolkata. He moved to the nearest metro city with the hope of a better future both in terms of his academics and his eternal love, guitar and music.

Gradually, it is the latter, where he is taking rapid strides. Still there are instances when he has to jostle with his family members and convince them about the perks of being a musician. But, if he wins such competitions, his family members would also have to bow down and agree with Sharad. Hopefully!!!!

Excerpts from the interview.

Ashim Sunam (AS) : First of all congratulations for winning the 'The Great Indian Guitar Solo Contest'. What inspired you to take part in it?

Sharad Diyali (SD): The contest served as a good platform to showcase and share my work. Since I had also taken part in the past I did gain some audience who appreciated me as well. And the icing on the cake for me was receiving some precious comments from the man himself, Sir Birju Dharmajan, a celebrated Indian guitarist nicknamed as the god of small strings by fans. With appreciation from people whom I know and close friends, their love inspired me to take part in the contest.

AS : You had taken part in the past as well, but failed to win, only reaching top 5. So, how determined were you to win the contest this time around?

SD: I have always given it my all, irrespective of the magnitude of the competition. In the same contests in the earlier edition I ended up being a finalist twice. And this time I wanted to do something better with the feel and melody. I am glad that my version of 'Vande Mataram' was appreciated by huge number of audiences. I gave it my best in the contest and played it with more vigour and passion and the hard work has paid off really well.

AS: Could you explain the competition process? How does it take place?

SD: One can get the required information from the official Facebook page of Sir Baiju Dharmajan. The process is easy and simple; one just needs to record their version of specific guitar pieces as mentioned for the contest. Take a video and upload it and send some necessary details via email. That's it.

AS: After winning the competition, has your life changed?

SD: I would not say my life has entirely changed but I read it somewhere, "change is the only constant thing in life", in the same way, yes, things did change for me after winning the competition. People recognized my guitar playing skills, and to mention one specific event, Sir Ron Bumblefoot Thal, present lead guitarist for the famous band Guns n Roses appreciated my playing and has commented on my YouTube video.

AS: You are a self taught guitarist. Did you ever think that this could have led to an obstacle in the competition?

SD: It is not an obstacle for me. Self taught is all about discovering your own self and exploring the best part of you about the music you like. It is all about expressing yourself musically, and I was lucky that I could do it my way.

AS: Can this victory be described as the best so far? What about your other achievements? 

SD: So far, yes this has been the best victory for me. It gave me a new identity altogether. Other achievements would include:

- Securing the 1st position in the event Guitar wars, held in Jadavpur, Sanskrit, Kolkata 2012

- Best guitarist in battle of bands in Lobelia 2013 held at R.G. Kar Medical College

- 4th in the 1st season of all India guitar contest 'play along with Baiju'.

- 4th in the 2nd season of all India guitar contest 'blade guitars -India on guitar'

AS: Since what age have you been learning to strum the guitar? What inspired you?

SD: I was in class 8 and my father (Late Dilip Diyali) had gifted me a small acoustic guitar on my birthday, I recollect it as one of my luckiest and the happiest day of my life. About inspiration, my childhood friends used to talk about music, guitar etc, it all happened when we planned to form a band. Though our childhood band could never reach greater heights, which we had planned for, but still my passion for guitar always made me learn more and more of it. Later, I started listening to more music, learning them and playing them on my guitar, which kept inspiring me immensely.

AS: While playing the guitar, what brings the best out of you?

SD: The guitar always sets me to my right mood, no matter however the day might have passed. 'I am always me' when I am playing the guitar and that's the best part I enjoy about it.

AS: So, you started at an early age and chose music as your career. Are you parents happy with it? 

SD: I guess this is just the beginning of my career as a musician. Although, we are all aware about the taboos associated while choosing a career of a musician. Every parents want their son to be educated and get a handsome salary and a secured job. I had to struggle and make my parents believe that I can choose music as a career. Definitely, there are lots of obstacles that I have faced and still more obstacles on the wings, but you just have to move on and give your best.

AS: Darjeeling houses some of the most talented musicians in India, but why only a selected few have fulfilled their potential outside the hill station?

SD: Yes there are many talented musicians in Darjeeling and we have seen a few of them making our hills proud. It depends upon the scope, availability of proper guidance and music gears and platforms for promoting them, which the hill town lacks. So one just has to keep their eyes open and look around for online competitions and take part. If more and more musicians from hills come along, surely in the long run, there will be more musicians and bands to carry Darjeeling's flag high in the Indian music industry.

AS: You have been an integral part of the band 'Prithibi'. How has it helped you as a guitarist?

SD: It has been a year that I have been associated with 'Prithibi' and it really feels good to play with them. Being a Bengali band, I never felt aloof musically, and I feel that it is the musical bond that we share together. The band follows a blend of various genres like classic rock, 80s glam rock, metal along with modern poetical lyrics and I am comfortable with the genre. I have experienced a lot about technical things, sounds etc with the band. Overall, it has helped me gain practical experience, being a professional guitarist.

AS: Who are your favorite guitarists and why?

SD: The list could go on and on. It is actually quiet tough to narrow down only a few names. Still my favorite guitarists are Nuno Bettencourt, Paul Gilbert, Marty Friedman, and Vinnie Moore. All of them have established their own signature guitar sound style and playing. I have given my best effort to cover their instrumental pieces and in the process learnt to deliver my own style as well.

AS: Where would you want to see yourself in the next 10 years? What's your future plan?

SD: Well, that's a tough question, but certainly I would like to see myself as an established musician in future. Every musician needs a platform to show their talent, and I am lucky that I got that platform. And to take it to the next level, I am planning to record more of my instrumental pieces and do gigs as well. We are all aware about the difficulties one has to face to reach that level. But for now, social networking sites have made things easier. I will be using that for sure.

I would dedicate my next instrumental piece to my father, Late Dilip Diyali.

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