By Taniya Dutta
This Indian percussionist is leaving fans awestruck with popular renditions of Ed Sheeran and Bruno Mar’s compositions played artfully on 13 instruments weighing a whopping 25 kg – carrying all on his back, in mind-blowing sync.
Gladson Peter is India’s first ‘one-man band’.
Even though he is barely 60 kilos-fairly underweight for his age and height, the 23-year-old musician is like a live wire when he starts playing his massive kit.
He can play over 45 instruments and at the moment, he balances Bass drum, Snare drum, the hi-hat cymbals which make up the main rhythm section of the kit, a guitar, an Ukulele and a melodica in the front that he operates by the fingers of right hand, a chromatic harmonica, a diatonic harmonica, kazoo, and a slide whistle that he alternates during songs as required.
He also ties bells on legs and a tambourine and other percussive instruments diligently and beautifully on his body.
“As of now, my kit has 13 instruments that I carry on my body. All of it weighs approximately 55 pounds. From assembly till putting it all on me, it takes around 10 minutes,” says the young musician.
Gladson plays the popular Shape of You and Count on Me with immense ease and passion.
Because of his unique talent and catchy performance, Gladson from Mumbai in western India, has quickly carved his niche in the music world in the country.
He performs at public spaces, for various NGOs, street performances, churches, weddings and gatherings. He has also performed at the EU chambers of Commerce and for the Heal the World – Michael Jackson.
“It totally has been my will-power to do what I pictured in my head. Days when I think it is difficult, it is, other days when I am charged up in my mind, it feels like I am on battleground and I give it my best then. It is extremely difficult to carry a huge load of things which stays all over your body and also to co-ordinate so many instruments at the same time,” he says.
But the lean man’s journey was not always this simple and planned.
Gladson was still in school when he became a victim of passive smoking and got infected by Tuberculosis. The heavy treatment led to two holes in his lungs. For a long time, he was confined to his hospital bed and was told by doctors that he would never be able to play flute or harmonica again.
He says: “I was in class XIth when I became a victim to a pre-cursive disease which leads to Tuberculosis. Because of low immunity in my body the surrounding smoke entered into my lungs and damaged almost 60% of it.
“When I was in the hospital, battling my disease, all my hopes had fallen, my dreams shattered because of the extremely bad health. I couldn’t sit up even for half an hour if I did not rest my back for about 4 hours. I had low energy, and lost weight to almost look like sticks and bones.
“I could not eat anything as I used to vomit it all out. This was because of the fluids which got formed because of the smoke which entered inside. The doctors sucked out half a litre of these fluids which were causing me harm.
“I was also told that I wouldn’t be able to even play the flute or harmonica as my lungs were too weak. It did pull me down, but I had two options – whether to succumb to my situation or trust God. I think trusting God was everything for me, as I was left hopeless by everyone around me. That part of my life has changed everything for me,” he added.
While still in bed with no future plan, Gladson remembered a drawing of a man playing a guitar with other instruments that he had drawn during a camp as a kid.
“Instantly, I decided to be that man. I decided to become an inspiring musician and do something novel,” said Gladson, who had otherwise wished to become a pastor in church like his father.
“Never had I ever thought or known of the concept of a One Man Band or possibilities of being a popular a One Man Band.
“But once I knew what I want to do, I started to research to find out a man playing similar instruments in an advertisement. I designed the kit and with the help of my family and friends, I came up with it.
“I added 11 instruments first then added four more but now have 13 in total.
“I was surprised when I could play it all the first time carrying on my back but there was not complete control of the instruments,” says Gladson, who knew to how to play the instruments separately.
With practice and passion, Gladson has now mastered the techniques of bringing every part of his body in amazing controls of his instruments.
“I can use my thumb to entirely control the rhtym guitar and lead guitar portion and the other four fingers to play the melodica which is similar to the keyboard, at the same time also keep the right timing with both my feet which control the ropes attached to the snare drum and the bass drum and my right hand which also keeps the hi-hat along with the opening and closing of the cymbals controlled by the left hand which also does the work of holding the correct chords on the guitar.
I think, it’s a learning process and I’m growing slowly in it,” signs off Gladson adding that he is planning to create something out of the box that would inspire people to never lose hope.