Music means different things to each of us. For Subhash Kamath, music is therapeutic.
Kamath, who helmed the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) for two terms and led BBH & Publicis Worldwide as CEO until recently, is the lead singer and guitarist of the band ‘Wanted Yesterday’. The self-taught musician and guitarist recalls his initiation at a very tender age thanks to his father who used to play songs from different genres, especially classical music and cult Hindi songs, on his cassette player everyday.
The ad man recalls, “My father used to sing a lot and was interested in Indian classical music. Music was playing on almost all days in my home in Calcutta where I grew up. I vividly remember when I was in Class 9th, my father took me and my brother to the movie Abba: The movie. We fell in love with the music; it had so much impact on me. I started buying cassettes of popular bands like Abba and Boney M and later I was introduced to The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, Jim Reeves, Rolling Stone etc.”
When he moved to St Xaviers in Mumbai for his higher studies, he started playing the guitar.
“Along with the love for music, love for playing the guitar also grew with me. I bought an old guitar and started strumming. A few friends who learned the art began teaching me formally. It was horrible during the initial days that I didn’t get the notes correct. But as days passed by, the notes started falling in place. I was the cultural secretary of the college at that point and was involved in theater and other extracurricular activities,” he adds.
There comes a point when you find an artiste who stokes your own fire as an artiste. For Kamath, it was Bob Dylan, whose music he was introduced to by a friend.
“I consider Bob Dylan as my inspiration. When I first heard him I hated the songs. But when I started going deeper into the lyrics and music of Dylan’s songs, I fell in love with his music. He still remains my all time favorite singer,” says Kamath. That said, his love for Hindi music still continues
Kamath started his career with Ogilvy & Mather and it was in 2008 that a life changing-moment happened.
Around 2008, the Advertising Club of Mumbai wanted to institute an award for achievers under 30 from the fields of media, marketing, and advertising. It was decided that two bands would play on the awards night. One band would be of people under 30 and the other comprised of the over 30’s. Bhaskar Das called Kamath. Having heard the latter play the guitar, Das invited Kamath to be part of the senior band.
“I was reluctant to be a part as I hadn’t performed in years and had lost touch. The event was going to happen in another six days and I decided to take the help of Rajeev Raja (Founder, Brandmusiq). He suggested Prabhakar Mundkur who was then the CEO of Percept. Then Raja asked me why I can’t be a part of the band. We didn’t have much time on our hands for rehearsals. We roped in a drummer and bass guitarist from somewhere and a band was put together. It became a huge hit. We played songs from the 60s and 70s,” he narrates.
When Mudra was hosting a party for their alumni a year later, Kamath and team were contacted for a gig. That performance too was well appreciated and successful, notes Kamath.
The band’s first public performance (outside of the advertising / media / marketing fraternity) was at al fresco bar Bonobo, where the owner asked them to perform for 50 to 60 people. News of the gig was posted on Facebook and around 200 people attended, to the surprise of the band. Post which, Mahesh Mathai, a partner at another popular venue blueFROG, invited the band to perform. The performance at blueFROG was the band’s first big gig and was a huge hit, recounts Kamath.
So where does the name ‘Wanted Yesterday’ come from? Not surprisingly, it is inspired by adland, where impossible deadlines are often the norm. Raja and Mundkur had a band of the same name earlier and the team decided to continue with it. ‘Wanted Yesterday’ continues to perform..
Kamath is focused on producing more original songs. Recently, he wrote and sung a song which was composed and programmed by his friends.
The musician in him was irrepressible even when he wore multiple full-time professional hats. Now as consultant and advisor, he has chosen to keep a few days of the week for work, and dedicated the rest to music.
“I want to produce more original songs. I also want to continue doing stage performances,” surmises Kamath.
There’s a sense of freedom that one senses in the adman as he reaffirms his commitment to music now. He’s on his own. And in a happy kind of way, he’s strumming on like a rolling stone.