Karan Joseph

Karan Thomas Joseph, 29 year old musician born in Bangalore, suddenly passed away on september 9th in Mumbai. He was one of the most prodigious young musicians Mumbai was witness to in the last decade. His repertoire reflected in his virtuoso-like ability to blend jazz, R&B, Experimental and Electronic music seamlessly and with very little equipment. His penchant Nord Stage-Compact! A truly bright wave amongst the 10,000 odd musicians who live inside the massive sound industry of Mumbai. Karan Joseph, a graduate of Berklee School of Music, quickly struck attention and fame inside the 'indie' music scene of Mumbai, circa 2012. His command of over jazz and harmony can be seen and heard across dozens of videos at various live performances. Singers, producers, musicians and even Bollywood honchos would quickly session his talent on stage, and in the studio. We know very little about his musical or personal background before that period. Known as 'Kay Jo' amongst his close friends, the young man was an in-demand musician yet one who remained most humble and gentle to all. Yet, it's incredibly shocking and a social shame that Karan would be driven to commit suicide at the age of 29. Evidently something crucial, was not right in the life of such a gifted personality which eventually collapsed in a moment with his shocking demise. It has left hundreds of musicians and friends aghast. Why and How?

















Within a day of his alleged suicide, a blog written by Mehak Mirza Prabhu sprang up asking relevant questions about his death and his recent liaison with Rishi Shah (Head of an entertainment agency) based in Mumbai. Their website claims to be "the authority on emerging music from India and the lifestyle that surrounds it". What strikes us is the irony of the last phrase - ' the lifestyle that surrounds it' Like the old english saying goes "Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will do me no harm" which makes us wonder what lead Karan Joseph to end his life, on that fatal day, just a day ahead of World Suicide Prevention Day. Indian news media, which is always interested in tossing scandals at the public on a per-week basis, has followed swiftly to 'plug-in' this mysterious demise across many channels. A flurry of online reactions followed. Since then, the police has confiscated phones (including Karan's) to further investigate the incident. The news-media's reportage aside, one crucial facet to the scenario that surrounds this bizarre death is missing in the narrative. Not spoken for by none. This has happened before, in Mumbai many times, where artists have driven themselves to suicide. Existing social conditions as well as a lack of awareness or even desire to speak out about the conditions and lifestyle which lead to such disasters. Evidence as well as hearsay creeping out from various sources now, speaks of the possibility that he was subject to torture, emotional and physical abuse over a period of time. In fact Karan had sent out messages to his friends, asking for help in the wee hours of dawn on 9th September. 

What saddens us further, is that almost no one seems to speak out about the epidemic like existence of consumption, hedonism and the collision of big egos and personalities within the industry - causing fall-outs in terms of friendships and professional relationships again and again. The hard outer shell developed by most professionally successful musicians and artists in Mumbai would hide this aspect of it's otherwise opulent culture quite well. It's been witnessed many times before that certain artists especially the most vulnerable and the super talented ones, be it Amy Whinehouse or Kurt Cobain or Karan Joseph, when exposed to potentially destructive situations and liaisons over a period of time would consider such extreme measures. There is abundant evidence on this subject now, as research shows more than 130 (very well known and not so famous) artists under the age of 35 committed suicide in the last 15 odd years [research.PDF] Music did'nt kill no one ever, nor does marijuana. So What does? 

How can such a bright, humble and gifted personality be driven so adversely to just 'quietly jump off' the window? What was waiting for Karan outside that window, which overlooked the skyline of Bandra that fatal morning? Is it just another case of 'eaten up' by the industry and its sharks'? Does 'the lifestyle that surrounds it' inflict so much, to such a horrid end? Maybe medical or psychological help or understanding and compassion could have avoided such a tragedy? Do we choose to speak about it openly in reality or relegate it to eulogies & token RIP comments online? The death of Karan Thomas Joseph almost feels like the lights went out on Mumbai's sound stream. Hope this never happens again to future generation of musicians and artists arriving. Adios Kay Jo ! We love you and will miss you forever.




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