Last night as I was heading back home, after bidding farewell to a friend who was leaving for Delhi, I scrolled through the YouTube channel of Friday Night Originals. Amartya Ray’s song Little Man appeared on the very first page, and I began to play the song in continuous loop for about half an hour. And the chorus went as:
“And oh! My Little Man.
Let’s run like the wind while we can
The time maybe gone but it will come again
And fate is such a co-incidence.”
Amartya Ray is one of the Independent musicians of the city. A recent graduate in Mechanical Engineering from Heritage Institue of Technology, Kolkata, Amartya’s journey as a musician probably dates back to his early years back in school where he was pretty much into “Rap music and shit”. “There wasn’t much of a music scene going on in school, you know. However, towards the end of class 11, a new kid enters school. Soon I saw the people around were picking up guitars and playing medley and various other stuff. I too took up the guitar and would play, you know, the very basic chords like C major and G major. It was fun. And in no time, music took over my entire life.”
And that it did. His music, as he would say, has no specific style. At times it has the Dylanian harp hovering over it, at times it inclines more towards Jazz and Blues, and sometimes it is just a few notes and an empty voice. I have been an audience to a few of his performances. And the way his music drifts from the string to the key is almost elevating. You could actually spend an evening listening to the boy’s songs, and I know you will recall quite a lot of what you have left behind.
To be a musician was never a purpose of his life. However, as a kid, he did get introduced to quite a number of the timeless legends, like Pink Floyd, Guns N Roses. “In fact, let me tell you.” he says, “my mother would sing me Hush My Baby, Baby Don’t You Cry, as a lullaby when I was a kid…so…yeah…when Rock takes over the mind, there’s nothing else.” And his song House of Cards reverberates the subtle family ties we all grew up with. Amartya Ray does that, he picks up the usual nothing and gives it a nostalgic resonance.
Like any true musician, Amartya Ray does not have one musician or a particular genre influencing him. Although he does say, “I will honestly tell you, I see Leonard Cohen as a mentor. The man writes so damn well…I mean…he is so great.” The last time I had listened to one of his originals Runaway From the Sun, I was reminded of something by Cohen Hey, That’s Not a Way to Say Goodbye. Amartya Ray sings about all that comes out of the heart. He sings about family, long gone friends, psychotic girlfriends, and mostly he talks about what he feels. “You know, songwriters are extremely intimate people. Like I write…I write what is very personal to me. You know. And I somehow feel that people would somewhere find something similar in my stories. I don’t know, I just tell my stories.”
Amartya Ray’s very first band Whitenoise, quite a popular one in Heritage, was a band of many dimensions. I have heard stories about it when the boys would walk down to their practice arena, and Amartya Ray would walk around and stop in the corners to get the proper sound. Like him, the band too never followed any specific genre. Sometimes there would be heavy breakdowns and sometimes a double-bass drumming. “I could tell you all about it in one breath…my inspirations, what we played, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, Bob Dylan, I could say it all in one breath.” Other than being an active member of the band, which was like a second family to him, Amartya spends a lot of time playing all by himself. At any emotional moment, happy or sad, he takes up his guitar and strums it all out.
The boy creates his songs through emotions. “I just take a lot of time to think.” He lets his emotions carry him, he lets reason carry his music. He makes sure that he has a good reason behind putting a chord in a place where it is. And the time taken is then well utilized to create something much more transcending. His song What I Need is one of those songs which give you the trigger of your presence. The song simply talks about what someone needs in life; after all only, you know what you need, Amartya only lets you know what he needs.
Amartya is a singer sincere to his songs. If he is satisfied with is work, well that is just “Blowin’ in the Wind…I just do it, I like it. I like music.” is what he will tell you. He goes around with a guitar and a harmonica. He finds weird connections in between lyrics and music, and hence his songs come life. He is currently waiting to play his song Sleeping Gypsy in front of an audience. This wild rover piece talks about a traveler who falls in love with a place and decides to live there for a day more. Yet his quest as a traveler tells him the truth that his life is on the road. “I so want to play this song in front of people, I cannot wait for it.” Maybe someday, just as a traveler, Amartya would play in his dream city Paris. And maybe, one day soon he will be humming his notes in both Bengali and Hindi. It would be quite a treat.
And as I returned home on the last loop of the song Little Man, I realized that my times and my generation is quite a crazy, amazing one. It is heartful, it is insane, and it is so very desirous of everything at one time. It never utters a commonplace thing and yet it suffers from the very common emotions. But the only thin line of difference is that…well, I will only say this, my generation is young and Amartya Ray has it written on his guitar, “All The Children Are Insane.” (Jim Morrison, The End).