‘ORGANIC ABOUT BEING A MUSICIAN ‘

In an age, when every art form is unraveling the categories that they have been classified into, music stands out (as Moby would say) as the amalgamation of all the variables that contribute to the birth, sustenance, and morphing of a genre.

Parekh and Singh is one of those rare bands of our times whose composition not only translate the solitary human affection to notes but decode the prevailing contrast in lifestyle in the city, Calcutta. To begin with the kind of music they compose, it would be better to say that the music follows no particular genre; it is uninterrupted in its fluency. Jivraj Singh explains that genre is not the most significant aspect when it comes to composing some original content, it is only important to take up a challenge and fulfill it, and reach out to a potential audience.

“Genre is something that the music industry machine would categorize, it is not something that we actively think about. It is not very relevant while composing, it is however more relevant when it gets distributed…We are only interested in making good music and make use of our creative interest.”

The latent human desires have almost always played the leitmotif in the band’s compositions. Sometimes, although the songs are so unambiguous to a listener yet they are more than often interpreted on a personal context. Take for example, the song Philosophize is about a whale who finally gets its song; yet to many listeners it is about the soundtrack that plays while they are dreaming in a subliminal stage.
Listen to the track here:

Jivraj Singh talks about how a song is translated through one perception to the other.

“I think we are interested in using imagination as a tool for living and interaction. It is hard to separate from every aspect of life. The way people perceive music is different from the way we do. Music is a holistic affair, it is the soundtrack for dream, soundtrack to stay wide awake. It is almost like a conversation.”

The band has not only gained its popularity through its music, but a sufficient amount of attention has been given to using the city as the backdrop to their songs. Calcutta stands in its present time, plunging in and out of its colonial history, making the city a medium in itself to travel through the history of the country. The city’s architecture and lifestyle juxtapose at a point to bring out the divergence of its clarity. Jivraj Singh explains the role played by the city in their songs.

“Calcutta is a slow and easy going place. The lack of angst in the city is almost an easy relaxed
comfortable process, we have been under no pressure to compose our music. Also the
aesthetics have only added to our colour schemes. The city is always in sync with the colour
schemes that we explore. It is highly related to the way Calcutta feels.”

Their song Ghost which depicts the story of a girl who is trying to fit back to repetitious life, after
her dog dies, shows an appropriate play of colours and style. Based in the rural outskirts of the
city, the band dress up in well-cut suits, plays an absolute antithetical semblance to the way
they sound.

Technically, music is a form of art which does not have a literal existence. It is only the
manipulation of air molecules which create the rhythm like patterns in our eardrums. Parekh and
Singh maintain a perfect balance between the precision of the song and the emotion it contains-
they truly are an aesthetic piece of art.

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A Song and a Thought

As Bob Dylan would say a song is something that walks by itself. Sometimes it just happens by itself, and maybe, that is why a song can be the most honest expression. A song has forms, it has dialects, it has structure, and it has a method of execution. However, as most songs are sung in their respective regional languages- which for almost all becomes a barrier when communicating among races- one can always decipher a song as a palpable language of its own kind.

“Language has never been a barrier for us.”

Mir Kashif Iqbal, the lead guitarist of Parvaaz, explained that the language of the song might often depend on its purpose. If a song is to walk by itself, that is, if it is supposed to inflect a certain impression solely by the lyrics then probably language might have a bigger role to play than the music. However, oftener a song takes its form on the intermixture of music and lyrics. Parvaaz takes it to a distinctive level where their offbeat variation actually punctuate the common mood. For an instance, their song ‘Behosh’, which talks about the self’s escape from the self and the drudgery of the constant urge to be free of inhibition, begins with the lines: “Meherbaan, khadardaan, wunbusu tayibayaan”, which is in Kashmiri/ pashto. It is immediately followed by the line: “Asaan bilkul nahin tha, khud se peecha chudaana”. The synchronisation between the two languages gives an edge to the core essence of the song.

Check out the song here :

Kashmiri songs are noted for the distinct sound of sarinda, rubae, sarangi and santoor. What makes Parvaaz stand apart from the many other electronically equipped bands is that, they maintain the individuality of those folk instruments through their guitars and drum. Their liveliness offsets the rather paintive melody and accentuates the rhythm. It is most well understood in their song Roz Roz which was written by the revolutionary Kashmiri poet Mahjoor and originally sung by Ghulam Hassan Sofi. The song begins with a trance beat, soon shifting its curve to the local tonal value of Kashmiri song.

Listen to their album Baran here:

Parvaaz can easily be distinguished due to their tendency to obliterate the grey zone between poetry and music.

As said by Kashif: “As kids we read many poems back in school, and they have remained in our subconscious for the longest time. We did not have to look anywhere else, where it came to composing music.”

Poems and songs share the similar pattern of structuring when it comes to verses, refrains and chorus. They give a regular rhythm to the otherwise despodent turmoil of the mind. Parvaaz maintains that regular rhythm throughout in each of their songs without distorting the essential sensitivity of neither of the art forms.

It is almost a privilege to listen to Parvaaz as they completely seem to abide by music as the only moral law. Their songs are like the invincible bridge between communities, revealing an older sense of wisdom and philosophy. They simultaneously work on both the conscious and the unconscious aspects of the self, reflecting physiological consequences.

THE ORIGINALS

 

 

There are around a hundred singers in the city, each with thousand words tied together in an unconventional pattern of notes. However, most of the times, these songs go missing when it comes to the popular music scene. Segregated between the popular singers who sing for the big bucks and the singers who write solely for the joy of it, the city of Calcutta has recently seen an upheaval in the independent music scene; and Durjoy Choudhury has a major role to play in it.

Being in the independent music scene for almost 12 years, there can probably be no one better who could tell you about the kind of setbacks that the independent music scene has been facing in the city. There is no money, there is no recognition. The former lead singer of Bee and the Buskers, Durjoy Choudhury took up the initiative to bring to the forefront the musicians who compose their original music and write their own songs. Durjoy  was initially approached by Abhibroto who had told him, “I would like to record you.” Durjoy  came up with something else, “Why would you like to record me when you have the whole city to record?” Friday Night Originals (FNO) came to the city on 4 March 2016, and ever since it has been bringing out the original content of the original artist.

FNO had its initial recordings done at The Imaginarium, Abhibroto’s home studio in Kolkata. In the first season, they brought out several newcomers such as Projjwal Bhattacharya, Abhishu Rakshit, Namrata Nath along with several well-known independent musicians of the city such as Neel Adhikary, Rahul Guha Roy and The Bodhisattwa Trio. Over the next season, they covered artists across the country, from the foothills of Siliguri (MadNug) to the graduate from Berkley College of Music, Boston (Sanjeeta). FNO is probably one of those few initiatives which are absolutely independent in their own terms. “If you have a good song, and very new”, as Durjoy Da would describe it, your song has a chance to reach the audience even when the big bucks are unable to make it. Every season holds 16 slots where the musicians are selected through a demo. There have been times when the established good bands could not make it through the scrutinizing process.

FNO takes no money from the artists it records, nor does it allow any sponsor to dictate its cause. It strictly believes in the quality and the originality of the music. “We don’t judge anybody based on anything. You don’t have to be popular on the scene to get recorded. Whoever you are, if the music is good, we will do everything to help it reach the larger audience.” Durjoy Da, who is quite popular in the city for his own original content did not mind giving up his band to solely concentrate on providing a platform to the independent musicians. “One small sacrifice can always be done for the greater good.”

The FNO team holds members who are dedicated to the fact that the musicians should not sell off their dreams. Now recording from BlooperHouse Studios in Salt Lake, Kolkata, they have covered artists at a wider range. Their latest season, Season 3, has seen popular artists such as Under Ground Authority, Lakkhichara, and The Latination record their popular numbers with them.

Durjoy Da has a song where he says, “I came here just to sell my dreams.” However, on Fridays, he sells dreams of those who have probably not thought of dreaming yet. He sells dreams on a Friday as that seems to be the day more connected to independent music, the day when the weekly responsibilities come to a halt. Durjoy Da takes in nothing but gives out a huge platform to the struggling musicians of the city.

The members of FNO are as follows:

Durjoy Choudhury- Founder, director, editor

Abhibroto Mitra- Co-Founder, sound engineer

Subham Goyal- Business Analyst

Anushree Bhatter, Aditya Chowdhury, Harsh Doshi, Budhaprabha Roy- Cinematographer

Deepank Seth- Asst. sound engineer

 

 

 

 

 

SOMETHING YOU LIKE DOING

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Abhinandan laughed when I asked him about the band’s original composition. “Let’s talk about it fall 2017.” I was curious. I had listened to Jazbah, and yes that was the first song I had listened to. I had to know more.

Initially known as the Cynical Recess, quite a successful band in Calcutta, the band stuck to what the country follows to be main stream. The audience would ask for more of the common music directors. “In a country like India, which is so Bollywood based…people are more into film music.” As he rightly pointed out, the huge industry which drives many of the creative minds has always been a part of the common people’s livelihood. I remember listening to R.D.Burman’s Oh Haseena, and then I heard Abhishek sing it in a back drop of jarring chords. It was refreshing to hear the old song in the new generation’s sound.

SPUNK! began its journey while performing in schools, colleges, and various other festivals. The band was shortlisted for the global band competition Hard Rock Rising and also won Channel [V] Launch Pad in 2012. Their music gives a unique essence to the old Bollywood numbers we all grew up with.  “Hindi music has a more common mass effect”, everyone in one way or more has always related to Bollywood songs. They did what they liked to do. They added their own taste to Bollywood and gave every single cover an edge. The fast tracking sound and the resonating beats bring out the old songs as almost something to step up to for the new generation. And hence that is where the name comes in, “SPUNK!…something that you like doing.”

The band has not yet done any such international shows; however, they have a number of followers across USA, UK, Australia, Bangladesh and many more. In their original score Jazbah, the band paid a humble tribute to the Indian Air Force; their cover of Rahman’s Urvasi is as quick-footed as it could be; their videos are as outlandish as they can get, and they are always great to watch (do watch their official cover of Tum  Kahaan).

The band does not take part in reality shows; they keep things real and genuine. Okay, that sounds odd. What I meant to say was that the band believes that their greatest success is when the audience knows them, listens to them, and understands what they play. Maybe that is what made Abhinandan leave his high profile marketing job and shift all his resources to music. “It is everything to me, it is love, it is life, and it is passion unlimited.”

The band will be covering A.R.Rahman’s Vande Mantaram this Independence Day. “It will be a lot different.” It will have SPUNK!’s unique touch keeping Rahman’s genius composition intact. I am most certainly looking forward to it. However, I am quite sure that those who have been following the band are eagerly awaiting their original scores. All the more reason to look forward to fall 2017, to realize what SPUNK! actually feels like.

“WHAT IS ‘ANY’ TO YOU?”

 

I have to write something about someone and I do not know what, to begin with. Honestly, after writing the first sentence I sat back for fifteen minutes and scrolled down the comment section on one of Projjwal’s videos on FNO. Someone had asked him to work on his pronunciation. Another person had asked the previous person to try and speak in Bengali, and soon there were two people commenting on each other over just a song played by just a boy. And the song went as:
“Who is to blame, tell me, love?
Who will we blame for the fire?
Amidst the hatred, we must build love,
And let’s be each other’s desire.”

 

Amid his ‘paradoxical situations’, Projjwal says that poems and songs are like Horcruxes, you divide your soul in them. He grew up in a family where literature, film, and music were the daily customs. Since the age of five or six, he would play in a toy synthesizer and by the time he was in the sixth standard he was playing the piano. A drift from the Bengali ambiance of music to the Western Classical style took place. Considering himself to be the “worst student”, he would struggle to maintain a balance between his education and music. There would be quite a number of obstacles. After spending four years in CSM, during the fifth year, he faced the changes which lay in front of him. “The society around me was changing. The environment, the education system, my own life they were all going through a drastic change. And then one day, I heard a guy shouting in a nasal tone: ‘the times they are a-changing’.” Projjwal started writing, all in English without a guitar.

He says that he has heard a number of Bob Dylan’s songs. It was something that made sense to him. There was also Cohen’s Book of Longing. He began to see and paint. He took up music as a language, a language speaking in which everyday nourished him. The boy was worried about his future, his country’s future, the education system. The system itself deteriorating. He believes that it all has to be taken back in form. He began to paint through music.

I asked him about his story. He told me several things, “…How can I say, there are so many stories…so many stories…I don’t have my own story…” And so he kept telling me a story to say why a story was being told. And somehow as he narrated and he re-told, I realized that his stories, a lot like his songs, were helping me read my story. Well, that is personal! Maybe, somebody would realize it, somebody would not. And probably, that is also the reason why I listened to Projjwal sing. He sang songs about religious fundamentalism, “Why must I hate that tree,/ For it is loved by someone I hate?” He speaks about love looking at love, as love moves out in a song called Suddenly Tonight. His song These Blanks are a straightforward promise of the void in between existence. Like a Milestone, which he had written two years back, is one where he identifies himself as a milestone. “I live by what I think,” he said, “it is important to think first…” I had to know if he abides by what he says if he would preach. He would sing. “Maybe that’s how, as you said, I would ‘preach’.”

He takes inspiration from Chopin, Mozart, Beethoven, and Bach; he identifies with Bob Dylan, calling himself a ‘Dylan Freak’; he listens to Irish Folk, Bengali spiritual hymns; he wishes to research on Folk song and connect to people; he remains mindful of the surrounding. He keeps vinyl records of Bob Dylan, Kali Dasgupta, Debabrata Biswas, Benny Goodman, Hank Snow, John Lee Hooker, and many more. You might find in his bookshelf Umberto Eco, Boris Ford, Jack London, W.J.Hemmings, Joyce, Tolstoy, Orwell, and a lot more.
He says that he travels within himself and that he would change with the changing times. “I adorn my age, I may sing the blues./ For time is no poor country, to be conquered.”

I had to write about Projjwal and I did not know what, to begin with. And surely I do not know what to end with. All I can say is that I have barely met a person, a songwriter, a singer, and a boy as him; and yes about his songs…they are always somewhere after just now.