‘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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At the Vault

” A song is to me what life gives.”

Last night at the Vault, five original composers and India’s very own Bob Dylan came together to pay a tribute, and to contribute to the independent music scene of the city. What came around as an upshot to this was the spawning of the genesis of songwriting.

Tathagata Bhowmik, the former songwriter of Do’s and Don’t’s, was the first one to perform. His compositions were that of fervour, where in most he spoke about the cherishing dwelling of love and its consistent inclination to drop out of sight. Tathagata’s song Clouds White Clouds spoke about the kind of affection which dematerializes itself after a point of time, and soon it cease to exist. Mellifluent with his compositions, they were the perfect blend between dejection and tribulation.

The next act by Ryhaan was nothing less than a pleasant merry making. The youngest performer in the house interfused Rock with Pop to keep the audience up on their toes- didn’t matter if anyone in the house was heavily stewed. His offhand improvisation brought the ambience off-the-cuff. His song which he casually announced to be the C Song might sound to most like a hasty headlong rush to notes, yet the boy was confident and the song sailed clear.

Amartya Ray came up with something absolutely different to offer. “When you add music to your poem it becomes a song.” His songs which deal with the impulsive temperament of the young mind, which often goes through an overflow of distinct emotions- sometimes in love, sometimes wandering beyond the horizon, sometimes only a little sad- probably for the first time in the evening brought the audience together. His song Little Man which is about the promised who still awaits for the day to turn and the dawn to arrive is possibly one of his most illustrious compositions. Amartya later paid a tribute to Leornard Cohen, as he was accompanied by Durjoy to perform the poet’s song Suzanne.

As Lou Majaw had told earlier that evening, “A song is to me what life gives.” Watching him perform was like being extremely young again. The man who is known to have carried on Bob Dylan’s legacy in India supports nothing more than originality in an artist’s performance. For him no one can possibly have time for hatred, ill will and abhorrence if all would only be with music, listen to it, play it, do anything with it. He shared a little bit of himself with us, as he went on to sing for the rest of the night:

“When you’re sad and when you’re lonely
And you haven’t got a friend
Just remember that death is not the end
When you’re standing at the crossroads
That you cannot comprehend
Just remember that death is not the end”.

Last night at the vault, there was a song, there was a thought, there was poetry. Last night at the vault people were happy.

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

 

 

 

 

 

“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.

 

THE “LITTLE MAN”

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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).