Bengali Cultural Society Holds First Live Show in 2 Years
Recently, the Bengali Cultural Society, one of the oldest non-profit Indian socio-cultural organizations in Kuwait, held a live concert at the auditorium of the Indian Community School with Sourendra and Soumyajit, a duo of pianists and Indian singers renowned for their eclectic music. The live show, the first to be held in the past two years, was enjoyed by a full house.
Sourendro Mullick and Soumyojit Das are two very special Indian musicians known for bridging the old and the new, fusing the traditional with the contemporary in their music. Their talent, ingenuity, vibrant melody and experiences with soul, folk and traditional music have helped to create a large following in India and the Diaspora. In recent times, they have organized very special concerts commemorating important events in India and abroad. Based in Kolkata, the cultural capital of India, the two musicians consider themselves global citizens who create, produce and perform musical experiences that transcend genre and language. Soumyajit, the singer, enjoys experimenting with various musical genres ranging from classical, semi-classical, ghazals, thumri, contemporary music and playback songs. His partner, Sourendra, plays the piano in a style that combines the nuances of Indian classical music and Western piano grammar.
When asked if a musical tradition at home inspired the duo to pursue the art form, Soumyadeep said, “I can’t even remember a time when I wasn’t singing. As a child, I remember listening to music and performing it with my childish imagination, or I was probably singing a melody somewhere. But I think that music is this mission in me, which I carry since the last lives that I lived. That’s what I believe. Sourendra’s parents were musically inclined. Her mother, like most Bengali women, could sing well. “Both of my parents were musically inclined, and they tended to listen to different types of music and enjoyed them.” As a child Sourendra was exposed to a wide range of musicians including Debabrata Biswas, Lata Mangeshkar, Music from Arabian Nights and Elvis Presley. “I’m very grateful to be born into this family,” he says.
Soumyajit and Sourandra are not only prodigiously talented, but they are also highly skilled musicians. Soumyajit trained under the legendary Pandit Ajoy Chakraborty since 1996, while Sourendra learned the music of greats like V Balsara, who introduced Indian classical music on the piano and Ustad Vilayet Khan, the legendary sitarist, whose sitar tempted to imitate human sound. The role of guru or teacher is of utmost importance in Indian classical music. The guru has the most critical role to play in the growth and development of the musician as an artist, and it will not be wrong to say that he continues to be a defining figure throughout the life of a student. Soumyajit and Sourendra are no exception. “I’m so grateful to my guru Ajoy Chakraborty for taking me out of all the shackles that usually come with traditional Indian music,” shares Soumyajit when asked about his guru’s influence. “I am so lucky that this legend made me discover this immense sky that is Indian classical music. He gave me all the freedom to interpret it and also showed me the responsibility to interpret it. In fact, Indian classical music has become my way of life. So Guruji’s influence on me is not just limited to my music, but he has had an impact on my lifestyle. Sourendra talks about learning not only from their teachers but also from their experience as musicians. “Our teachers have been very liberal,” he says. “But it’s not that we only learned from our gurus. We learned from everywhere. We learn from every human behavior we see around us. We travel very often. Throughout our travels, we collect data and try to translate it into our projects, music and compositions.
In 2005, the duo made their first European tour and created their group You & I the same year. By focusing on various musical traditions, acoustic phenomena and experimentation, the duo have created a unique soundscape of their own. Soon, they could be found composing music in various genres ranging from experimental music to ghazals, traditional sounds, Bollywood music to folk. One of their strengths is collaboration. Some of their spectacular productions include Jaya Hey – the 40 legends conducted the Indian national anthem with Dr. M. Balamurlikrishnan, Pt Shiv Kumar Sharma, Rashid Khan and Pt Jasraj. They have traveled the world and performed at prestigious venues, including the famous Rudolfstadt Festival, the Moers Festival, the Nehru Center and the British Museum. They have performed for the Prime Minister and President of India, and each of their live staged projects is a sight to behold.
How do the two synergize their musical vision? Music can be intensely personal. Musical collaborations can be difficult to maintain. “It’s a very delicate question,” replies Soumyajit. “As far as I am concerned, I am a very bad music student, and I consider myself a poor music student who learns and familiarizes himself every day with this huge world of music.”
For Sourendra, the strength of the duo is to be together. “Soumyadeep and I work with our usual group of musicians. It is a thought that we create together. This solidarity is our strength. Sourendra acknowledges the initial difficulties the duo faced when promoting their genre of music. “But our union has been our greatest strength for me. At the beginning, we encountered many difficulties in promoting our musical vision, but our solidarity, our greatest strength, has helped to build it. Today, we are working on massive projects in which we collaborate with international stars and legendary musicians and we perform in front of international audiences or prime ministers and presidents. We do this with the help of our young collaborators. We have exquisite ideas and concepts , and we can only present them in the right spirit because we have great people coming together to support us.– By Chaitali B. Roy Special for the Arab Times