Posts Tagged With: music

A chronicle of a musical life

Ocean to OceanTitle: Ocean to Ocean
Author: Susmit Sen and Sehba Imam
Publisher: HarperCollins
Published: September 2014
Pages: 160
ISBN: 9789351362012
Genre: Memoir, Nonfiction, Music
Rating: 3.5/5

Jimi Hendrix, the American singer and guitar virtuoso, when talking about how he was a source of inspiration for many musicians, famously said, “I’ve been imitated so well, I’ve heard people copy my mistakes.” But Susmit Sen, instead of walking in the footsteps of the likes of Hendrix, read the writing on the wall: “This is not for me.” If there’s one thing that a lifetime in music has taught Sen, the frontrunner of the iconic band Indian Ocean, is how ‘originality’ is not only a test of your integrity but also a yardstick to measure your musical genius. And this instinct was what got the band through. In his memoir, Ocean to Ocean, Sen writes, “If I am asked to name only one thing that guided the music of Indian Ocean, I will say originality.”

When Indian Ocean, one of the most creative bands in India, started to lose this very quality, when the band was merely working to a formula, he felt the first tinges of creative dissatisfaction. He rues, “Had we exhausted our originality and lost our ability to come up with new compositions? Or were we losing courage? On the one hand, success encourages you to create new fare, but as you go along, it sometimes terrifies you into staying with the tried and tested.” Finally, on the day the band performed Nani teri morni ko mor le gaye and Old Macdonald had a farm, Sen took a decision to part ways with the band. He recalls, “There is a fine line between expression and circus and I could see it clearly now.”

As you read Sen’s account of his life with Indian Ocean, you gradually begin to notice a few loose ends. Maybe a take from the other band members would have helped clarify a few things. But this is Sen’s memoir after all, and the beauty of it lies in the honest and unarmed manner he recounts it. Divided into 16 chapters, the narrative is dotted with anecdotes from Sen’s life, weaving in and out of his personal life and his musical journey.

You learn about his first brush with Hindustani classical music as he wistfully recalls, “In my attempts to hand around her (the girl he had a crush on), I discovered that her father was a classical music aficionado and a regular at Hindustani music concerts. I figured this was the best way to get close to her, so I tagged along.”

In another chapter, he talks about how Indian Ocean first took shape. “By 1990 we had three bass players, Aseem on vocals, Shaleen on drums and me, finally doing what I loved the most — exploring how my guitar could express sounds that emerged from nowhere and asked to be expressed,” he writes. One chapter in particular, titled Aseem will leave you teary-eyed as Sen recounts Aseem’s harrowing demise due to diabetes.

The hardbound book, co-authored by Sehba Imam, also comes with a copy of the eponymous debut album from Sen’s latest music ensemble, Susmit Sen Chronicles. This album, which will take you back in time to the alluring sound and style of ‘Indian Ocean,’ together with the book offers a captivating look at how Sen had to “swim out of the ocean, only to re enter it once again — this time not for its vastness, but for its depth.”

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Categories: Articles- New Indian Express, Books, Harper Collins, Memoir, Nonfiction | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gypsy Grooves on the Stage

Gypsies, ostracised from mainstream culture, are survivors, nonetheless. Often seen as ‘outsiders’ and despite being scattered across vast geo-cultural spaces, they are united by a common thread – the richness of their music and dance.

Through the years, their lifestyle has influenced many early forms of modern dance forms as disparate as north-Indian Kathak, Spanish flamenco and Egyptian belly dance. Giving Bangaloreans a glimpse into what a Gypsy life is like and how they have influenced modern day culture, a dance performance part of The SaraLuna Dance Project will be held on Saturday.

The SaraLuna project comprises of Indu Manohar and Kavya Viswanathan

The SaraLuna project comprises of Indu Manohar and Kavya Viswanathan

The project, founded in June this year by Studio Tarang – an open cultural space for dance and drama, traces the journey of the Roma people – often referred to as the ‘gypsies’ – through their diverse dance forms. “It will be an evening of dance, showcasing flamenco and belly dance. Many modern forms that we see today owe much of their early development to Spanish gypsies or gitanos and Egyptian gypsies known as the ghawazi,” says Indu Manohar, one of the founders.

 Indu, who dances kathak, odissi and flamenco, dons the hat of Luna and her friend, the belly dance instructor, odissi dancer and co-founder of Tarang, Kavya Viswanathan is Sara. Indu adds, “Kavya is a globetrotter. In order to learn the dances of the nomadic community, she had travelled around the world. In fact, she was in Turkey earlier this year and will chase down the last gypsy dancers of Egypt in November.”

Together, reflects Indu, they “seek to explore the contradictions of the gypsy existence through dance – they are united but diverse, nomadic but have a home in music and dance, persecuted but imitated, assimilated but kept estranged.” They also hope to study the different Romani trail dance forms that have come in contact with different cultures and civilisations through intercultural performances.

Saturday’s event will herald a series of performances throughout the city in the coming months. The dancing duo aim to raise awareness about the community’s immense contribution to culture around the world and also throw light on their current plight through workshops, classes and social activities. 

The SaraLuna Project will be held at Opus in Vasanthnagar at 7.30 pm on September 6.


First published in The New Indian Express on September 4, 2014

Categories: Articles- New Indian Express, Culture, Interesting Initiatives, Music & Dance, Theatre and Art | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘I make music because I love it. Not for fame’ — singer Manjeet Ral

Here’s my interview with singer Manjeet Ral of the Singh is King fame and a member of the erstwhile band ‘RDB’ — an acronym for Rhythm, Dhol, Bass — , about his latest music ensemble ‘Manj Musik’ and upcoming collaborations. 

Manjeet has just completed a project for Dr Cabbie, a comedy caper co-produced by Salman Khan. Set in Canada, it is the story of a young Indian doctor who embarks on a coming-of-age journey. And keeping with the Indian-ness of the movie is the title track ‘Daal Makhani’ created by Manjeet. “They loved the work I had done on Shera di Kaum from Speedy Singhs (2011). Hence they asked me to produce the title song for this movie and one other song. The title track fuses all the fun elements. It will officially go live on YouTube on August 19 and subsequently on TV.” 

Apart from this, he has collaborations with Vishal-Shekhar and Sunidhi Chauhan lined up as well, he tells us.

Manj Musik was born a little over a year ago, following the demise of his brother, Kuly. For Manjeet, RDB was a symbol of Kuly’s musical prowess, his dedication and their combined effort. So he didn’t want to show disrespect to his brother by continuing the band on his own. “RDB was intrinsically what Kuly and I created. I didn’t want to take credit for RDB’s music,” he says. 

Ask him to describe his music style and he quips, “It is a good mix of western and eastern beats. My sound is influenced by everything from hip-hop and house to rock and classical genres. I feel my music is very experimental. Very futuristic.”

Having spent his childhood in the United Kingdom and then relocating to Toronto, Manjeet enjoys a significant clout in the international music circles. He has worked with quite a few international names, most notably the likes of Ludacris, Snoop Lion, LMFAO, T-Pain and Public Enemy. “It was an amazing experience. They are very professional in their work and they taught me a lot about music,” says the star, who is also the ambassador in India for 50 Cent’s brand of headphones ‘SMS Audio’.

But in no way, he feels, he has reached the pinnacle of success yet. He avers, “I am still climbing the ladder and I have a lot to achieve before I can say my music is the best. I make music because I love this, not for fame. I do it for the people who come to listen to my music and I feel accomplished when they appreciate my efforts.”

Manj Musik comprises of Manjeet Ral, his wife Nindy Kaur and Raftaar (who doubles up as the lyricist). To know more, visit

Published in The New Indian Express on August 18, 2014

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Of music that transcends various genres; here’s DJ Funkagenda, the DJ who takes life one day at a time

Funkagenda aka Adam Walder

Funkagenda aka Adam Walder

UK-based music producer and DJ Funkagenda’s music doesn’t belong to one genre. There’s a bit of house, techno, progressive, dubstep, drum and bass– it is ‘dance music,’ something that every music lover can enjoy. After a performance in Mumbai, he was in Bangalore on August 17 as part of the Vh1 Supersonic Club Night tour. “My set was something different — something with bigger builds and drops,” he says about his gig and goes on to talk more about his music in general.

Over the span of his music career, which began when he was 20 years old, he has collaborated with many renowned artistes like Fatboy Slim, Black Eyed Peas (for the album ‘The E.N.D.’), Basement Jaxx, Moby, and Dirty Vegas. And then there are the festivals and clubs he has played at across the globe. He recalls an interesting experience when he was in India a few years ago. He says, “Once after a show, I had gone to bed and was sleeping soundly when I was woken up by a knocking sound. I answered the door, and it was two guys who had been at my show. They had snuck into the hotel, found my room and wanted me sign posters and take pictures.”

Funkagenda aka Adam Walder had always been musically inclined. His favourite memory from his childhood days was when he would watch his grandfather work on a few backing tracks. His musician grandfather, along with his dad, was his biggest musical influence. He reminisces, “Once during the music sessions, when my granddad went out of the room, I started playing the notes. When he heard me play, he exclaimed, ‘Wow, was that you? You should start playing.’ That Christmas he got me a keyboard and the next thing I knew I was completely immersed in it and learnt to play other musical instruments too.”

As a young boy, he played as a keyboard player in various rock and jazz bands and a bass player in a folk band. But it wasn’t until he started making dance music that he really knew what he wanted to do with his life. “I love the energy of the dance floor and the way the music moves people,” he opines.

His original mix, ‘One day at a time’ is his personal favourite as it was written at a time when his life went through an upheaval. He recounts, “I used to have an alcohol problem when I was younger. When I moved out to the states, I was homesick. Moreover with all the changes that were happening in the music industry then, I began to doubt myself and where I was. It was a really difficult time and I started seeing a counselor about it. And then there was this moment when I just said to myself, ‘I’m not going to drink again’. And literally the day after that, I wrote ‘One Day At A Time’. It was a turning point in my life.”

Funkagenda has already completed two shows in London and Lithuania. After the India tour, he will be jetting to Los Angeles for quick shows in Orlando and Houston, before driving up to the ‘Burning Man’, a week long event held in the Black Rock Desert in northern Nevada. He adds, “I am also currently working on an album, so that’s the main thing on my plate right now. I also have a lot of exciting tours coming up.”

Published in The New Indian Express on August 16, 2014.

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Healing lives through ‘Ascent of Harmonies’

Back in 2009, musician Vinay Rao conducted a music workshop at the Loreto Day School in Sealdah, Calcutta. Loreto educates children who come from well to do economic backgrounds as well children from impoverished and abusive backgrounds, who live on the school premises. This inspired the 24 year old, who is part of the band ‘Fourth and Main’, to start his own musical programme to enrich and empower lives of less privileged children through music. Vinay says, “Seeing how music helped the children at Loreto, I had the desire to start a similar program on a regular basis in Bangalore.” Thus Ascent of Harmonies (AOH), a Bangalore- based registered Non-Profit music outreach programme was born.


In a chat, Vinay tells me more about how Ascent of Harmonies aims to impact young minds.

About the programme

The children who live and study here have been rescued from various circumstances. There are children who used to work as laborers, beggars and some who have been abused. There are also many who come from dysfunctional families, those who have dropped out from other educational institutions due to various reasons and orphaned children. These are children who are recovering from physical and mental abuse and we want to help them through music therapy.

We work in collaboration with the APSA (Association for Promoting Social Action) Dream School Project in Bangalore. The Ascent of Harmonies was officially registered in 2011 and our music outreach program in collaboration with APSA began in July 2013. We have been working with them over the last one year.


The music education program is for 20 hours, 5 days a week. We have daily music classes and when required additional practice sessions. Currently our curriculum is focused around guitars and vocal classes. We wish to expand the program by including keyboard studies. We also teach English as a second language (ESL) through lyrics and songs.


The experience has been phenomenal in terms of the impact we were able to make. We have over 40 students at the moment.  

AOH 1609657_1409420529307744_101554053_n

How do you sustain the programme?

Since we teach the children for free, we were fortunate to raise funds for this program in India and also abroad. We have also used crowd funding programmes like Indiegogo.

Looking ahead

We want the program to grow over time and make a larger impact in terms of music education and therapy in India. We hope to provide this opportunity of music education to more children who do not have access to it. We plan to raise awareness primarily through benefit concerts and through other musicians.

Managing your music career

My passion for music and the outreach program are linked. I do not differentiate between them. I get to teach music and use this as a means to help people while at the same time working on my own material with my band.


Published on July 14, 2014 in The New Indian Express. 

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Music and lyrics to drive home a point

Where the mind is not clear

And you are wondering why

‘Cause they look at you strangely

And condition your life

I am taught what love is

And what one should mind

I learn what hurt is

And lonely is my life

The head grows heavy

And the world is going round

I look for someone

And they are all not found


Give us love

Give us moments

Give us time

Not just tokens

No symbols of care

No symbols of air

Baby baby baby

It is time for us to dare

I take my little time

The moments and many nights

I see I am human

Touch, pain and the sighs

As the mind is now clear

And I stand for my rights

It’s not about lust

Or love or a cry

There is no point listening

To all their advice

Let us take what we wanted,

It is our feel for life

(Repeat Chorus)

So your mind is upheld

And we are not too shy

Just give us some loving

No reason to hide

We seek little rainbows

Not colours not lies

We don’t want the pot

Of gold not the high life

We are just simply loving

Making gay

Making life

Don’t throw us the dice

Until its coloured

With life

(Repeat Chorus)

This is the song Head Held High, a song that tells the poignant story of a gay individual.

A portrait of a homosexual person’s pain and struggles, the number is presented by a band called Friends of Linger, which inherently believes in the inclusion of such individuals in the larger community.

In a society that does not accept gays and lesbians and denies them their human rights, the band hopes that this song will drive home the message of tolerance.

I spoke to Sharif D Rangnekar, writer of the song and vocalist of the band, to know more.


Birth of the band

The idea was to get a chance to perform live on stage. It took shape when a few of us expressed a desire to perform while out on one of our karaoke nights. Thanks to Adhir Ghosh, a well known guitarist who was part of bands like Five8 and Kitchen Sink, we finally formed what is called the Friends of Linger. We then began to sing songs that had purpose — music that would send out messages of inclusion and tolerance which is what all of us believed in.

The song

This song is an ode to the gay rights movement in India and elsewhere. We were inspired by Rabindranath Tagore’s Where The Mind Is Without Fear. Fear is what sexual minorities live with.  The song is a story about the journey of a gay individual who lives and grows in a society that is overtly heterosexual, which is always in denial of the existence of homosexuals.

With some hard-hitting lyrics, it attempts to tell listeners what dilemmas such individuals go through and how they accept who they are. They need the confidence to demand what is theirs — basic human rights. We hope that more voices are raised in support of the marginalised LGBT community.

The reception

In just three days of the release, the reception has been amazing. It has been viewed by over 14,000 people across the world. The song has reached LGBT groups in Tampa and Vancouver! We even have young gay men in cities such as Bangkok calling the song an ‘anthem’ of sorts. All we ask for is the change in the attitude of the society!

A personal take

Homosexuality is god-given. It is as natural as heterosexuality. An assumption that majority rules is unfair and is a reflection of a society that believes might is right and therefore to bully or dominate is an acceptable form of violence. I think India’s view on democracy is under question at this point.

What’s next for band?

We are hoping more people share this track and word-of-mouth spreads awareness. We would be performing at different venues in the months to come and this song would be on our set list. We also plan to create more tracks related to social issues and love.

You can watch the video here

Friends of Linger is:

  • Vocals: Craig Cranenburgh, Devyani Shankar, Deepak Sharma, Robin Mathew, Sharif D Rangnekar, Smiti Malik, Sophie Jane Allen, Varun Kapoor.
  • Guitars: Adhir Ghosh
  • Bass: Steve Peter
  • Drums: Aveleon Vaz / Siddharth Jain
  • Keyboards: Shiv Ahuja / Rohit Gupta
Friends of Linger - a Delhi-based concept band

Friends of Linger – a Delhi-based concept band

 Smiti, Devyani,Sharif, Adhir 14

Published on July 19, 2014 in The New Indian Express. 

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‘I don’t have plans of working on an album’

Amit Trivedi

Amit Trivedi


After giving scintillating hits like Emosanal Attyachar and Saali Khushi, National Award winner Amit Trivedi is back. And this time with another refreshing set of music for director Onir’s ‘I Am…’ In a tete-a-tete with Metrolife, the young music director shares his views about music and work.

Being an out-of-the-box film, the music of ‘I Am…’ suits its independent theme. Says Amit, “The movie has four parts to it — ‘I Am Afia’, ‘I Am Megha’, ‘I Am Abhimanyu’ and ‘I Am Omar’ and each part has an inspiring story behind it. I have worked on the title track for ‘I Am..’ and two other numbers for ‘Afia’ and ‘Megha’.

The songs have been influenced by different genres like soft rock, Sufi and electrical sounds. They are very diverse and philosophical and have depth, in the lyrics as well as the composition.” He adds, “Onir is a brilliant person and very dedicated. I have worked with director Anurag Kashyap (who make his acting debut in this film) and Amitabh Bhattacharya, the lyricist, earlier too. So it was a great experience.”

Touted to be the ‘next big thing’, Amit broke all barriers in ‘Dev D’ by using different genres of music. He says, “I love experimenting and bringing in different instruments and styles.” And his work speaks for himself — be it offbeat projects like Aamir and Udaan or commercial flicks like ‘Wake Up Sid’ and Aisha. He adds, “It is all about striking the right balance. I love doing offbeat music because it comes naturally to me and is more interesting and challenging. But it is also fun to work in a not-so-serious film, once in a while.”

He has varied taste in music which is very evident in all his compositions. He adds, “I enjoy almost every kind of music be it alternate rock, pop, jazz or even Punjabi and contemporary Indian music.” And his musical journey has been a smooth one, right from his college days when he was part of a band called ‘Om’, till date.

Before foraying into films, he composed music for TV shows and albums. “But for now, I am happy doing films and have no plans of working on an album.” He adds, “I have two movies lined up. One is ‘Chillar Party’, a kids movie and is something that I have never done before. And Karan Johar’s rom-com which is a commercial movie.” And apart from composing music, he is a lyricist as well as a singer. He says, “I mostly concentrate on making music but if required, I don’t mind singing.”

Though he has composed the theme song of Royal Challengers Bangalore, personally, the director is not a big fan of cricket. He grins, “I am not following IPL at all. I had too much of cricket when the World Cup was on. I root for Mumbai Indians but the initial excitement of IPL, when it first started, isn’t there anymore.”

Published: Deccan Herald

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‘Music has been an integral part of my life’


For the world-renowned Carnatic singer, Bombay Jayashri Ramanath, music is dynamic. She has exemplified this with a distinct style even though she bears the torch of the Lalgudi tradition.

Melodious Bombay Jayashri

Melodious Bombay Jayashri

In a chat with Metrolife, this singer and composer shares her inspiration and love for music. The passion for music came very early to her as she was born in a family of musicians.

Bombay Jayashri represents the fourth generation of music practitioners in her family. “My parents were music teachers all their life. Moreover, my grandparents were musicians too. So music has been an integral part of my life.”

Jayashri learnt music under the guidance of the legend Lalgudi G Jayaraman and T R Balamani. She says, “I feel really blessed because I learnt from so many different teachers. This gave me an opportunity to learn different genres like ghazal and Hindustani music among others. All my gurus had a very great role to play in my life.”

She is quick to add that she doesn’t want to move away from Carnatic singing. But she feels it depends on each one’s calling to diversify  into other genres. “It is not wrong to break free from a particular genre to try one’s hand at others. If you feel the need to do it, you might as well follow your heart. I feel fusion music, like jugalbandhi for that matter, if done with great thought can result in something really beautiful.”
She was recently in the City for a jugalbandhi performance along with another famous singer, Shubha Mudgal. She is taking back fond memories of this concert with her. She says, “The concert on the whole was very well organised. Moreover, it was very heartening to perform for such a learned crowd. I am looking forward to coming back to the City once again in October for another music concert.”

Apart from concerts, she has sung for popular numbers both in Bollywood and down South. She is best known for the song Zara Zara from the movie Rehna Hai Tere Dil Main. However, it is not only singing which is her forte. She has composed music for various telefilms and dance ballets. But composing, according to her, is a different ball game altogether.

“When you compose music, you hear the tunes played by other people and see it in a different perspective. When I sing, I can do it only the way my voice can. But while composing, you work with different people. It is an entirely different canvas altogether and is a great challenge as we have to recreate the tunes to be expressed in different ways.”

She has a few international trips lined up in future. She adds, “For now, I am concentrating on a few albums which will release in the next one and a half years. This apart, I will continue to teach students at home.”


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‘Independent music has disappeared’

Shibani Kashyap is no stranger to music. This young singer developed an interest in music at a young age and has performed at many venues since then.


Having sung with several of the Hindi film industry’s best music directors, this singer and music composer has also lent her voice for a Kannada song. Speaking to Metrolife, she talks about her passion for music, the City and her future plans.

Where did she get her musical inspiration from? “I was always inclined towards singing. My parents understood that and encouraged me to go for lessons as a kid. In school, I used to be part of the school choir. My mother used to teach me Indian classical music too. Later, I started training in Western classical music,” she says.

But Western classical has always had a major influence on her. So she uses it to the best in most of her music. She agrees, “I consider myself proficient in Western classical vocals. But along with this, I try to blend folk influences too.”

imageShe was recently in the City for a fashion event. Ask her about her personal style statement and she says, “I wear a wide range of clothes. I wear anything from dresses to shorts and jeans to long-flowing gowns. But basically, I like to dress myself up in anything feminine. I’m mostly not dressed in casuals.”

About Bangalore, she gushes, “I love the City. The people here are very fashion-conscious and I got to meet so many people and learn something from them. There are a lot of talented homegrown designers too. But I feel Bangalore needs more known designers at the national level. On the whole, it was a really nice experience to meet so many talented people.”

The most memorable part about this trip for Shibani was that she completed recording for a Kannada song Garam Masala for the Aditya and Radhika starrer Tippu. Talking about her experience, she says, “This is my first ever Kannada song. So I was really excited. I do not know the language. But I learnt the sounds and the lyrics by writing them in English and Hindi. So it was easy to grasp them. It was a good learning experience to work with music director Guru Kiran too, who is brilliant.”

Does she mind singing more Kannada songs in future? “Definitely. Given a chance, I would love to come back to the City and sing in many more Kannada films. It was a very nice experience.”

This apart, she plans to work on a new album. She says, “I just started working on it. The album will mostly be a single. I believe in the concept of singles because working on a whole album is very rare these days especially when independent music has actually disappeared from the scene. So right now, I am focusing on that.”

But her interest doesn’t stop at music. Given a chance and a good script, she is game for acting in movies as well. She says, “I had a few script reading sessions with directors. So far, nothing has interested me. But if a good project comes along, I will not let go of the opportunity.”

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Music to the ears?

I have never looked forward to festivals of any kind. For one because I do not celebrate most of them and also the fact that closed holidays for a newspaper are very rare. In addition to this, I should say what drives me to the edge is the fact that whoever it is that celebrates them feels the need to to play music to the loudest volume.

I thought, this Ganesh Chaturti would be different. I got a holiday and I was looking forward to sleep late into the day. But no, it was not to be.  The loud and incongruous music that was blaring just near my house was pointer to the fact that I couldn’t continue my peaceful sleep any longer.

I am pretty sure this is what happens for almost every festival in the Hindu calendar. Loud music, ringing bells, all this might form an integral part of the celebrations. But why not have some consideration for the poor souls that have no choice but be victims to this age-old ritual?

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