Oct 29, 2010: Alaap is a Bengali music band from Kolkata formed in 2005 with the ambition of reviving and experimenting with different genres of music like Bengali folk, songs from plays, children’s songs, filmy and non-filmy songs. With their huge treasure of music, rich in its content and versatility, Alaap has reached out to different age groups and has been acclaimed by audiences and media. Partha Pratim Deb and Rupa Deb are the initial founding members of this music group that constantly experiments with lyrics, tunes, fusion between different genres, and instrumentation in their songs. Another strength of the band lies in its skilled, efficient musicians and vocalists and modern applications.
Partha Pratim Deb, one of the lead singers of Alaap is a student of Late Sushil Bose, who was a singer of the Patiala Gharana and disciple of Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan. Deb is also a lead actor and singer of Kolkata’s eminent theatre group Nandikar and has enriched the band with his huge collection of songs from Bangla Natok, as well as Baul, Bhatiyali, Adhunik, etc. The band has also worked with Hindi songs and has performed in many urban, rural and semi rural areas all over Bengal.
According to Partha Pratim, “their popularity is rooted in a unique sound that combines a variety of traditional folk tunes with an array of western rhythms with western instrumentations and mixed harmoniously with Bengal’s folk instruments like the ‘khamak’, ‘ektara’, ‘khonjoni’, etc.”
Partha Pratim Deb, the versatile singer, actor talks to Shrabanti Basu from CalcuttaTube and shares the journey of ‘Alaap’ in an exclusive interview.
CalcuttaTube: How is Alaap different from other music groups?
Partha Pratim Deb: Well, it is a difficult question for me to answer. I do not know about other music groups in that much depth. So I should not compare. And there are so many groups out there that we may resemble in some components with some of them. So it is easier for me to focus on what we have done so far and what we want to do.
I am a musical person from the very beginning. I have taken music classes in childhood, though I had to quit for monetary reasons in 1992. But I still feel that I am a student of music and my training is going on somewhere with my late ‘guruji’.
Simultaneously I am an actor, too. In Nandikar, we work a lot of young folks and kids. There we use a lot of musical. That is how you can closer to children. A few minutes on the stage is a huge time. To hold your audiences through acting even for a few moments is a difficult job. Music can be a savior, here. It speaks more than we can through dialogues. To make our plays for the kids more efficient, I worked on a lot of music. After some I had a collection of about 2000 songs.
So, when a friend asked me to perform and produced the event partially, I did perform. My other friends helped me with light, music, etc. The rest I had to take care of financially. This was the start. We introduced the music group ‘Alaap’ in the Children’s Theatre Festival. Among the audiences were present many important personalities, my friends from Nandikar and Rudraprasad Sengupta himself. I got a positive response.
Later one of our musicians approached me with eight songs, music, and recording studio all free of cost. However, I had to take care of the marketing and copies of the cds. I was going to Sweden for a show at that time. And just as I had wished, all my expenses were covered by my earnings from the foreign tour.
I sold the copies of the cds in a Nandikar show. We made 5000 cassettes and 2500 cds and none of them are left. I did not even have to distribute complementary copies.
Then someone approached me to write some songs on the ‘tsunami’ that took place. Rupa Deb excels in Hindi. She wrote some songs for me. Our works were appreciated this time again. Even one of our songs is still telecast on the Doordarshan. But somehow I did not proceed too far with it.
One thing that I have learnt in all these years is that you need promotion. Everyone does, no matter how talented you are or what background you come from. The reality shows these days are doing promotions. These talents were always there, but we did not know them due to lack of a platform.
Sometimes I see people with lesser talent getting more scope just because of better marketing. Talented people, on the other hand, may get lost because of lack of proper promotion.
CalcuttaTube: Who is your audience?
Parth Pratim Deb: Alaap was formed differently and we traded along a different path. We accepted things that came on our way and molded us accordingly. Once we went for a show where we were supposed to have older audiences. So we worked afresh with old Hindi and Bengali songs.
We were walking along a new path all the time depending on situations and responses. We started with ‘Natoker Gaan’. Then we worked with other genres too. In this way, we built a huge collection of songs where different streams were merging.
We once shot for the Kolkata television. Sohini Sengupta read from ‘Amar Katha’, Nati Binodini’s autobiography. It was an unbelievable experience. She was all dressed up in her costume and read out from the book, and we sang pieces one after another. It was during a Durga puja, on the night of ‘sasthi’. It went all night, with a mood of festivity filling up the air. Everyone loved it, we were paid well too. It was a bonus right before the puja!
CalcuttaTube: What is your important musical performance as a singer?
Partha Pratim Deb: I have been appreciated for the Bengali play ’Sankhapurer Sukanya’. The music of the play was scored by Kishore Chakrabarty, a disciple of the late sitar maestro Pandit Nikhil Banerjee. The music was based on classical tarana, and both Kishore and I had to say our ‘bols’. His ‘bols’ were typical tarana ‘bols’ used in sitar and ‘bols’ were vocal ones, the combination of which created a new sound pattern. ‘Sankhapurer Sukanya’ was a milestone of Indian theatre.
Clips of Partha Pratim Deb singing in Bengali play Madhabi:
Videos: Shrabanti Basu