Composer Dishari Chakrabarty on his musical journey, classical and fusion music (Interview)

Dishari Chakrabarty-Music DirectorMay 13, 2011 (Calcutta Tube): Dishari Chakrabarty, a young musician and composer from Kolkata shares his musical journey. He speaks about his passion for santoor, Eastern and Western classical, his thoughts on fusion music and more. Dishari has worked with many eminent personalities and is currently creating background music for the animation film ‘Mem’. The theatre goers of Kolkata will soon be able to listen to his background score in upcoming Bengali plays ‘Supari Killer’, and ‘ManashChakshu’ which are to be staged later this May. Explore the promising composer in this exclusive interview at Calcutta Tube.

CalcuttaTube: What was your first work in Bengali dramas?

Dishari Chakrabarty: My first project was director Biplab Bandyopadhyay’s play ‘Neel Maati Laal Kankor’. As you know it was based on the life and works of Ramkinkar Baij, one of the renowned Indian sculptors. During that I was introduced to several stage personalities. Previous to NMLK I didn’t have any idea of drama – in fact I never watched a play before though I had exposures to films from childhood. After that I’ve become a constant here.

Calcutta Tube: Are you a theatre actor too?

Dishari Chakrabarty: Not really. Actually, in ‘Lamba Karna Pala’ I have to do live music.

CalcuttaTube: Did you start as a stage music director from the first?

Dishari Chakrabarty: No my original stream is Indian Classical Music. I play santoor under the guidance of Ustad Ashish Khan, which is my main stream. Then Biplabda asked me to do music for ‘Neel Maati Laak Kankor’. That was the start and was followed by Biplabda’s ‘Nashta Ashim’. But in this one I had to do live performance. This year I worked on a movie titled ‘Nainsukh’ – a Swiss Indian collaboration with Amit Dutta as the director that got the only nomination in Venice Film Festival.

CalcuttaTube: Tell us about your music education.

Dishari Chakrabarty: I still take lessons from Ustad Aashish Khan. Before that I used to learn under his brother Ustad Dhyanesh Khan. Besides their sister Amina Perera and their father Ustad Ali Akbar Khan – both gave me ‘talim’ on occassions. In fact, I belong to Maihar Senia Gharana. I consider myself as a full-fledged santoor player.

CalcuttaTube: So apart from being a music composer are you a performer too?

Dishari Chakrabarty: Sure! I do many shows all over India. I do lots of music concerts.

CalcuttaTube: What was your starting point in films?

Dishari Chakrabarty: In Satyajit Ray Film Training Institute I started working on student endeavours. During that one of our projects got two national and two international awards. Then gradually I turned towards feature films. But my main interest always lay in docu-features and short films.

CalcuttaTube: How do you apply your compositions in films?

Dishari Chakrabarty: Actually the implementation of music in drama and film completely depends on subject. There is no relation with composition and the genre you are from. Based on concept that the director decides I work out the compositions. I’ve seen composers always stick to their own gharanas while designing music for cinema and theatres. But I don’t feel this is correct. You must compose a number relevant to the mode you are applying your designs to. For this you may need to change, in fact if that requires learning anew you must do so. Anyway, I am still learning. I take lessons from my Guruji.

CalcuttaTube: What are your important works in Bengali plays?

Dishari Chakrabarty: Well, my very first venture was certainly very important for me. In fact, that was awarded the best production of the year. Everything was completely new to me and challenging as well. What I wanted to implement was not traditional to dramas. Don’t thing that it is a question of which is correct and which is not. I have been trained in various forms of music – western classical (in violin) and eastern classical but never learnt to implement these for plays. In that situation if Biplabda and Poulomidi (Poulomi Basu) hadn’t provided the mental support I required, I wouldn’t have succeeded.

Calcutta Tube: How is the music used in plays different from the music in films?

Dishari Chakrabarty: I don’t feel much difference. A lot of people say they do. I don’t also believe in the constant playing of background scores, the kind you see in commercial films mostly. I don’t think I would like to do that kind of music.

CalcuttaTube: In drama where music is not independent, but acts as a support to the main theme how much freedom do you have, do you have to mould yourself in some other way?

Dishari Chakrabarty: Surely I have freedom. You see, if I like the subject – both in theatre and films – then I can implement whatever I wish. Everywhere there is bound to be a constraint. The gharana of which I belong, it has a definition a structure of its own. I can’t deny it. Analogously, you can’t mix classical with opera tunes in the same breath. In comparison, Tagore’s works have an openness which is not the case elsewhere.

CalcuttaTube: Now we see classical singers like Ustad Reza Ali Khan and bands like Om and several others perform fusion music. So what is your take on this genre and its popularity?

Dishari Chakrabarty: You see, I got familiarity with fusion music from my very childhood. In 1969 Ustad Aashish Khan with Ustad Zakir Khan and the Beatles formed a group called ‘Shanti’ and there they merged, for the first time, Indian music with western tunes. So it is nothing new to me. In fact, this kind of music got popularity from the start. Those who perform classical, they are just giving a new form to it.

I have a group of my own – the ‘Indian Blue’. We recently went to Bangalore and will be going again. There we started a new kind of music. Actually Ranadeep Bose – he plays guitar and specializes on cover numbers – he gave me the idea of fusing Beatles numbers with Sarod or Santoor. Now, what do you call these? We are used to Indian classical accompanied by drum replacing the tabla strokes in fusion. But the idea that we started is just the opposite. So it must also be considered a fusion, isn’t it! Fusion should be balanced, not one genre overpowering another.

Actually, Indian classical music dating back more than 2000 years is bound to be superior and philosophical than rocks that have an experience of only 50 years. So it is obvious, that in fusions, classical will dominate the rock. But personally I feel, true fusion music must consist of tunes from various origins complimenting each other. It can be made perfectly harmonized. When a Sarod player leads and I harmonize in Santoor, there never seems any added difficulty, but surely, my knowledge on western music helps.

You take Bollywood productions in the same vein, they fused Punjabi folk with rap rhythm, they pioneered in combining drums with dhol. It spoke the language of films entirely differently from traditional forms. Bollywood music just like the films have a different language.

CalcuttaTube: Generally we consider fusion as synthesis of Indian Classical and Western? Do you works reflect any other perspective?

Dishari Chakrabarty: I have done Jazz, Blues, Afro music. In fact, I recently worked with a Persian group and music of the far-east also attracts me. Actually, world music appeals me more than popular tunes.

CalcuttaTube: What’s the response from the audience?

Dishari Chakrabarty: Generally a class of audience wants to hear Indian classical but in light form. But the idea Ranadeep introduced immediately increased the audience as when I’m doing a Lennon or a Beatles the international audience is attracted.

CalcuttaTube: What are your opinions on the bands in Kolkata?

Dishari Chakrabarty: Generally here, we find vocal bands rather than instrumental ones. The band in which Ranadeep plays – the Black Rose – is a very good ensemble, it is tight, plays original covers, have done innumerable shows last year. Personally I don’t like rock the Indianized way, I prefer the original English numbers. It’s good to make Bengali rock music band but then the language must be more modern. Some are doing really good like Rupam Islam – his music and language are of the same genre.

CalcuttaTube: Even some are fusing old folk tunes too like Kaya, Bhoomi, what are your views on that?

Dishari Chakrabarty: Yes that’s definitely a style, but I don’t know why attempt in such lines. Folk, itself has a broad market internationally. Unlike many other kind of music it employs a variety of instruments. So including that in fusion seems an unnecessary choice but maybe it is creating a new market.

Calcutta Tube: What about the bands working on fusion of Indian classical music?

Dishari Chakrabarty: Actually I can’t justify that fact that whenever we talk about fusion it is necessarily having the Indian flavour. No, it must be different, it must be unique, it shouldn’t feel like classical or rock or jazz. It is entirely a new set of orchestration, and the feeling of a new third genre must evolve when we hear the sound.

Anirban De / Shrabanti Basu

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