Saturday, 25 February 2017

Music Diaries: Arpan Sen

I have been getting phone calls now and offers on collaboration of this endeavour of mine with others and trust me when I say this, I couldn’t be happier. Every time something like this happens to me for both Vanya’s Notebook and Music Diaries, it brings a lump in my throat. The second month of this endeavour, I finally present to you a person who has been the reason why I fell in love with guitar once more.

Arpan Sen. A percussive guitar player by profession is also a guitar teacher and have played with the likes of Bickram Ghosh in one of his albums. One thing that I have to say when I mention Arpan Sen is that he is one of the major reasons why Music Diaries is popular (whatever little it is). The way he fuses percussion into the acoustic guitar is something that you wouldn’t know till the time you have heard him. So with that, here’s Arpan Sen unplugged for you...


I have heard you playing the guitar for a long while now. I wouldn't be wrong or exaggerating if I say that you have renewed my love for the guitar with the music that you make. Standing here at this point of time I am sure you owe much of it to your roots. So, what was the first ever tune that you learnt to play?

Arpan Sen (Guitarist)— Ha-ha, sounds like I have inspired someone. It really makes me happy when someone gets inspired to do something because of me. I really appreciate that. I used to play few numbers like Baby elephant walk, Misirlou, Come September. The first tune I played on guitar was Congratulations and Celebrations. But I always had an intention from childhood that I will create something new, which will be very different from others.

That sounds super interesting. So, you play the acoustic guitar. How would you define the instrument? Or, what does the guitar mean to you?

Arpan Sen (Guitarist)— Yes, I do acoustic mostly. Acoustic guitar is like you have a bass guitar at the same time you can play any kind of melody and use percussion. Acoustic guitar itself is like a band to me. I feel that acoustic guitar itself has many instruments hidden in it.  I try to implement eight finger tapping in my compositions, using the right hand for the bass, for melody, I use the left hand and vice versa. I use the guitar body for beats and percussion. It's like, creating music with everything.

How did you start playing the way you do? Percussive guitar, I mean. What inspired you? How tough is it? I've seen you playing with the guitar body too.

Arpan Sen (Guitarist)— When I was in a band I was a rhythm guitar player, later on I shifted to lead guitar which basically means that I was playing solo. But when I listened to other guitar players, I felt that I am not good enough and that there are guitar players who are really good at what they are doing. Then I started to fuse Indian classical music with western modes. That was the turning point; I decided to create a new dimension on guitar. When I listened to Andy McKee, I loved the way he was playing, but I never tried to copy his song, I just got inspired and tried to do something different from others. Then I watched Andreas Kapsalis Live. He has inspired me a lot. I have learnt so many important things (musically, technically) from him, he has his own signature style of playing, his influence and motivation made me compose songs, I started composing songs, I recorded it on a blank cassette with a tape recorder. Bt my compositions were not so mature , so I composed more songs till it sounded good to my ear, I wrote my songs on paper but these things were not working, then I started to write songs according to the way I felt, I started writing songs from the experiences of my life, when I am using a chord added 9th or diminish, major or whatever is it, I just applied it cause I felt or tried to apply that mood on my songs, later on I found that I have applied these chords. I always had a story (real) in my mind, which helped me to write songs. In case of percussive guitar, I don't think it's tough, I just love the way I played, and it’s interesting to me. Few of my techniques are learnt of my own. It's like if someone trained themselves to do it, it won’t be hard.
 
That's a beautiful way of explaining. Now since you mentioned that you have played in a band and at live gigs, what's the major difference? Between playing live and playing independently? What would you prefer and why?

Arpan Sen (Guitarist)— There is no such major difference. The thing that happened is when I was in a band then it was a team work and now it is more like taking all the responsibilities by myself. When I go to any kind of live gigs, then it used to be that I used to feel lonely but now people see me as an individual guitar player. So, that feels good. Now I know that the more I would push myself, I would be stronger as a musician. As far as my preference is concerned, I would always prefer being an individual musician. It is not that I wouldn’t be a part of a band later on but it is just that if I am allowed to produce the music that I want to, I would be very happy in whatever I do. Instrumental music is a bit tough to understand while people relate to lyrics the most. My main aim is to make people understand what I make. Having said that, I miss all those band members I have played with in the past and am in super good relations with all of them.

You recently released your new single, Affairs. Tell us about it. How did you start about it and what is the reaction that you're getting?

Arpan Sen (Guitarist)— The reactions that I have received for Affairs so far have been very encouraging. Even Andreas Kapsalis told me that it is wonderful. Also, giving me tips for improvising. For affairs I would like to say that it is dedicated to a part of my life. It happened some time when I fell in love and since I am a musician, it isn’t possible for me to understand everybody’s emotions so it used to be so that she probably couldn’t understand the depth of my feelings. I could not grasp the fact that a person’s thoughts can be layered. I am always straight on the face. She just had another affair which hurt me and affected me a lot. The result of which today is affairs. The sound is very intense and passionate.
 

What next? Now that affairs is out and all your others have been awesomely reacted to. What is your next idea?

Arpan Sen (Guitarist)— Now that affairs is out, I always wanted to do something different with every music I create. So I am doing something different next too. It would be more in the positive state of mind because that’s the state of mind I am in right now. I had even collaborated with John Devitt in one of my compositions called The Wanderer. My journey from Rays of Love to Affairs has been splendid and I would love to carry on with this tradition.

Where do you see yourself standing 5 years from now? What's your aim?

Arpan Sen (Guitarist)— My aim is very simple. I would always want to be satisfied with what I do. The way I create music everyday or every time with how my mood is, I would like to keep on with that. Probably in 5 years, I would have an album of myself. I don’t know what I have, in totality so I would rather like to know about myself properly. My journey would be musically recorded in a song.

Speaking about tranquility, that's your one of the most famous compositions. Tell us about the whole experience and thought behind tranquility.

Arpan Sen (Guitarist)— Tranquility has been produced with keeping in mind such a kind of a person who was never in touch with the word. A street musician, who knew just to play the guitar but who never, was satisfied with his work. There was so much always going on around him. Tranquility is that mystic state of mind. Very much not the state of mind that we are in when we think of the word. Tranquility is the voice of the street musician. Chaos also creates a beautiful melody and that story of creativity is what tranquility is all about.
 

For the upcoming musicians, what would be your piece of advice?

Arpan Sen (Guitarist)— For the upcoming musicians, I would suggest them to do what they feel like and not get pressurized with anything else. Try to create new sounds and new music whenever you play.


Now that I am sure you have loved the interview and are almost on the verge of going to YouTube to listen to the songs mentioned by Arpan, I won’t stop you. All that I have to say would be that if you are a musician and would want to talk to me about music then all you have to do is mail me at vanyasnotebook@outlook.com . 

If you would want to tell me about anything, the mail ID is right there. If you want to know about music and musicians or if you want me to talk to any specific musician, shout me out at the mail ID mentioned. Till then, let your soul be musical. 

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Music Diaries: Crow Swan Wolf album review


To begin with, THANK YOU. It has just been a few weeks that I have started this endeavor and I am already international! I couldn't be happier with the number of views and messages that I have been getting all this while and I hope that I would be able to do justice to the whole endeavor, not disappointing any of you. 

With the wonderful success of all these weeks, here's my next post. This time, I review the to be released album of They called him Zone that is thoughtfully titled "Crow Swan Wolf". 


The music of They Called Him Zone combines sultry electronica with chewed-up, modulated guitars evoking rain-drenched, neon-daubed streets, proscribed chemicals, and black-clad malcontents wearing mirror shades after dark. And it’s always dark where they come from. 

Formed in Bradford, UK in 2016 the band is Mik Davis (vocals, programming) and Steve Maloney (guitar, programming, vocals). Live they are joined onstage by John Bradford, who performs on keyboards and percussion. Their approach combines a love of post-punk abrasiveness and electronic experimentation with a pop sensibility, albeit one at the darker end of the spectrum.


Speaking of the album, this combines the best of what they have already done till date. As I listen to the tracks which is all set to release on 20th February 2017, I can't help but put my music player to repeat mode. The heavy music that starts the songs brings you to the groove as the dark lyrics takes you to a different world. I wouldn't be lying if I say that my favorite track from the whole album is "Wish you were here..." I am sure that once you listen to the tracks, you would be saying the same thing. "Only you" being my second favorite.

What if I tell you that the lyrics of all the 6 songs of the album gets to the back of your mind whenever you listen to them? Their bio says that it contains modulated guitars which evokes rain drenched, neon daubed streets and I would second them there. Their music takes you back to the time when you go on a trip, high and all you remember is darkness with neon bulbs flashing all over. Your body starts to sway. Mik and Steve have done a commendable job on the whole album, programming it. The trip of this album is addictive so be careful that you don't get high with the songs. Once it releases, please listen to it and don't forget to let me know how you found it.

Goes without saying, if you are a musician and you want to speak about music or get featured here, get in touch with me at vanyasnotebook@outlook.com. I would be more than happy to talk to you and discuss music with you. If you think that there are things about music that you know and would want to share with the whole world, don't forget to leave me a message. To help me with my endeavor, do not forget to share the post. If you have come up with a music album and would want me to review it before release or for that matter, after release, I am always there. Also, if there is a music launch and you want me to cover it (especially if it is in Kolkata, India) I am there. For the people outside Kolkata, give me the details of the launch and I would cover it for you. For the rest, as I always say, let your soul be musical.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Initial Offerings by Rupali Desai: a review

If I have regular readers then they would know for sure that poems have a special place in my heart. When I met the author of “Initial offerings” while working with her during the Kolkata Literature Festival 2017 and learnt that she is a poet, I couldn’t resist myself from grabbing hold of her book and reading it. The result of which, is this review. The minimalistic cover is what drew me to the book while I turned the pages and went through the blurb.

According to the blurb- Initial offerings is a poignant yet tender collection of poems which offers its readers a pure and a beautiful expression of the author’s emotions and feelings of life as-is. These poems have an uncanny hint of spiritualism in them. It is a combination of multiple themes and elements that give this book its universality, suppleness and infinite appeal. Rupali addresses topics such as love, devotion, the subconscious mind and qualities such as humility, arrogance, indifference, beauty, dream and desire. This book is a paradox of sorts as here you will find a poem about death (Death of my beautiful poem) and another about ‘Life being so precious!’ This book will take you on your own personal spiritual journey and help to rationalize some of your feelings bottled deep inside in the most understated of ways. Be prepared to be surprised!

I know that everybody reading this would second me if I say that I have been surprised with the blurb of the book. Never before had I read any blurb of a poetry book that is so beautiful. Reading this, I was sure that I have to read the book. As I kept on flipping through the pages from one poem to another, I was so engrossed in the writing that I almost forgot the world around me. Yes, I would agree to the fact right in the beginning that the poems are lengthy and might seem stretched at places but as you keep reading through it, you would fall in love with the writing style of the poetess.

Talking about the writing style, I need to say this. As the poetry in the book progresses, you tend to find a tune in the poetess’s words. There is a specific style in which the poetess writes and the style catches on to you. Guess what happened to me? After I finished reading the book, I re-read it and after that whenever I wanted to write something or the other, I ended up writing almost like the poetess. All the more reason to wait for a day or two before framing up and uploading the review. One of the best things that I liked about the book is the fact that it has all flavours and all themes incorporated in it. It doesn’t limit itself to just one theme.


The contradictions in the book and the fact that two contradictory themes can exist in one book tells every reader how polished the writer is. I also loved the fact that there are two acknowledgements in the whole book. One, to begin and the other to end. Aptly justifying the name, these offerings make the book what it is. If I have to list the cons of the book then I would say that the poems are lengthy (and I realised that I have mentioned that earlier) and also the fact that the book is a few poems too short. I would have loved the book had there been more poems. Having said that, I also expected a few poems to be crisper than it already is. Even though I am always in favour of wordy sentences, poems at times demand crisper lines. All said and done, I would give this book 4 out of 5. Looking forward to more writings from the poetess. 

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Music Diaries: Gaurab Chatterjee


Last week I had promised you that there’s a surprise in store for you. Even though I was sceptical on how would you react to it, I was glad to get messages asking me about the surprise. So, here it is. As promised. Now, as Bengalis we all have grown up with Moheener Ghoraguli. During our teenage, we had become fans of Gaurab Chatterjee or Gabu da as we know him as. The son of Moheen frontman Gautam Chattopadhyay, Gabu da needs no introduction. He has risen to be a number one star even though he is a drummer. The founder of Lakkhichara, another band that has seen us through a lot. Need I tell you that my happiness knew no bounds when he agreed for this interview?

This interview would surely be one of the most treasured ones I have had of the man I idolize and I am sure every musician does. Having had a long conversation with him, I became a fan of Gabu da all over again. Through this, I have tried bringing out Gabu da the way he hasn’t been brought out before. We talked about music and drums. We talked about life growing up with Moheen. A brilliant inspiration, a musician, a vocalist- here’s Gaurab Chatterjee unplugged for you...

You belong to a family of musicians. You have grown up seeing musicians around you and it was a given that you’ll turn up to be a musician. But going back to the basics, as a child, do you remember what was the first ever tune that you learnt to play or the first ever tune that caught your attention?

Gaurab Chatterjee— I was exposed to so much music from the time I was born, it is difficult to say which was the first tune that I played or the one which caught my attention. Then I know for a fact that when I was born the first song that I had heard was “Doriyay Ailo Tufan”. My father had just finished composing, writing and recording the song for his film “ Nagmoti” at that point of time. He had played that recording to me.

Talking about that, there are so many instruments to be played and you could have easily chosen any one of them but you didn’t. So, why did you choose the drums? What connected you to it?

Gaurab Chatterjee— When I was around three and a half my father had given me my first drum kit. I guess I fell in love with the instrument from then. There was a point of time when I was learning classical guitar and had stopped playing the drums. I longed to get back to playing drums again and that happened after my class 10 board exams.

Now that we are on the topic, having seen you play with such passion and poise, I have always wondered something. This seems like the best time to ask that. What do drums mean to you? How would you define the drum?

Gaurab Chatterjee— It has always been a medium of expressing myself.

You, as a musician and arranger, have been associated with a lot of bands, independent projects and so on. Every single band or project has their own special characteristic. So, how do you, as a musician, contribute to each one of them when you have rehearsals for them back to back, keeping their individuality intact?

Gaurab Chatterjee— That for me is the thrill. I always like expanding my horizon as a musician, so playing in different kinds of projects help me do that. I always try and contribute in a way which best suits that particular project. When I’m playing for Lakkhichhara and then I go to a Kendraka rehearsal, the way I play changes a lot.  My role also changes.

Being associated to the music industry from the time you can hardly remember to now, you have visited a lot of places, played with a lot of people. So, what is the basic difference between the music scenario in India and abroad?

Gaurab Chatterjee— Each place has its own individual characteristic but then I feel things are very similar as well. I think the major difference lies in the Socio Cultural background which in turn affects the music or the approach to music.

You know, whenever I think about a musician who is widely famous and well known; who everybody knows at the drop of a hat, the only name that comes in my mind is you. From being Gautam Chattopadhyay’s son to Gaurab Chattopadhyay. A lot of responsibilities lay on your shoulder. How did you cope up with them and how has your journey been?

Gaurab Chatterjee— I never took that pressure. My father was genius, I am not. I do my best and I try and improve and expand every day. That is what I have been doing and will continue doing.

Of course, a chat with you is incomplete without the mention of Moheener Ghoraguli. I’ll not ask you what Moheener Ghoraguli means to you. I’ll not ask you how it shaped you up as a musician. I’ll ask you, how would you define Moheener Ghoraguli? Given the fact that it is also known as the pioneers of Bangla folk rock or Bangla rock, if you have to define them- how would you do so?

Gaurab Chatterjee—When my father formed Mohiner Ghoraguli in the 70’s it was much more than just Rock Music, their song writing, composition, arrangement everything was different from whatever was happening back then, They had successfully fused western and our own folk elements which sounded very natural and organic. The way they performed their stage design everything was unique. It was a path breaking band. Also when my father released the Mohiner Ghoraguli Sampadito albums with new musician’s artists in the 90’s they had a major impact as well. It was a movement which had the same spirit that the band had in the 70’s and these albums were absolutely “Indie” to start with where they were only sold in the Book fair and then ended up becoming legendary albums. My Father was a visionary and a very progressive human being.

Having played with bands, to owning a band and now arranging and composing for movies. Music has always been your first love. What is the major difference between playing with a band and playing for a film?

Gaurab Chatterjee— When it comes to the band my role is that of a composer and a drummer where there are 6 of us and we work together share our ideas and come up with the music and essentially play and sing ourselves. With films the Music in dependent on the way the film is. One has to do justice to the film more than anything else. The canvas is also much wider it’s not limited to the structure of a band.

You, as we all know are devoted towards music. You have given music all that you have and continue to do so. You have inspired a lot of young and upcoming musicians to even take up music in the first place. But what many people do not know is, what do you like to listen to? What music do you relate to the most and what do you like to play?

Gaurab Chatterjee— I like a lot of different kinds of music whether it’s Baul or rock or metal or jazz or classical, but then I have started off with a rock band so that somehow stays with me no matter what I play.

What is rock? I know this is a very bad question but we also have to agree to the fact that an audience who doesn’t have much knowledge about music confuses between rock and other genres of music. To them, if you have to explain rock music, how would you do so?

Gaurab Chatterjee— I think to know what rock is one must study how it has evolved, how it started off from blues and other forms how it was a major form of protest in the 60’s  and 70’s  . To know a form one must study it.

Since we are talking about music, I would really want to know what your upcoming projects are. What are you working on now?

Gaurab Chatterjee— Lakkhichhara will be releasing some new songs very soon so we are kind of working on them now, I am a part of two indo Australian projects called “The Three Seas” and “Hatchlings”. There are some shows that will happen later in the year with them. Kendraka has plans of a few tours in and outside the country plus I am playing with Pandit Tanmoy Bose’s Taaltantra. Apart from live music there are some films in the pipeline in which I will work as the music composer.

   You have collaborated with a lot of people and bands, what has been the most memorable experience till date? And, who, among the musicians of today’s time would you love to collaborate with?

Gaurab Chatterjee— Too many of them. I love all the projects that I am working in.  Essentially  I really like it when I get to learn something from these collaborations so I prefer working with people who are superior to me in some way so that I get to learn from them.

Finally, what would you like to advice to the upcoming musicians who idolize you and want to become like you and work for the music industry?

Gaurab Chatterjee— Keep practicing, keep an open mind when it comes to music and most importantly keep the faith.

Vanya- Thank you, for being a part of this endeavour. I hope I didn’t bore you with my questions. Gabu da- Wishing you a super great future ahead. Keep rocking.

I know one thing for sure that I can read your mind after reading this. Music and musicians sound so familiar now. My endeavour is getting a lot of love. Much more than I ever expected and with Gabu da’s wishes and on promise day, I promise to give all you guys all that I have. All you got to do is promise me one thing. That you would be by my side through my endeavour- to promote music, to promote musicians.

Do you wanna know more about musicians and music? Are you a musician or a music enthusiast and would want to discuss it with me? Do you wanna be featured here? Send me a mail at – vanyasnotebook@outlook.com


Before signing off, as I always say... Let our soul be musical! 







Sunday, 5 February 2017

Music Diaries: Ritaprabha Ratul Roy

Thank you! For the beautiful response you have given to my initiative. I have been getting all the love and comments and have been super happy when I got messages that you want to know more about music. My main motive is going on the track of being fulfilled- of letting people know about music and musicians. So, for this week I am going to present in front of you a person who has been an inspiration to many.

Ritaprabha Ratul Ray. Okay! For those who might be wondering who I am talking about, let me put forth a question. Are you a fan of Bengali band Cactus? I am sure all my Bengali readers are grinning right now. “Sheyi Je Holud Pakhi” ringing in their ears. So, what if I take the pleasure of introducing you to the one who is responsible for playing the guitar for this famous band? For the one’s reading this and my music diaries for some time now, Ritaprabha was the very first person I took an interview of for my endeavour. Here’s presenting Ritaprabha Ratul Ray, a very known name in the band circuit unplugged for you...


It couldn’t have been more special. Let's start with, what was the very first tune that you ever learnt to play?

Ritaprabha Ratul Ray- Nothing else matters by Metallica.

How would you define or describe the musical instrument that you play- guitar. How close are you to your guitar?

Ritaprabha Ratul Ray- The moment I hold the guitar, it becomes an extension of my body, the vibrations and the expression of each note is actually the expression of the thoughts in my mind. I’ve never had formal music education and playing the guitar is a very physical thing for me that work on a fine mix of muscle memory and ear training.

Since you perform gigs, how is the feel who you’re performing in public? Stage fright?

Ritaprabha Ratul Ray- Although I have been performing since I was 16, I haven’t felt stage fright yet, but yes I do feel butterflies on my stomach right before going up on stage until I play the first note.

We have known that certain people like playing certain type of music. What is your type? Or rather, what type of music attracts you or defines you the most?

Ritaprabha Ratul Ray- I’ve never really been caught up with genres as I believe in being open and that there is something or the other that everybody can take back home from every genre of music. I play with two rock bands (The Ritornellos and Cactus), a fusion project (Pt. Tanmoy Bose’s Taal Tantra), a world music project (Bonny Chakraborty live) and there’s my solo project (Project Dreamcatcher), all the more reasons for me not to have just one type of music. If I have to mention one genre, amidst the chaos I keep coming back to blues music which acts as a fulcrum on which the entire spectrum moves.

Now that we’re talking about it, what are you working on right now?

Ritaprabha Ratul Ray- I’ve been doing very little of commissioned work these days. I’m more into generating my own work and doing stuff that most people wouldn’t do normally. As of now, I’m working on the debut album of the ritornellos, a couple of collaborations and the second instalment of Project Dreamcatcher. A new single release by Cactus is also in the pipeline.

I heard one of your tracks; Dil Doriya and I couldn’t help but listen to it on loop. Tell us about your journey through that whole song. The inception to the presentation.

Ritaprabha Ratul Ray- My solo project started on the pretext of me making music for myself. Initially I create some sections of the track and then the put the worlds and melody on it and do the necessary edits and try to produce the song in a way no one has ever imagined it. In a way you could think of it as going backwards since usually the song happens first and then the rest of the track comes in place. I usually drive down to Bolpur with my mobile recording set up, record Raju Das Baul and get back to the city to produce the song.

Playing for a band v/s Independent project. What do you prefer and why?

Ritaprabha Ratul Ray- I’ve been playing in bands since the beginning of my career and I believe that process happens quite naturally with me. It’s faster because there are multiple minds working on the same idea so it’s easy to come up with new perspectives everyday at rehearsals/ onstage. Independent projects usually take up more time as it’s hard to get everyone in the same page as the music producer, the unfamiliarity with the musicality of your fellow musicians in an independent project also adds to the timestamp.

You’ve been playing for a very well known Bangla Band, Cactus for a long time now. How has your experience been?

Ritaprabha Ratul Ray- It has been a nice one. I’ve learnt a lot both in terms of making music and creating business opportunities. The best part is getting to play for huge audiences all over the world.

In 5 years now, where do you want to see yourself?

Ritaprabha Ratul Ray- My five year plan as of now is releasing 3 full length albums with my bands, two more solo eps and 5 more collaborations.

Any Bollywood plans?

Ritaprabha Ratul Ray- I made my Bollywood debut with a song called Bezubaan from Piku a couple of years back. Honestly, I’m open to working for music directors but I don’t think that it would ever be the only thing I do.

For a parent, it would be very difficult to choose but as a parent, if you were to choose one song of yours, one baby of yours that is the closest to you then what would it be?

Ritaprabha Ratul Ray- I am yet to release that song.

For the upcoming musicians and your fans, what would you like to say?

Ritaprabha Ratul Ray- If you love doing something, go all the way for it.

So, what do you think? Guitar, the most important instrument in any band gets a new form and definition here. Wouldn’t you like to know more about music and musicians? I would too. If you are a musician and would want to talk to me about music and get featured here, letting your voice known, send me a mail at- vanyasnotebook@outlook.com. If you are an upcoming musician and would want to know anything about music, leave me a mail and I would do my best to answer them. Keep looking at this space for more each weekend.

PS- There’s a special interview coming up next week. Do keep tuned in! Till then, let our soul be musical and from what I have learnt from musicians, Joy Guru!