This story comes a long way. From a Bangla band, not unlike so many in Kolkata in the 1990s, to a full-fledged album in 2014. The journey is a long one and obviously not an easy one, especially when it spans two continents and tries something very new.
Shikawr (roots in Bengali) is a cumulated effort from musicians across two continents, coordinating through Whatsapp, Skype and Facebook!
Shikawr is well-known singer Sahana Bajpaie’s first contemporary album. Sahana is better known for her work with Rabindrasangeet, Baul and folk songs.
‘Like most university-going lads back in late 90s growing up in Kolkata, I had a Bangla rock band - where I used to write the lyrics and strum guitars. Come 1999 I left Jadavpur University, left the city and started living a nomads life across continents and that was pretty much the end of doing any music,’ says Saptarshi Routh, the man behind the lyrics and the music for Shikawr.
Between 1999 and 2014, Saptarshi lived across three continents, hardly ever touched the guitar, as he says.
He however, did the ‘B-School thing’ at Oxford, climbed the stairs that people usually climb, ending up as a director and European Practice lead at one of the world’s most respected research and advisory firm, Gartner.
So perhaps the no-touching-the-guitar was not a bad thing! But well, that space of having done it all needed something more.
Musicians are musicians at the end of the day! After realising, thanks to a friend, that he had pretty much done all that he wanted to and didn’t know what he wanted to do next, Saptarshi took a step backwards to his Bangla band days and started writing lyrics in Bengali. The journey, left behind after college, restarted for Saptarshi.
‘And then realising I have no one to go to, no band to form, I started composing. First time in my life (and I don’t have any formal music background, I was just a self taught and very average guitarist). Scary, I know. Even more scary was to approach Sahana, who has a pretty decent fan following, to ask her to sing - and I was one of the fans,’ Saptarshi says.
Sahana agreed and clearly there was no looking back! Saptarshi feels that the singer agreed to join ‘forces’ because they shared some common perspectives - like loving and hating the city they left behind in equal measures and then some. All of these come to life through the lyrics Saptarshi penned.
The next step was collaborating with Samantak, a very talented musician and singer from Kolkata who did the music arrangement and direction for Shikawr.
‘We agreed to do something unusual, that is to design the soundscape fully in the acoustic mode with no programming whatsoever. Using a host of relatively unconventional instruments like the cello, rabab, esraaj, accordion, harmonica et al. - giving it a distinct non-band like feel,’ says Saptarshi.
‘The whole project was designed and executed across two continents - London and Kolkata (Sahana and me in London, Samantak and my other singer, Gorki in Kolkata) so most songs took full shape over Skype/Whatsapp/Facebook and long distance phone calls. It was fun!’ Saptarshi adds.
Now the finished product has hit the stands. And we for one cannot wait to find out how it all adds up for music lovers and critics. Even if you aren’t Bengali - find these guys and give them a listen. We have heard a bit and we assure you - you won’t regret it.