‘Never knew honest thoughts put on a paper can create music’ – Soumitra Ray

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soumitra-royHow did you get drawn to music?

Rhythm came to me naturally. Since childhood, I used to play randomly on anything that made sound. Back in Harishchandrapur in North Bengal, I secretly spent a lot of time with ‘dhakis’ during Durga puja. My elder uncle noticed my interest in rhythm and bought me a custom-made miniature version of the ‘dhak’.

How did Bhoomi happen?

I was singing western songs, the likes of Hotel California and Elvis Presley classics for the longest part of my life. Then singer Suman Chattopadhyay with his ‘Tomake Chai’ (I Need You) hit me hard. I never knew that one can simply put the most honest thoughts on paper and create music out of it. Even the songs of Manna Dey and Kishore Kumar did not have this effect upon me. At that point I didn`t have the confidence to inscribe my own songs, until I wrote the first one Na Zaum Na Zaum. Surojit used to hang around with our western music band Dusk. One day, he started singing ‘Bhatiyali’ folk and I began harmonising with a nice Simon and Garfunkel feel to it. I had the hunch that people will love this kind of music. Then we started rehearsing and recorded a few songs and the music turned out to be amazing. We were getting positive responses from our friends. On 24 July 1999, we had our first concert. Since then, we have performed 1,655 concerts in different parts of the globe.

How would you define ‘urban folk’?

We have guitars and drums, urban instruments instead of iktaras, dotaras, khols and dholaks. This is how urban sound and folk come together.

How was it like being the harbinger of urban folk bands in Bengal?

Firstly, we didnt know how to term ourselves until a friend suggested what we are doing is contemporary folk. Band scenario was definitely active in Bengal, but strictly limited to the urban college crowd. Bhoomi for the first time touched the masses an many consider us to be the ones who brought band music to Bengal though I don`t agree with it.

How do you think folk music has evolved over the years in Bengal?

Folk music has taken a 180-degree turn. Once largely ignored, folk is everywhere now. Every band is trying folk in some way or the other, every movie features folk songs.

Indrani Mukherjee

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