At the age of 19, Kolkata-based synthesizer player Swarnavo Majumdar has bagged the tag of being a professional. The journey began from being an amateur with big dreams that were achieved after a lot of hard work. Here’s a candid conversation I had with him:
Q: When did you start playing the synthesizer?
A: My father owns his studio and since childhood, the atmosphere at home was charged with music. People came to sing and play various instruments over cha and adda. As a kid, I used to sit there and play with instruments. One day when I was 5, my dad got me a synthesizer and I began to explore keys. Later I learned for two years to brush up my knowledge.
Q: So your parents were very supportive…
A: They were never against my passion. However, my father wanted me to work with old Hindi and Bengali songs like him but that never interested me. I love rock music and wanted to explore the genre so there was a difference in opinion.
Q: When did you decide to open your own studio?
A: After my boards, I decided to take my passion for composing music and sound arrangement seriously. A home production was always my dream and I wanted to do it from scratch.
Q: For a student, setting up a studio must have been quite a feat…
A: Yes it was. I bought all the equipment myself and arranged a decent work setting. My friends have been very enthusiastic about working with me and I love to give shape to their ideas. Also having your own set up makes music production economic in the long run.
Q: Who is your inspiration?
A: Yanni, Jordan Rudess inspire me.
Q: How many bands do you play with?
A: I work with 6 bands; Cross Chords, Icche, Yun Hi, Doriya, Rock brothers Production and Biswargo.Among them, Cross Chords is my brain child and I have a professional relationship with the rest.
Q: Tell me something about Cross Chords…
A: They are my family and I could do anything for them. As a band, we try to do unique things. My best ideas always find a place there.
Q: What is your take on the current band scenario?
A: The band scenario is thriving and there’s a lot of competition. The ones having the right contacts flourish early and this gives rise to a lot of negativity. Kolkata has always valued talent and I believe with determination and dedication any band can come to the forefront. I have worked with bands since I was 13 and it is a lot of hard work. Failing to solve difference in opinion is a huge threat to the unity of a band.
Q: There are a lot of people who use social media to showcase their talent. Do you think it’s effective?
A: In India, YouTube videos are good for mere entertainment and nothing else. There is no money involved because no one is willing to sponsor young talented people. In the West people actually, benefit from YouTube channels. They release entire albums online. We are yet to achieve that conducive atmosphere.
Q: Do you think western accent of the vocalists in the vernacular language increases their appeal?
A: Since Rock music originated in the West, people are used to a certain style. Western accent helps them relate to it.
Q: Do you think Bangla Rock is synonymous to Rupam Islam?
A: Definitely not. Yes, his band, Fossils has carved a big space for themselves but restricting Bangla Rock to only one person is limiting its scope. There are a lot of other Rock Bands that are not as popular but have amazing numbers. People such as Gautam Chattopadhyay, manyTuki Da, Gabu Da much more have contributed to the genre and for it to flourish, even more, we need to pay attention to lesser known bands too.
Q: There is a resurgence of Bangla folk music, bands are giving these songs a twist. Are you supportive of this notion?
A: Folk songs have stood the test of time. Experimenting with these songs keeping its essence intact is definitely a good thing. But if someone destroys a folk song by adding rap to it, that won’t be received in a good way.
Q: What are your views on commercializing band music?
A: The only source of revenue for a band is live performances. Albums are barely sold and easily downloaded. If Bengali movies have equal band and playback numbers, I think the audience base will be wider. Most of the people listen to songs from movies because it gets a lot of promotion.
Q: What are your plans for the future?
A: This is where reality comes in the picture. The music industry is very uncertain and there’s very little money in it. I’ll probably need to do a regular job to nurture my love for music. I’m learning animation for that.
Q: What is your dream?
A: This may sound crazy but my biggest dream is to play for cold play. Also, I want to create amazing music.
Q: One thing that you hate the most?
A: I hate that there are only 24 hours in a day. There’s so much I want to do and so little time!
Q: One thing that you love the most?
A: Music. Music is my raison d’être.
Q: What would be your advice to budding musicians?
A: Practice a lot and never try to emulate anyone. Be original and passionate about music and you’ll do just fine.
Some quick rapid fire questions:
- Pink Floyd or Metallica?
- Anjan Dutt or Shilajit?
- Mohiner Ghoraguli or Fossils?
- Mohiner Ghoraguli