Tuesday, August 19, 2014

“I feel if music is honest and made with integrity, it has the power to touch and heal hearts” - Sharmistha Chatterjee


The sufi rock band from Lahore becomes a cross-border collaboration as Sharmistha Chatterjee takes a place behind the mike in Mekaal Hasan Band’s line-up. Instep catches up with the band’s new vocalist for a quick Q&A.

Instep: Tell us about yourself. How did your musical journey begin?
Sharmistha Chatterjee:
I was born in Calcutta and shifted base to Mumbai to pursue a musical career around nine years ago. I started training in Indian classical music in my childhood, and I’ve been a B High Grade artist in All India Radio since I was 18. For the last 10 years or so, I have been actively involved in Bollywood and India’s advertising industry as a playback singer and recording artist. I am also the lead vocalist in two bands, Louiz Banks’ Indo-jazz fusion group Ganga Shakti and a world jazz fusion band with Ranjit Barot and the Resistance. I also hold an Honours and Master’s degree in English Literature.

Instep: How did you become a part of the Mekaal Hasan Band?
Gino Banks, the current drummer of Mekaal Hasan Band, referred me to Mekaal when he was looking for a new vocalist. The whole thing just felt right from the start and we immediately went ahead and recorded my vocals for the album.

Instep: How has the experience of working with the MHB guys been so far?
SC: It’s been awesome. I’ve recorded eight songs for the album and was given complete freedom with the compositions and lyrics. It’s been an excellent team effort. All members of the band are exceptionally good in their capacity as musicians and we bond very well as people. The live gigs are like a celebration of music for us. It has also been a great opportunity for me to learn and grow.

Instep: Do you feel this Indo-Pak music collaboration will have a deeper impact? Do you think music has the power to bring these two countries together?
SC: I look at the world with the eyes of a musician and I feel if the music is honest and made with integrity, it has the power to touch and heal hearts. It can transcend barriers of nationality, cast, creed, or religion.

Instep: How would you describe the new album?
SC: The new album is really refreshing in the sense that for the first time you will hear a female singer singing Mekaal Hasan Band’s material. The songs have the same intensity and essence as MHB’s older music, but there is a certain sweetness to the music that adds a completely new dimension. This album is very special to all of us; we poured our hearts out, and that’s something that I feel will resonate with the audience.

Instep: Is there a song on the album that you are particularly proud of? A track that stands out?
SC: All the songs are really close to me and it’s hard to pick a favourite, but I am particularly proud of the album opener, ‘Ghunghat’. It’s a kalaam by Baba Bulleh Shah. This is the first time that I’ve sung the words of Bulleh Shah and it was a particularly challenging song. Also, in terms of the arrangement, writing, and musicianship, everyone in the band has done a brilliant job. There are passages of beautiful solos and instrumental sections that I think the audience will enjoy.

- Sameen Amer

Instep Today, The News - 19th August, 2014 *

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