They are one of the most visible couples on Calcutta’s music scene today. Of course, the long flowing hair ' both his and hers ' helps. But ultimately if it’s anything that makes one sit up and listen to Vikramjit ‘Tuki’ Banerjee and wife Chandrani, it’s their music ' soul-searching, gut-busting and always tuned into the times. Married for 12 years now, the two spend most of their time hitting the high notes for Krosswindz, one of Calcutta’s big rock successes.
Tuki has been the band’s lead guitarist and frontman ever since it first exploded on to the city’s fledgling music scene about 15 years ago. Endless gigs and five successful albums later, Krosswindz has just launched a new album, Misiki Misiki, a work rooted in world music. But while the melodies may be global, the band sticks to its roots having kept the lyrics in Bengali.
“We may have started out as a typical rock band. But somewhere along the way, we became caught up in the whirlwind that is world music,” says Tuki. “It’s all about offering music lovers something new and exciting,” he says. So, today Krosswindz plays what Tuki calls ‘world rock’.
A former journalist with The Rock Street Journal, wife Chandrani signed on to become the full-time lead vocalist of the band in 1999. By then, she had already earned quite a name for herself as an underground singer to reckon with.
Today Tuki and Chandrani, as also their bandmates, are busy doing gigs. But when husband and wife are not rocking hard in Someplace Else or at yet another jam session, the two spend most of their time at their Tollygunge home and studio doing, what else but making sweet music!
I remember being quite impressed the very first time I met Chandrani. It was back in 1992 at the Marine Engineering College at Taratala, which was holding its annual fest. Chandrani was participating in the Western music competition and was looking for a guitarist to accompany her on stage. Someone suggested my name and before I knew it, she approached me. What impressed me about her then was the song she’d selected to sing ' not some soppy Mariah Carey number but Vincent by Don McLean, a celebrated folk anthem. She won the first prize that day and I guess, my smitten heart as well.
After that, we kept bumping into each other at various college events and I remember doing all the chasing. One thing led to another and within a year, I proposed marriage. I was just 22. Yet, I knew I couldn’t imagine a life without a partner who wouldn’t be able to share the pure joy of music. Chandrani was passionate about music, and I knew I had found ‘the one’.
Besides my initial awe at her voice, what struck me about Chandrani early on was the fact that although a free spirit, she was a traditional Indian woman at heart. We also share a lot in common and our appreciation of various things are startlingly similar. For instance, perhaps there’s this particular jazz piece which would appeal to nobody, and both Chandrani and I would derive extraordinary pleasure from listening to it. That’s how we are ' always in sync!
Professionally, I think the world of my wife. She’s been blessed with a voice that can effortlessly glide from genre to genre. So while in one breath, she can sing a sweet Bangla folk song, in the next, she can hit out hard with a Janis Joplin track. That’s why she’s such an asset to our band. I also really value her advice when it comes to production and mixing as she has a brilliant ear for music.
Now I’m a pretty moody person but Chandrani has always been compassionate to my mood swings. I’m terribly impatient too. I need to get to the crux of the matter and fast. Thankfully, Chandrani understands all my little quirks. I also know that no other woman would tolerate a man playing the guitar for 12 hours at a stretch, or accept that I become oblivious to all else when in the studio. No one but Chandrani understands that I wake up thinking of music and fall asleep doing the same.
I was nervous when I first approached Tuki at the fest. There I was, this small town girl from Chandannagar, and there he was, one of the city’s hottest guitarists. Yet when we joined forces on stage that day ' with not even one rehearsal, mind you ' it was magic!
Ours was a whirlwind courtship. I had just completed my Part I exams, when Tuki proposed. I was very young but Tuki’s belief in us was unflappable. It was this that made me accept.
What drew me to Tuki was that he’s a simple-hearted person. He’s not at all complicated. Of course, his mind-blowing sense of music also attracted me. I’ve always wanted to sing. And being with Tuki has taught me that you don’t need to be an engineer with a huge house to be happy. The two of us are walking down a different road and while we’re not filthy rich, we’re happy.
Regards my take on Tuki professionally, I must say he is a complete musician. He’s a brilliant guitarist of course, and even his song-writing abilities are superb. The song Silences, which he penned for our One World album, reads like poetry. He’s a well-rounded musician in that he even does his own mixing and sound engineering.
While many believe that living with a creative person is very difficult, I beg to differ. In my opinion, it’s an uncommon journey. I understand Tuki better because I too am a musician. He’s always in a different time zone, but I understand that, as I get that way too. We musicians are a weird race all right!
Photograph by Rashbehari Das