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Rocking on
Pic by Subhendu Chaki

You have rocked to his beats in Aamra Lakkhichhara, sung Care kori na in defiance and crooned the soulful Eka with him. And now Gaurab Chatterjee, drummer and composer of Bengali band, Lakkhichhara, is all set to rock Bengali films.

Gaurab — better known to his fans as Gabu — has just made his debut as music director in the recently released films, Kagojer Bou and Necklace, with his Shunyo theke shuru, a track from Kagojer Bou, striking a chord with Calcuttans. Waiting in the wings is an untitled film by Bappaditya Bandyopaddhyay (director of Kagojer Bou) for which Chatterjee has composed his first item number.

Says the 28-year-old: “I always try to expand my horizons as a musician and play different kinds of music. Doing music for films gives me a greater creative space. It doesn’t matter whether the film I’m working on is mainstream or offbeat but the music should be different and individualistic,” he says.

In the offing is yet another project with Bandyopaddhyay, while Lakkhichhara will be releasing a new album soon after a hiatus of two years. “For the new album, we are reviving some of our old songs from our first album which is not available in the market anymore. We’re reworking the songs a bit to suit prevailing preferences in music. The album will also include some new numbers,” says Chatterjee.

He also plays regularly with tabla maestro Bickram Ghosh’s troupe, Rhythmscape, and has bagged an advertisement endorsement deal with an international drum-making brand, Sonor Drums.

The scores of Kagojer Bou and Necklace have a distinctive urban sound with a play of different genres. Says Bandyopaddhyay: “I wanted an urban sound that the new generation can relate to for Kagojer Bou and there’s no one better than Gabu for that.”

Gaurab Chatterjee has made a successful debut in Bengali movies by composing the music for the recently released film Kagojer Bou

Chatterjee’s gone for a mix of Western classical, pop rock and Baul for the very popular Shunyo theke shuru. “For another song, Ami acchi, I’ve done a combination of the guitar and dubki (an instrument used by Bauls),” he says. For Necklace, on the other hand, he’s mixed widely opposing genres of music like blues rock and Qawwali. “The soul of the music should be pure and I always try to achieve a natural blend,” says the musician.

Sanket Bhattacharya, childhood friend and bass player of Lakkhichhara who has also worked with him in Kagojer Bou, says: “Gabu is a brilliant drummer and now his versatility as a music director is on show. People will relate to his music.”

Chatterjee’s lineage is impeccable. The son of late Gautam Chattopadhyay, the founder of Mohiner Ghoraguli, the first Bengali band that went on to acquire iconic status, he took to music naturally. “Music was a part of my growing up years. A set of drums was the first musical instrument that I got and I played with friends and cousins,” says Chatterjee.

His first stage performance was at the age of four alongside his father. He also learnt to play the classical guitar. “Baba used to say that the guitar and drums are like English and Maths. Mastering both melody and rhythm gives the musician a good base,” he says.

Chatterjee formed an informal band with friends, which eventually morphed into Lakkhichhara. The band gave its first performance in 1999 at Nazrul Mancha and from there it only got better.

Lakkhichhara went on to become one of the most popular city bands. They performed at music festivals and gigs and produced their first album Megha Malhar in 2001. Incidentally, they were also the first Bangla band to perform live on Park Street. “We’ve done at least 800 shows to date across Bengal, Chennai, Mumbai, Bangalore, Jamshedpur and even Bangladesh,” says Chatterjee.

He has also been working on ad jingles, corporate films, telefilms and as a sessions drummer (so he performs with other musicians without being a permanent member of their troupe). He even sang a number for the FIFA World Cup 2010 (the theme song of Mahindra Satyam, the official IT sponsor), composed by another Lakkhichhara member, Subhajit Mukherjee. He eventually made a show-reel of his works for Bandyopaddhyay and Shekhar Das (who has directed Necklace), who liked his work and gave him a break in their films.

And for him, how different is it composing for a film? “Everyone contributes when we compose for Lakkhichhara. I concentrate on the drums. But for a film, the total score is my responsibility. I get a greater musical scope and I love the challenge,” he says. He prefers to create the melody after getting a brief of the “situation” of the film. Once the director okays it, the lyrics are written and the song is finally composed.

When the drummer is not working, he likes nothing better than watching an East Bengal football match. He’s also just finished reading Sting’s autobiography, Broken Music. And of course, there’s always more music to listen to. “I listen to all kinds of music. Apart from my father, Baul musicians inspire me as well as Neil Mukherjee, Sting, Beatles, Megadeth and Bob Marley,” he says.

But right now, it’s all work for Chatterjee. He says: “My future as a music director rests upon the reception to the music of Kagojer Bou and Necklace.”

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