The all-round musician
Gyan’s music was not just about the instrument he was playing — the guitar or the bass. It was about all that everybody was bringing to the song. He was also a very generous musician, quite comfortable to be in the background, provide the anchor for the music and let others take the spotlight. And that’s the way he was in life also. He was the mainstay, the foundation for whatever you wanted to build on it.
For him, the groove was the most important thing. He had started out with rhythm guitar, something that in the ’60s and ’70s every band would have. Whether he was playing rock, pop or funk, rhythm was so important that it also spilled over to his life. Jiver (son) and my rhythm with him was so smooth, never choppy like the melody, harmony and solos he played where rhythm was the most important element.
He never thrust his unwanted opinion on anybody. At the same time he was uncompromising in a very gentle way, never imposing.
He loved R&B, funk, jazz and white soul. But what he probably loved most was pop music, although Skinny Alley and Pink Noise moved away from it. He loved Michael Jackson. So a lot of the music on Friday night was pop music and songs he liked — to which we brought our own sensibilities and what we’ve learnt from our journey with him.
Gyan was incredibly supportive, a unique being who gave me a lot of space, yet whatever we did we did together. Be it quizzing, solving crosswords, yoga, watching the same kind of movies, reading similar books –– there was always a huge exchange of ideas and interests. We had met through music. He would play the guitar and I would sing. We would perform as a duo and called ourselves ‘Surd and the Bird’! Then started our band in 1977. We got married in 1981 and there’s been no looking back except for a couple of years when Jiver was born. Once Jiver was old enough to be on the road with us, we restarted.
In 2006, Pink Noise came together and Jiver joined in, so we were a family writing music, playing and travelling together at all times. Gyan was not really a romantic in the traditional sense — not the soppy and sentimental kind but he would do unexpected things for me, Jiver and his friends that would surprise us and it didn’t have to be a birthday or a special day.
He was also a great shopper. My bags, my shoes, my clothes — he bought. I was a terrible shopper. He would bring home these things for me and it would fit me like a dream. He did that for Amyt (Datta) too sometimes. That doesn’t mean he never ticked me off and the guys in the band would love it! They’d be waiting for him to start his mischief.
He died just before our 32nd anniversary but I’m sure he’s still up to his mischief. There are things that suddenly disappear in the house now and then and reappear again. His spirit is so strong that his presence is still all-encompassing. The house never feels empty.
Even with Jiver his guidance was very gentle and subtle. Jiver got that sense of rhythm in him, so both came with an incredible and intuitive sense of pocket. Jiver too has a very well-developed sense of humour and they shared a lot of private jokes together and I was often the butt of their jokes! He was into photography, and he and Jiver would go on these morning expeditions to explore and take pictures. After Gyan passed away, I asked Jiver how he was feeling and he said that he could feel his presence even more. So much love he gave that that is what is still swirling all around us. That helped us deal with the grief and separation.
Gyani — ‘the friend’
He was a great prankster. Had a great sense of humour and was full of mischief. Always armed with ready wit but never unkind. His jokes were on himself, he laughed at himself but never at others. He was a good disguiser of his voice and would call up his friends as somebody else and say the most outrageous things! He loved having people over and he knew what everyone’s taste was like and so made sure the music, the food, the drink were just what people would like.
A good life
He died young but for the 61 years he was on this planet he was free to do his music, had even learnt to play the sitar and was into fitness, tennis and yoga. He kept good health. He read a lot, ran a hotel with his brother, had a family that loved him.... I think he had a good life. I miss him for me but if I was honest, I’m happy he’s in bliss. There was never any restlessness in him, he never talked unnecessarily. His stillness was his secret. Always happy to be the listener, he served music in best possible ways.