| Rajeeb tunes up for the trip at his Swinhoe Street home. Picture by Aranya Sen
Techno beats and Indian classical music; Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Girija Devi; Ricky Martin and Srikanta Acharya. Rajeeb Chakraborty, “sarod player with an appreciation for all types of music”, is obsessed with melody-making. He has done it all — from composing jingles for television serials to collaborating with Ibiza DJs.
“I love music” is his simple declaration. “My basic area of expertise is Indian classical, and I still believe it is one of the most wonderful forms of music in the world, but my interest is in fusion. I love experimenting. I’ve worked with musicians with backgrounds in Flamenco, Egyptian, Iranian, Jazz, Irish, Cuban and western classical music, among others.”
Something he is looking forward to is a partnership with Ricky Martin “and, maybe, other stars”.
The opportunity came knocking when Nacho Cano of the Calcutta-based NGO Sabera Foundation took note of Rajeeb through an album for the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, being recorded in Hollywood. His work impressed the Spanish singer enough to recruit him for Sabera’s maiden CD on peace and harmony.
Rajeeb on the sarod and a few others on the sitar, mandolin, flute, tabla and percussions provided a “distinctly Indian tone” to original tracks by legends like Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan and John Lennon. “There are several tracks with Bengali translations inserted, too. These singles have been donated by the singers themselves or their record companies, for Sabera to use,” says Rajeeb.
He will be there, in Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas’ Beverly Hills home this October for the release of the CD which would help raise funds for the destitutes under Sabera’s care in Kalitala. “Ricky Martin has expressed an interest in my form of fusion, after he heard the completed version of his song. There will be a lot of other stars too, and if I get the chance to perform there, then maybe other well-known people will also be interested,” smiles Rajeeb.
His pet project, however, is a children’s album with Bengali nursery rhymes sung to tunes composed by him. The lead voice in the just-completed project is that of Rajeeb’s wife Radhika, with youngsters from four city schools — St James, Calcutta Boys, Modern High School and South Point — lending their voices. “That was an absolutely wonderful experience. Darun moja,” they both laughingly echo. “Working with kids is always delightful, because their sense of fun and enjoyment and their energy is so infectious,” adds Rajeeb.
Due to be released on Children’s Day this year, Radhika says the kids have already assigned pens to sign autographs for the release of Ikir Mikir. “They are extremely excited. It’s been in the making for a year now, but coordinating 250 students of Class III, IV, V and VI was a tough task,” says Rajeeb.
About to be released is a solo sarod album, Shades of Darkness. In the works is an album in conjunction with Srikanta Acharya, involving “a reworking of Rabindrasangeet” (“the para mashis and pishis get very upset if I don’t work on Bengali music occasionally”). Another ongoing project is with Girija Devi — “Basically traditional music, but with western instruments like the cello, harp and violin thrown in.”
Although Rajeeb spends long stretches in Europe and America, Swinhoe Street in Ballygunge, south Calcutta, is where home is.
“This city has so much talent, despite everything that’s wrong with it. I love it here and could never live anywhere else,” he confesses.