The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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City Lights
Band of five on a fusion beat

They drove overnight almost a thousand miles from Charlottesville, Virginia to The Spiral in New York City, just to make music and do their stuff. That was in the fall of ’99, a few months after Ryan Shah and Mayookh Bhaumik connected on the phone between NYC and South Carolina. Ryan, who gave up a promising career in tennis to pick up the drum-sticks at 12, was desperately seeking Ustad Sabbir Khan — after being bowled over by his finger speed on a video clip — to learn the tabla from him, and Mayookh was then the maestro’s disciple.

The inter-state phone call, stretching way beyond two hours, changed their lives. After the two had jammed together for 10 days in South Carolina and Ryan had flown down to Calcutta for his stint with the Khan, he at least knew where his calling lay. Mayookh was coaxed to come aboard and Time Travil was born, taking its first few tentative steps in the US.

“I wasn’t so sure then whether hopping concerts with a multi-layered band was really my scene. I guess I was too bent on being a virtuoso tabla player and not prepared to yield the necessary space to other band members to express themselves,” smiles Mayookh.

Four summers on, Time Travil has traversed a fair bit of ground, and Mayookh’s doubts have evaporated. If anything, the chemistry between the tabla and the drum set has grown. “Looking back, I feel we were destined to meet and make music together anyway. In fact, we are glad all the band members now have a common agenda,” says Ryan, now cosily ensconced in New Alipore’s Jyotish Roy Road, which doubles as the Indo-American fusion ensemble’s practice pad.

“True fusion has to come from musicians who grew up in a fusion environment,” observes Mayookh. He hung out with Ryan at the same places in the US, helped him soak in Indian music and culture back home and both enjoy movies of Tarkovsky and Kislowski. “When I hit the drum set, it’s an attacking sound, while the tabla is a quiet, tonal drum, subtle and minimal,” says Ryan, who vividly remembers the band’s first “significant gig” in the US.

“It was in May, 2000 and the venue was The Knitting Factory in New York City, the seat of avant garde jazz, fusion and experimental music, the underground gig capital, really. We had played in Atlanta before and there were quite a few inquiries, but after the Knitting Factory show, people wanted to hire us back,” remembers Ryan, who would beat wooden boxes with his pencils when he was barely four.

While Led Zep’s John Boneham and Rush’s Neil Peart are “big influences”, his guru Jeff Sipe (alias Apt.Q258) has been “absolutely pivotal” in the musical evolution of Ryan, who also went to Drummers’ Collective School in New York to hone his skills.

The Time Travil timbre has also evolved from their early trio days (with Zack Jones on bass), with a heavy dose of 70s’ Black R&B and techno-trance electronica. The band — with Mainak ‘Baampi’ Nag Chowdhury on electric bass, Ambarish Das on vocals and Riashab Ray on electric guitar — calls its sound New Music, incorporating Brazilian and Afro-Cuban rhythms, Carnatic and qawali.

“Earlier, my young friends used to feel intimidated to come to my classical concerts. But they find the Time Travil sound cool,” says Mayookh, glad he can reach out to a wider audience now. Not one to be reined in by the “rigid contours” of classical music, he passed up a lucrative Europe tour with Pandit Jasraj to be with his band on Saturday and make the music that is closest to his heart.

— Subhro Saha

Get, set, shop...

Forum: The new mall on the block

Clothes and crystals, toys and bags… It’s all there at Calcutta’s latest shop stop on Elgin Road. And the good news is, there’s much more to come at Forum, with a lot of outlets still in the process of opening up, arranging their products on the shelves and busy in last-minute sprucing up. Of the nearly 60 stores, around 15 are already up and running, with six more ready for customers by next week.

At the moment, Shoppers’ Stop occupies one part of the four-storey building, from the ground floor to the top, satisfying every shopping need for the entire family, with national and international brands in cosmetics, clothes, shoes, and jewellery, amongst others.

Also functional are the clothing stores BE:, inaugurated last week, and Cotton World, which opened its doors on Friday, both with an eclectic collection of ethnic and western, modern and traditional fashions, including kurtas and t-shirts, trousers and tops.

Some of the other stores to have started up this week include a whole host of products just for the little ones, including The Little Shop with apparel, Sweet World with chocolates and candies and Toy Shop. The Home Store, Prime Watch, a cell phone and accessories store, GKB Opticals and a florist shop, too, opened their doors to shoppers.

The internationally-renowned bags label Hidesign, began with a bang last week, and Swarovsky, the crystals store, is now sparkling its wares to catch the eye. All those thirsting for a drink after a trip through the mega mall can enjoy it hot or cold at Barista, before taking a stroll into the MusicWorld outlet, for a little musical rejuvenation.

And awaiting the Calcutta customer in the next seven days are a Nike showroom, Amaretto — a juice cafe, Samsonite – with travel bags and suitcases of all shapes and sizes, Free Look — an apparel store, Satyapaul saris and a tie shop.

Colours of spring

A splash of colour in every corner to match the dainty items on display, in sync with the Vasant Utsav mood. The Sasha boutique on 27, Mirza Ghalib Street is sporting a festive look with a wide array of household accessories in various shades and designs. The show focuses on handmade, printed and gold-embossed stationery, as well as woven and printed home textiles.

Ending on March 26, the exhibition features the products of 160 groups of artisans, artists, women’s organisations and entrepreneurs from across the country who work with Sasha, a non-profit marketing outlet.

The stationery section shows off wrapping papers of fancy silk and banana fibre. Some sheets are dotted with flakes of garlic and coriander with flowers and grass dyed in natural colours. Handmade boxes are perched on a rack, alongside diaries, folders, photo frames, writing pads, pencil stands and greeting cards.

Woven and printed home textiles are the other major attractions of the show with a generous stock of bedspreads, cushion covers, napkins and dhurries. Most of the woven material comes in kantha embroidery and patchwork. Wrought iron furniture and terracotta crockery occupy another flank of the store.

The handicrafts corner exhibits wood-carving from South India, dokra and bastar from West Bengal and Bihar, Madhubani and pata paintings from Bihar and Orissa.

Prize for portal

A new feather has been added to the crown of a favourite Park Street haunt.

Oxford Bookstore, “India’s first complete online bookstore”, has been nominated in the ‘business and services category’ by Computerworld Smithsonian Honours Archives & Academic Council. The award ceremony of what is billed as the Oscars of information technology will be held at the historic City Hall in San Francisco on April 6.

The Computerworld Smithsonian Honours Program brings together the top men of the foremost IT companies and the world’s leading universities, libraries and research institutes worldwide. The case study submitted on the bookstore’s portal will be part of the archive, which is an initiative of some IT industry leaders and the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

Cup tunes

With World Cup fever running high and Sourav’s men in blue continuing their run, the music industry has found a perfect pitch to cash in. The latest among the slew of products hoping to make hay while the Cup shines, is Destination World Cup, a three-band offering to cheer the Indian team. Marketed by Asha Audio, the cassette has two numbers by Sanjeebani, including the title track, and one each by a resurrected Mohiner Ghoraguli and popular act Chandrabindoo.

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