Miss Metronome

Sawan Dutta is the Boroline crooner who teaches you to cook kosha mangsho

By Deborima Ganguly
  • Published 2.11.16
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You’ve sung along with her in Ode to Boroline, you’ve mastered the art of cooking Kosha Mangsho thanks to her, and now’s your chance to get to know her! t2 caught up with Sawan Dutta from the successful vlog (video blog), The Metronome, and spoke about maachh, music and monkey cap.

Sawan Dutta of The Metronome was in town just before the Pujas to announce her association with Mahindra NuPro oil. Picture: B. Halder

The Metronome has gone viral and not just with Bengalis... why did you decide to start it?
I’ve been a professional musician for many years now and when you’re a professional musician, you’re working for a client — either a film or a TV series but you’re never really doing it for yourself. So, I guess, The Metronome is really an outlet, a personal diary of sorts. It was about stuff that I wanted to do, completely wild and crazy, without any rules.

Did you ever imagine that it would be so big?
No way! I didn’t even know this could happen. I don’t even know how to react… it’s fabulous!

How do you choose the subjects for your songs? 
Completely randomly. My first criteria is that it shouldn’t bore me to death. If it hasn’t been done before, I get really excited about it and if it has, I try to think about how I can do it differently. For me, it’s a huge learning curve. It gives me instant audience feedback and analytics so I can study it. I’m constantly gauging my audience. Even within my narrow audience, I find that they’re very fragmented. Some ask me to forget the cookery stuff, some love it, so I get a very wide range of reactions. Never before in music-making did I have a chance to learn directly from the audience. It’s massively educational.

You were an architect before taking up music... 
I didn’t practice architecture for long though. My love for music started so early that I don’t even remember where it all began. I was always playing some instrument or the other. There were always harmonicas around that I would play, I also had a Hawaiian guitar that I loved to play. Much later, I wanted to do some classical training in music which is when I picked up the piano. 

You were also one of the earliest members of Indian Ocean...
Yes, I was in college then and I was in my final year. They were recording an album in Calcutta. Ultimately, I had to choose my college over music as my parents would not allow it. I’m still in touch with most of them. We get together once in a while and chat about old times and new times. 

Coming to food, what’s your must-have dish in Calcutta?
I would like to have an entire spread, why would you make me choose? I would start with the bitter stuff like neem begun and move to the dal and bhaja, then chochchori, maachher jhaal, chatni, doi, mishti... I would have it all! But if I absolutely had to choose, I would pick Shorshe Ilish. My grandmother used to make the best Bengali food I’ve ever tasted. I grew up in Delhi and I would come to Calcutta during my summer vacations. We used to have the rolls all the time, maybe I will have some this time! 

Of all those vlogs, which one is your favourite and why?
They’re all my babies. I am equally attached to the one with the lowest hits — Song for Dachau — just as much as the most popular one, which is Machher Jhol. I visited a concentration camp and it really shook me. It was disturbing working on that one, but it was cathartic and I needed to get it out of my system. Both songs I love for two very different reasons.

What is the best compliment you’ve received from a fan?
I recently saw a video where a bunch of seven-year-old boys in a Calcutta school were dressed up like me, in saris and bindis, dancing to Boroline! It was incredibly sweet and funny. No grown-up can ever give you a compliment that is as sincere as a child giving you one!

How excited are you about your first brand partnership with Mahindra NuPro mustard oil?
I’ve worked with commercials for a while now but I have the complete freedom to do what I want. I’m not that good an actor that I can convincingly carry off a product I don’t believe in. NuPro blends seamlessly into my content without hampering my blog in any way.