Sourendro-Soumyojit pulling out all the stops for this year’s World Music Day concert

Kolkata will witness collaborations between Amjad Ali Khan, Shankar Mahadevan, Papon, Shubha Mudgal, Ushu Uthup, Rekha Bhardwaj and more

Vedant Karia Published 15.06.24, 06:24 PM
Sourendro Mullick and Soumyojit Das's World Music Day event has become a landmark in the calendar of every music lover

Sourendro Mullick and Soumyojit Das's World Music Day event has become a landmark in the calendar of every music lover Photos courtesy: Sourendro Mullick and Soumyojit Das

As a city that celebrates the arts, Kolkata has always had a special relationship with music. For over a decade, Soumyojit Das and Sourendro Mullick have been redefining this relationship, one concert at a time. Starting from humble beginnings, their flagship World Music Day event has become a landmark in the calendar of every music lover. With legends like Amjad Ali Khan, Usha Uthup, Shubha Mudgal, Shankar Mahadevan, Rekha Bhardwaj and Papon set to grace Netaji Indoor Stadium on June 21, the event’s 14th edition is expected to be the biggest one yet. My Kolkata caught up with Sourendro and Soumyojit for an exclusive chat about this year’s concert.

The original idea for this event was born out of the duo’s travels to western musical festivals, and the desire to bring such an experience to their home city. Finally, the duo started it off as a creative challenge to themselves 14 years ago, when they had freshly graduated from St. Xavier’s College. “We booked GD Birla Sabhagar because we wanted the smallest possible venue, and invited the musicians we knew. It wasn’t about commerce, but working with friends with whom we gelled musically. We had Lopamudra (Mitra) di do a folk section, while Srabani (Sen) ma’am performed Rabindrasangeet. We even got our college professor, Bertie Sir (Bertram Da Silva, vice-principal of arts and science at St. Xavier’s College) to sing!” reminisces Sourendro. Their idea was to provide glimpses of different genres on one platform, a vision that continues to hold true 14 years on.


‘We and our audience have evolved’

“Over the past 14 years, both we and our audience have evolved. In the process, WMD (World Music Day) has also become a space for artistes to explore their own creative side,” he adds. The growth has resulted in them playing in bigger venues too. From their early days at GD Birla Sabhagar, they have moved on to Kala Mandir, Nazrul Mancha, Science City Auditorium, Biswa Bangla Convention Centre, and now, Netaji Indoor Stadium. “We will pray to the gods next year to give us winter in June, because for a bigger venue, we will now have to move outdoors,” Sourendro chuckles.

Rashid Khan speaks at a previous edition of the event

Rashid Khan speaks at a previous edition of the event

The reason for its growth though, isn’t the bigger names attached to the concert. Soumyojit clarifies that WMD stands for much more than entertainment. “Every year, there is a central theme, conveying what we want to say. This year, it’s ‘collab’ — embodying how we must celebrate when art is exchanged to create something. Each of our 10 pieces will have two celebrated musicians collaborating towards a common thought, and bringing together their diverse genres,” adds Soumyojit.

Friends on and off the stage

Sourendro believes that the spirit of friendship is as important as the kind of music an artist performs. While curating the line up, he and Soumyojit specifically tried to pair people who were great friends off the stage too. This friendship is expected to shine through in a unique blend of styles, like Usha Uthup’s love ballad meeting Mame Khan’s folk music.

This collaboration extends to the philosophers, whose poetry will inspire the performances for this edition. “We are very excited to explore the philosophies of Kabir and Lalon, who wrote about similar things in different languages from across the world. Similarly, one of our songs is a tribute to the romance between Amrita Pritam and Sahir Ludhiyanvi. Since this year marks the centenary of Mohammad Rafi and the 125th year of Kazi Nazrul Islam, we will be paying homage to those legends too,” says Soumyojit. Something that is specifically different about this year is the focus on original compositions. The duo have worked with lyricists from around the country in order to create new and stirring tracks.

A permanent fixture on the social calendar

This innovation has made WMD a permanent fixture in most Kolkatans’ yearly calendar, and the duo confess that they begin receiving mails about the event from January itself. Some probashis even plan their yearly Kolkata trip in keeping with the concert! “This line-up of artists coming together in this manner cannot be replicated. That’s what makes it so exciting,” beams Soumyojit.

Asha Bhosle with a memento

Asha Bhosle with a memento

Given the event’s stature, both of them have considered taking the event to metros like Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru, with dreams of even Dubai and London. “No matter how much we ideate, iss sheher (Kolkata) ka dil par itna raaj hai that we can’t come out of it. Everything we conceive is for Kolkata,” Soumyojit signs off.

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