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Amyt Datta mentors four young bands. See how they rock

‘The whole point of this workshop is for the serious student to observe how years of information can be delivered in a five-minute tune’

Shantanu Datta | Published 02.05.23, 04:20 PM
Amyt Datta and his students at Skinny Mo’s in Kolkata.

Amyt Datta and his students at Skinny Mo’s in Kolkata.

The Telegraph picture

He chucked his job with a tech major and decided to jump full steam ahead into music. Another one came down from north Bengal and ditched plans to head to Delhi University, opting instead to study in Kolkata and join "Sir's" guitar classes. Then there's the guitar technician who realised that merely getting into the innards of the instrument, as enjoyable as it is, wasn't enough. He needed to feel the music. Yet another youngster, enthralled by a certain Julian Lage, found a mentor in "Sir", who he believes could help him connect to the music of his heart: jazz.

As many as 17 of them, most of them students of guitar guru Amyt Datta, came together one evening last week, to present their music. The venue was Skinny Mo's, the south Calcutta jazz club that is also a delectable eating house, providing space to a range of expressions, be it in music, vinyls, textiles, art, and ideas.

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Datta, their mentor, set them up as bands who performed four tunes each, showcasing their passion as serious musicians. Thirteen of the 16 tunes were written by Datta himself, combining myriad styles and genres of music. The end result, born out of days of practising together under the tutelage of Datta, was quite stunning really. A pastiche of emotions was on display using characteristics of rock, dance, funk, jazz and its many avatars — the modern, the traditional and fusion.

"The whole point of this workshop is for the more serious student to observe how months and years of information can be delivered in a five-minute tune... and to realise that one cannot fake it," says Datta. "The stage is a difficult place to be on and the musicians are naked and nervous so to speak… Yet they have to deliver."

In the audience was a select group of friends, relatives and parents who were equally invested in the efforts of their near and dear ones. One by one the bands played. The music was in technicolor, the variety, embedded in a sense of sophisticated ambition, was impressive. It is one thing to learn. Quite another to execute it as a band presenting a concert to an audience. "Only dedicated and committed students will go through this endless journey. And this has to be recognised and respected by all," notes Datta. I think the message hit home.

Band I: Sumit, Sudip, Argha on guitars, Tanmoy on bass, Kahini on drums

I would call them “Cool Customers” for their unhurried, laid-back set. Funnily, they began with Fade Out, exuding the comfort of a summer breeze. This was followed by Flat Feet, a punchy track in measured pace with an oblique doff to the Allman Brothers-Lynyrd Skynyrd tradition, but with distortions that highlighted a nice drum interlude. Then came Soft Story, a feel-good track reminiscing the Bossa Nova as championed by a certain Antonio Carlos Jobim. Sister Silly had loads of rock attitude, a super groove exuding a Steely Dan-like sophistication and two cool solos.

Band 2: Anjan, Deep on guitars, Suneet on bass, Saurav on drums

I’d call them “Rock Steady”. Stratified set the mood _ what with its funky feel, a la Cool & The Gang or Earth, Wind & Fire. Paradigm sported a lovely solo in Santana vein while We’re Still Alive was a heart-rending tune with a touch of gospel. It makes an emphatic statement with understated beauty. The fourth track, Messing with the Mojo, rocked with some mean bass playing. The evening was only warming up.

Band 3: Rajarshi, Madhumoy on guitars, Soumya on bass, Souvik on drums

Perhaps the most ambitious of the four bands, their set relied on jazz harmonies and new-age improvisation. I’d name them “Hello J!” just for their devotion to the music of Julian Lage, the American guitarist composer widely regarded as a modern master. Black Beats Per Minute pays tribute to the electric Miles Davis era and punches in a Prince R&B undertone sporting super imaginative guitars and a tight bass-drums combo. Prayer for None, Random Order and Souls and Moles, the three other tracks they performed, encompassed funky dissonance and lyrical undertones amid a soundscape of jagged edges as though gingerly sidestepping pieces of broken glass.

Band 4: Rishav on guitar, Somitjyoti on bass, Surojit on drums

I would name them the “Lydian Trio” in deference to their allegiance to the Lydian mode, a tonal and chromatic concept (based on sharpening the fourth note of a major scale), that became highly influential in the world of jazz, especially among the likes of Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman, Woody Shaw. Their set oozed rock attitude even as they used jazz harmonies for tonal sophistication. Flutter, composed by Datta, is based on a riff sporting a raucous opening line. It’s super bold, using as it does a lovely refrain. The other tracks, Aftermath or Confusion (their own compositions), were like bursts of a hurricane. The drummer was on fire, using the off-beat to good measure.

Outro

I left the gig feeling good. Nothing can be more inspiring than to witness collective devotion to an art from. These are brave youngsters who have made it their life's mission to learn music and play it good. It's a serious passion they have sworn their life to. They are more than lucky to have found a mentor like Amyt Datta who is only too happy to share. They come to him and learn not just guitar playing, but get introduced to a whole new universe of life that can be lived through music. They’re having fun too.

The 16 tunes showcased that evening call out to be bookended as an album. Yes, they might still need additional embellishing. But with Datta as mentor, it shouldn't be difficult to wrap up.

Last updated on 02.05.23, 04:20 PM
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