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Bangla rock band Fossils looks back at 25 years of making their signature music

Rupam and his band mates open up about their unique journey, their albums and their inspirations to My Kolkata

Soujannya Das | Published 14.01.23, 03:03 PM
(L-R) Allan Temjen Ao, Prasenjit ‘Pom’ Chakraborty, Rupam Islam, Deep Ghosh and Tanmoy Das of Fossils

(L-R) Allan Temjen Ao, Prasenjit ‘Pom’ Chakraborty, Rupam Islam, Deep Ghosh and Tanmoy Das of Fossils

Prasanta Kumar Sur

Eight albums, innumerable live shows across the country and abroad, and a huge fan following. Fossils, Kolkata’s first Bangla rock band, has travelled 25 years, gifting a unique sound in the Bengali language to fans of rock music. As the band celebrated their silver jubilee with Ponchobingshoti, a live concert at Orchid Garden earlier this week (January 9), My Kolkata caught up with band members Rupam Islam (vocalist/lyricist), Allan Temjen Ao (lead guitarist), Deep Ghosh (rhythm guitarist), Prasenjit ‘Pom’ Chakraborty (bassist) and Tanmoy Das (drummer) for a free-wheeling chat.

My Kolkata: Congratulations on Fossils completing 25 years as a band! What comes to mind as you look back at this eventful journey?


Allan Temjen Ao: We just feel fortunate and blessed to be where we are. It was not easy. We had to make a lot of sacrifices. I think when we look back, we don’t take it for granted.

Rupam Islam: I have always said when I get on stage, ‘This is going to be my last performance’. If I die, I should not regret anything.

Deep Ghosh: Yes, I remember when I joined Fossils, Rupamda told me the same thing: ‘Every concert is the last concert.’

Rupam: If you make a mistake, you will have to die with it. Whenever I make a mistake, I am awake all night and I try to analyse it and rectify it. I don’t want to make mistakes because the audience who are standing in front of me have given me a lot of love, more than what I asked for. It is my responsibility. Our upcoming albums have to be deadly! We will give our life for that. This is my vision of the future.

The band poses for My Kolkata

The band poses for My Kolkata

Supratik Sur Roy

Can you pick some of your milestones after all the hurdles and challenges you have faced?

Deep: I don’t really see my work as a milestone. Every show is a new challenge.

Rupam: We love the term ‘challenge’. All the albums that Fossils has done have challenged its previous releases. We never repeated anything. When our first album, Fossils, was released, people said they had never heard such a hard rock sound in Bangla music. We thought it was not enough, so we gave them a harder sound in our next album, Fossils 2. The album had songs like Manab Boma; Acid, which has become an iconic song; and Harano Padak, which is the first Bangla punk song. The album also had a soft and sweet song, Keno Korle Erokom. The previous era wanted to create a folk band.

After Fossils’ second album, the rock band culture started. Everyone wanted to start a rock band. When people became a fan of hard rock, we released Mission F, our third album. This was the theme album for a football tournament named Friendship Cup. We sang the song of friendship. We also added the unplugged version of Bishakto Manush and Manab Boma. We gave the audience a sweet rock music and the experiment was successful. This album was at number one for ten months in Music World.

Our fourth album, Aupodartho, was a video album. This was for the first time a music video album was created in Bengal. When we released Aupodartho at the Music World store on Park Street, I remember the whole street being blocked.

Some iconic album covers of the band

Some iconic album covers of the band

Deep: I was the first person to reach there. Music World was scared that people would break the showroom down. It was so crowded.

Rupam: I was on my scheduled time but the police asked me to come faster as it was getting very crowded. My other band members had not reached yet. So, I had to launch the album without them. I stood up on a stool, showed the album and said, ‘This is our new album. This is now out for everyone.’

The next album we did — Fossils 3 — was the first concept music album in Bengal. We gave a graphic novel inside. The graphic novel had a story. You could listen to the music following the graphic novel. It was like cinema. If you listen to it without the graphic novel, you will get another story. So you can see a graphic novel story, or listen to the audio album, or listen to it while going through the graphic novel. It was for the first time there were three stories in a single album.

Abraham Mazumdar played a live string section with us for the album. It was not programmed, he played instruments like violin, cello, viola and with that we created a soundscape. In the same album, Mayookh Bhaumik played an electronic tabla. It was a new experiment.

With Fossils 4, we had returned to our basic and first approach. Our next album, Fossils 5, had videos of all the songs separately. Every time we gave the audience new things. This is our biggest challenge. And this challenge is our happiness. We have challenged ourselves and have been successful.

Allan: Our biggest audience was more than a lakh. Wherever we have performed so far has been a full house. Our audience is all around the world.

Fans at the Ponchobingshoti concert

Fans at the Ponchobingshoti concert

Prasanta Kumar Sur

Do you remember your first show together? What is your fondest memory from that show?

Rupam: The present members of Fossils performed their first show together in Bangalore. Pom had to prepare in a single day. He was our sound engineer. He had a double role on the show.

Prasenjit ‘Pom’ Chakraborty: I was confused about which role to prioritise. Was I a sound engineer or a musician? On the stage I was wondering if everyone was able to hear properly. I was looking at the notes and playing the bass guitar, and at the same time I was looking at the remote of the sound console because I had to check if anything was needed. On top of that, I was playing with someone I had idolised for a long time. It was incredibly surreal.

Rupam: The audience gave a huge round of applause for Pom. Nobody guessed that he was playing for the first time. Tanmoy’s first show with us was at Jadavpur University.

Tanmoy: I had prepared for a month in the year 2010. I was awestruck because I was playing with Fossils. I come from a heavy metal music background. I heard the Fossils 2 album and decided that I was going to make heavy metal music. Metal is now in a big space and we are always grateful to Fossils 2 for that. If Acid hadn’t released, I would have never done metal.

The band share a cake ahead of the Ponchobingshoti concert

The band share a cake ahead of the Ponchobingshoti concert

Prasanta Kumar Sur

What are some of the challenges you faced in the initial days of the band?

Rupam: Allan, you must tell that story! People used to run away when Allan played distortion guitar.

Allan: I remember we were playing at City College on College Street. We were playing the song Dekho Manoshi. I had my amplifier next to me. I saw three guys standing next to me. The song starts slowly and then kicks into the distortion and loud part. The moment it kicked in, I saw the three guys running away. (Everyone laughs) I was feeling apologetic and thinking, was I too loud? Cut to today, everyone wants more of that. When I play a distortion during sound check, you’ll see a ton of people standing there.

Deep: They literally hug and stand in front of the speaker!

Allan: In the initial days, the entire band would also travel in one bus with sound instruments and lights. We have done free shows, been fleeced.

Rupam: After that, bringing out our first album was a challenge. Everyone asked me to create a fusion sound with a soft rock approach. The producers were ready. When we came with our new demo, the company owners and producers said, ‘Banglaye tow rock hoy na.’ (Rock music doesn’t happen in Bengal.)

Later, Asha Audio decided to record us. This was a big milestone. We could record our first album because of them. I remember we chucked the first five-six days of recording. I called for a meeting. I made them hear the songs we had recorded so far. I told them that there were places where we’re going in the wrong direction. We had to rectify it. The next recordings we did, we had to put in our own money. We never stopped.

After the album was published, the first year nobody bought or heard it. Fossils was released on April 13 in 2002. It was the next year when Aamar FM played two of our songs on the radio — Ekla Ghor and Hasnuhana. We got a major audience from there. We could never have thought that we’re going to have such an audience and a following. We never asked them to play our song. All of a sudden, we heard them play our songs. It was very cinematic. It was surreal.

Rupam in full flow

Rupam in full flow

Prasanta Kumar Sur

What do you think has held you all together as a group for the past 25 years?

Rupam: There is no dadagiri. A lot of bands have said that a band should have only one tiger. We have never felt that. We feel that we don’t need tigers; we are humans and let’s behave like humans. Everyone has a vote and it is a democracy.

How do you keep getting the pulse of the young generation? What themes do you feel resonate with young people?

Deep: We listen to all kinds of music. All the different influences get inside us and we finally start creating music our way.

Allan: The key thing here is that we have maintained our authenticity. We have not really chased trends. We just tried to keep it very honest. This works for whichever generation you’re talking about, even more so today. Everyone wants authenticity.

Deep: Live music resonates more with the young generation. They like raw energy.

Rupam: I write songs only for myself. My songs are based on the experiences in my life. I have no problem showing my real self. If you love me like this, I will also love you back and if you get angry, I will also do the same. We have also created a variety of music. Our music is very raw.

‘Live music resonates more with the young generation. They like raw energy,’ said Deep

‘Live music resonates more with the young generation. They like raw energy,’ said Deep

Prasanta Kumar Sur

Which musicians — international and local — have had the greatest influence on your music?

Rupam: Without Kurt Cobain, I would never have started writing. He had a great influence on me. I also look up to John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Eddie Vedder and Syd Barrett from Pink Floyd.

Allan: I grew up with the Beatles and it is always there. The other thing that happened is from the 1980s, from the very sleek plastic music we saw the change to grunge. In the early ’90s, it was such a huge part of pop culture. We were bombarded with it. The ’90s grunge thing is going to be there with me always.

Tanmoy: I follow Tico Torres and Tommy Aldridge.

Deep: There are so many of them... I listen to George Harrison nowadays.

Pom: James Jamerson, Jaco Pastorius, Francis Rocco Prestia are huge influences.

Allan: One more thing that we all have in common is the cheesy ’80s music. From Bappi Lahiri to Kumar Sanu. We love ’80s-’90s Bollywood music.

Deep: We had a show in Kalna a few days back. Tanmoy and I were in the same car. Tanmoy wanted to listen to Rabindrasangeet and I wanted to listen to Debabrata Biswas.

Pom: We also listen to Ram Kumar Chatterjee.

Deep: We listen to everything!

Rupam: We are the only rock band who started their show with Rajanikanta Sen’s songs; in the middle, we shifted to other songs. One of the songs we have returned to again is Rajanikanta Sen’s O Ma ei je niyechho kole. You might think we are absolutely mad!

(L-R) Kurt Cobain, Bappi Lahiri and John Lennon — some of the inspirations for the band

(L-R) Kurt Cobain, Bappi Lahiri and John Lennon — some of the inspirations for the band

Does Kolkata serve as an inspiration or a muse for your music? What about the city keeps you going to create music?

Deep: I grew up in Park Circus and I now stay in Tollygunge. Every part of Kolkata has a different essence. The vibe and culture of the city gets into your body.

Allan: I tell everyone that I’m a Kolkatan. This is a place like no other. I had a great childhood growing up here. It has prepared me to be a person of the world. People ask me, how do you play in a Bangla rock band? Do I understand the lyrics? I say as long as I get the essence of the song, that is all that matters to me. I get to learn something new every day. That is what the city has given me — to understand the different cultures, community and food habits. How to appreciate things that are different from me is something Kolkata has taught me. Kolkata is my home.

Pom: I was born here. The city has given me more than anything I ever wanted.

Rupam: My Kolkata is inside my house, within my four walls.

‘My Kolkata is inside my house, within my four walls,’ said Rupam. Above, Fossils at the Working Class Zero studio in South End Park

‘My Kolkata is inside my house, within my four walls,’ said Rupam. Above, Fossils at the Working Class Zero studio in South End Park

Supratik Sur Roy

Where do you think you are all happiest — on stage performing, in the studio recording music or elsewhere?

Tanmoy: I love performing on stage.

Deep: It is very difficult for me to compare. They have different feelings.

Pom: Same for me.

Rupam: Same for me too.

Allan: In the studio, you create a lot of magic and things you haven’t planned for. Live music actually teaches you about life, where you think you’re going to play an awesome show and it doesn’t turn out great. The days you are not feeling great, just being on stage makes you feel awesome!

Actors Anindya Chatterjee and Saurav Das at the concert

Actors Anindya Chatterjee and Saurav Das at the concert

Prasanta Kumar Sur

What advice would you give to a band just getting started? Or even to someone young who is thinking of becoming a musician?

Rupam: Be truthful to your instincts. Follow your passion. Don’t get influenced by other people.

Allan: According to me, luck plays a huge factor. If you are willing to be in it for a long time, then go for it. But it is not going to be easy, so do it because you love doing it and not for any other reason. If you want to do it to become popular, then you’re not going to last very long. It is going to be hard. Every day there will be a lot of self-doubt about how good you are. Now with the internet, there is a lot of insecurity. You have to battle that. You have to keep working hard on your craft.

Rupam: You’ve said a beautiful thing, Allan. Even without the audience, if you can sustain yourself, then go for it. If you want to create music for yourself and you don’t want to reach an audience, that is also okay.

Deep: You should do what you love. You can do anything you want to. But you should love doing it.

Pom: Be true to yourself and you’ll find your voice.

Tanmoy: Learn before you take up music as a profession.

Last updated on 14.01.23, 03:36 PM

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