Mohini Dey, Mark Hartsuch and Gino Banks are not unknown names on the jazz, prog rock and fusion circuit. The trio recently came together to form their new project —MaMoGi. The trio are attempting to tackle a new unique sound that “no band has done before”. With the use of a saxophone, electric bass and drums, MaMoGi’s sound aims to blend jazz with progressive rock, electronic music and Indian elements.
The trio were in Kolkata a few weeks ago for a couple of shows and a workshop at Skinny Mo’s Jazz Club on Manohar Pukur Road. The Telegraph dropped in for a chat.
You have a strong connection with Kolkata....
Gino Banks: Mohini and I have a strong connection with Kolkata because our parents are from here. My mom is from Kolkata. My dad, I think, had made a name for himself first Kolkata.
Mohini Dey: So it feels nostalgic when you come here and we want to go out on the street but we know it is Durga Puja (their gigs were before Durga Puja) so we are not going out.
You guys have played together many times in the past but how did the new ensemble come together?
Mark Hartsuch: My group Dallas Horns came to India the first in 2017 for Serendipity Arts Festival in Goa. And we were invited by Ranjit Barot. On the first day of the festival, Gino and I were in the same ensemble, Mohini was in this ensemble with a different band and we just clicked. We became good friends and had a similar philosophy towards life. And here we are five years later... we were playing in Gino’s den and everything just felt so good even as a trio that we thought we needed to showcase this to the world.
There is also an album in the works, right?
Mohini: Mark felt strong connections and energies around him and was really pumped to write music. And he has been writing music for some time and one day he just said: “We should form a trio and play together, form this band and take it around.” I thought it was a great idea and he wrote all this music and he really is a fast writer.
Mark: I think it was 20 songs in less than a week.
Mohini: He made the charts, the music, he made a scratch for each song and then we both went to Gino’s den and played through the list. It just felt like magic.
Gino: The songs were written in a week and then as a band we worked on the songs in a week. We did a couple of trial gigs in Mumbai and then we went into the studio.
Mohini: Within two months we recorded the album, we recorded nine songs on the first day and two songs the next day. It is now in the mixing and mastering process by T.J. Helmerich.
Mark: We are also going into the studio to record our second album, which will be done some time next year, and we are going to Europe towards the end of October for a jazz festival. We have some international dates that we will be announcing them soon.
Skinny Mo’s Jazz Club cheered the band on
Coming back to your album, your first post on Instagram was about this 11-song album. What more can you tell us about it?
Mark: The album comprises tenor saxophone and alto saxophone, which is what I play, electric bass and drums. If a person who thinks about that configuration of musicians, hears the three of us play alone, it will be a pretty hollow sound. Basically, I have produced a bunch of tracks that play along those keyboard sounds and guitar sounds and synth. The idea for the project was how we can fuse the jazz tradition that I love so much with fusion music and progressive rock as well as... I would say that I wrote all of the music but they brought it to life. They are introducing all of these Indian elements and rhythms and amazing things into the sound of these tracks, which I would not be able to do. It’s basically fusing the East and West.
Mohini: When people just hear saxophone, bass and drums they think it’s a jazz band but if you think about it, there is no band out there with our selection of musical instruments, doing progressive rock, electronic, jazz and Indian elements.
Gino: It’s very unique, Mohini and I have a lot of background in fusion ensembles in India because... that’s a thing. But this project is very unique and I’ve never played music like this before. This is more about the songs and people will get to know the songs first and then enjoy the live concerts.
Mohini: Every song has its own story and the name of the band comes from the first syllables of our names, MaMoGi, which sounds similar to Apple’s Memoji, so it’s fun.
You all seem to have a lot of fun on stage.
Mohini: We push one another; we just don’t play the music every night and think: “Oh, this is all we’re going to play.” We know that we are going to do something different next time but while keeping the same heart. There are little things here and there we do creatively and couldn’t have thought of better people to do it with. Playing with Mark is unreal and he’s such a world-class international saxophonist. And Gino, I’ve been playing with him since I was a kid and it’s beautiful.
Mark: It feels like a family. Often you see a lot of band drama but this is so easy. We enjoy seeing each other, we enjoy playing. We make a song but we also play some goofy TV themes and figure out ways to manipulate them. It’s really fun and beautiful which is most important.
What is the goal of MaMoGi?
Mohini: We want to tour and be relatable, since other bands are playing covers. We want people to support independent music just as much as they go to support these other bands.
Mark: We also want people to dance to our music that’s not just in 4/4. What’s fun is to manipulate those rhythms that aren’t 4/4. It’s so gratifying to watch people dance to something that shouldn’t be danceable.