Bound by fret, friendship

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By Jayashree Singh and Amyt Dutta KAUSHIK GHOSH
  • Published 18.03.04

It was the late 70s and music was being made at Beatstock, La Martiniere. That’s when Amyt Dutta first saw Jayashree Singh — and thought she was a boy.

“I was at the event with our band Sugarfoot. Jayashree was singing on stage for her band Moonbeams. She sounded like a girl alright, but from a distance looked like a boy,” smiles Amyt, not as embarrassed, perhaps, as he might be.

But then, Jayashree and Amyt have been part of bands and the best of friends for over a quarter of a century now. Amyt had other reasons to cringe that day: “We were novices and didn’t even recognise some of the equipment Jayashree’s band was using. They were greeted with cheers and the audience booed us when we went on stage the next day,” reminisces Amyt.

That was the beginning. Amyt and Jayashree have never drifted far from each other, as musicians and as friends ever since. The two are now a popular fixture on the band scene with Skinny Alley, which they started in 1996, releasing a debut album — Escape the Roar — last year. They started playing together in the early 1980s a few years after Beatstock. “By then, Amyt was well on his way to overtaking us as a musician,” says Jayashree.

They were together in a band called Airwave till 1987, when Jayashree and her husband Gyan, who was also part of the band, took a sabbatical to concentrate on parenting. The friendship, however, didn’t miss a beat. “As performing musicians, it’s difficult to find time to listen to music. The break gave us a chance to listen to a lot of different kinds of music and understand our own art better,” says Jayashree. The music from those days still influences the creations of Skinny Alley.

Keeping the partnership together has come almost naturally. “The understanding we share makes our relationship such a great success. We know each other as human beings and as musicians,” explains Amyt, who had played for Shiva before he and Jayashree joined forces again for the band Pop Secret. They have even been known to compose songs in “15 minutes flat”.

Jayashree feels ego management in the relationship keeps it on track. “Respective egos shouldn’t come to the forefront. We never let our problems come in the way of our friendship. We fight when we are writing music, but those are good fights. The understanding we share was not achieved in a day,” she confesses.

Jayashree on Amyt: “Amyt is his music. He has surrendered himself totally to his muse, which does not mean, however, that he is not a good friend. He is caring, but at the same time, completely involved with his art. He even sleeps with his guitar.”

Amyt on Jayashree: “What can I say about Jayashree? She has been my best friend for 25 years. I have learnt a lot from her. I used to think a song is done as soon as its music is written. She made me understand that the attitude with which the song is sung is also very important.”