Surjo Bhattacharjee- My Guitar, My Lover
Surjo Bhattcharjee does not represent any band. He hasn’t made the headlines…yet. Rolling Stones lost its chance to chat him up and have his face shot in fancy angles for its covers because GingerChai pushed its way through first. Ha! At this point, we owe Pranjal Srivastava a Thank you for recommending Surjo.
Surjo is from Jamshedpur and has been playing the guitar for the last 13 years; performing at various Indian cities. Many may have seen him play covers for the notable bands like MOTHERJANE, Raghu Dixit Project and such.
Despite his somewhat low profile, he has built quite a remarkable fan base online. He has his own Youtube Channel, where he reproduces some well known tracks and a few of his own compositions. Surjo was once associated with the band Soul Alchemy and his FaceBook Page holds over 800 fans!
Currently he plays with RockBaaj, a Kolkata based band that largely plays popular, mainstream songs. Why would an Indie Artist be pulled into the mainstream culture? He has some valid reasons, not here though.
According to the various bios I poked my nose through while writing this, revealed Surjo to be a “reluctant vocalist” but an avid guitarist. His guitar skills have been well showcased in his videos. For his vocals, I haven’t heard much, we’ll decide when he makes his debut sometime this year or early 2011.
But before we get to his upcoming EP, we figured we’d ask the budding musician to tell us what we should know about him and what we should expect of him. We always give people a chance to promote themselves as we at GC do not believe in staying low profile!
Having cleared the air, this is what Surjo had to say…
Who is Surjo?
Difficult to say really, I keep on making new discoveries about myself. But I’ll try to keep it only to music. I’m first and foremost a fan of all the great music that has been made over the years. My own music is almost secondary in a way, since whatever comes out of me, will have some relation to all that I have heard over the years.
I love to play the guitar, it is the source of great joy and it’s the greatest leveler for me. There is something very supernatural about the guitar for me. People have moods, and are ever-changing. What they like one day, they might not the next. But a guitar has no such hang-ups. You play the same notes and it gives back the same to you, unflinchingly every single day, like a best friend. Music is like life, blood for me. In school when they would ask for hobbies, I was sorely tempted to say academics, since music is not something that I ever thought was a passing phase for me.
What inspired you to make music?
It seems to me that music is the language that I communicate the best with, so it’s a natural progression that when I need to speak out for something that I believe in, it will invariably come out in the form of lyrics and melodies. Different moods seem to pour out through either words or music. It just seems natural to me. I mean I often think that making music must come naturally to everybody, since it comes naturally to me. It’s about listening to what is inside of you, and then playing it.
Major influences in your music.
Everything that I have ever heard is an influence in my music, from old Bengali songs to Bollywood numbers that I have heard (nothing of late, I’m afraid), to old school rock, blues and metal and pop. Everything has an effect, whether it is a positive or negative effect remains a matter of choice. I could listen to something that might come out in a certain way in my compositions, and that’s a positive effect. I might listen to something and know subconsciously that it won’t figure into my music, and that’s a negative effect.
What genre do you think your compositions belong to?
That’s really for the listener to decide. I love blues, rock and funk above all else, maybe somewhere in there I guess.
What can you say about the instrument you play?
It is my interpreter, my girlfriend in a lot of ways. It plays whatever songs I want it to play without complaints. One of the things about a guitar is that it is a very sexy instrument; the names of the various parts of the guitar are like waist, neck, ribs and so on. And no guy has curves like that.
Jokes aside, the guitar has the innate ability to calm me down. Irrespective of whether I am in hyper joy or sadness, the guitar just gives me a peace of mind. The instrument is always bigger than the people playing it. That’s how I feel about me and my guitars anyway. I just got a new Gibson Melody Maker, to add to my Fender Stratocaster and Comet Telecaster. So I am about as happy as a guy could be, especially sincethe Gibson was won in a contest and therefore did not burn a hole in my non-existent pocket.
When is your debut album releasing?
The date isn’t fixed as of yet. There are tons of ideas waiting to be recorded.
What is/will it be about?
The biggest dilemma for me is to decide whether it is going to be an instrumental album or vocal album. For all I know I might come up with something midway. The album is going to capture my state as a person and musician at this present moment. All of us face issues in our lives, I’m no different, and I would like to explore that territory, and hopefully the listener shall find it relevant and can relate it to their own lives.
What should we be looking forward to?
Melody, lyrics, and tons of guitars!
You have played covers for bands like MOTHERJANE, The Raghu Dixit Project, etc. Best Experience?
Opening for huge bands like this is great because you get to see people who have actually made it in the profession of your choice go about it, and it is a massive learning experience. Most memorable experience, there are 2 actually. After both gigs, both Raghu Dixit and the member of MOTHERJANE were so nice in their behavior and generous in their praise that it is just a huge confidence boost to someone like me. When Baiju Dharmajan, the lead guitar player for MOTHERJANE, gave me a hug before and after my show, it was definitely one of the most standout moments of my performing career so far.
To be received with affection by one of your idols is always a great moment.
Who writes your songs? What kinda themes do you tackle in your lyrics?
I’m the one writing the melodies and the lyrics. The themes come from my everyday life, from what I see around me. Whether it is about me, my friends or something more global; I have always felt that my lyrics should be simple. In terms of language and content, so people can try and get the message, and hopefully mould it and interpret it the way of their choice.
I want to be involved in music through my life; nothing is more joyful to me. Whether it is as a performing artist, recording artist, studio musician, producer or whatever else, music fuels my everyday existence, and I can ask for nothing more than to be a part of it for as long as I am here.
Thank You for tuning In!
Author’s Note: If you have been diagnosed with the following, it’s recommended you contact me and I will get back to you with the remedy!
- You have a favorite musician that you want featured in Indie Rhythms
- You know a budding artist and he needs a platform to spread the word
- You came across an album that swept you off your feet or made you crash into a wall even
- You witnessed this amazing live performance of an Indie band and you wanna share the experience with us (OK for this one you cannot directly contact me.)
- You think I need to do a better job
- You simply wanna say “Hi Usha, the series rocks”. (Although this can very well be done at the comment’s section)
Now all of the above would gladly put a smile on my face and perhaps a gift in your mailbox.
Thanks again for Tuning in!
MOTHERJANE – Ethnic Spirits, Global Rock
So where were we the previous time? Chennai was it? What am I to say, except that we’re gonna hang around the South for a bit. This time it is Kochi, Kerala to meet the winners of 2009 Asian Voice Independent Music Awards (AVIMA) for Best Indie Rock Band in Asia and 2010 AVIMA for Best Vocalist and Most Popular Act in Asia. .
MOTHERJANE they call themselves. And the CAPS are accompanied with reasoning by the way. They have been around for more than a decade playing host to some varied audience around India. Sometime in 1996 was when the band took form and 14 years later, they have a massive fan following who call themselves the Janiacs
MOTHERJANE is currently made up of Suraj Mani (Vocals & Lyricist), Baijju Dharmajan (Lead Guitar), Deepu Sasidharan (Rhythm Guitar), Clyde Rozario (Bass) and John Thomas (Drums). MOTHERJANE encompasses a bit of multiple worlds: They have regional influence in their compositions . They use western instruments to create traditional pieces. They sing in English. What keeps the pieces together is the balance of not getting too carried away with the Indian beats nor making it entirely Rock with regards to the western perception.
Amidst getting their “baby”, the new Studio that is currently being constructed, all for the sole purpose of providing MOTHERJANE to conjure up awesome music for our hearing, Suraj, the voice behind the songs sat down to share some MOTHERJANE tidbits.
What is it that we don’t know about MotherJane but we should?
Well that it is spelt MOTHERJANE as a single word. Many people think it is two words Little piece of trivia for you, we used to use all small letters and now we prefer to use all caps. Does seem a lot bolder.
What has changed since MOTHERJANE was born back in 1996?
The entire industry has become better organized and there is a growing sense of confidence in many of the professionals and semipro’s, that this is a viable career. Greatest thing in a single statement would be, the number of young bands who think it is natural that they should make originals. It wasn’t like that once upon a time.
Biggest challenge as an Indie band in India?
Collating resources. Mainly in terms of creative, technical and other support teams. You see, a successful band has a lot of behind-the-scenes work happening and to inspire other people to commit their time and efforts to a shared dream is pretty much the single most critical point in going to the next level.
Which is harder? Writing a song, creating the music for it or performing live? Why?
I find writing the songs to be real easy and that’s a personal thing. Maybe because I’m so opinionated It does vary from artist to artist. Creating the music has been a logistical problem for us as I have been in Bangalore since 2001 and the rest of the guys in Kochi. Having said that, we almost come up with a song pretty effortlessly when we are in the same room together. Performing is the part that is seriously effortless.
How different is MOTHERJANE from the rest of the Indie bands in India?
Well we have been very professional in our approach. We have a reputation as a band that will be there on time, do sound-checks etc properly and deliver a killer performance no matter where or who the audience is.
Describe a regular creative session?
No real rules actually. If you are feeling good and have something to express, a song is already on its way. In that state of mind; creativity chooses you, not the other way around.
Which song from your released albums would you recommend for someone who hasn’t heard of the band? Why?
Well… All of them! We have two studio albums Insane Biography and Maktub and two singles called the Tribes of Babel and Jihad. Everything rocks
Complete the following statement: People who love (______________) will love our music.
People who love “To honor their roots and question the rules” will identify with MOTHERJANE. Our war cry of “Ethnic Spirits, Global Rock” springs from this philosophy.
I play a couple of instruments at varying levels of hopelessness and I could be tone deaf. Do you think you could use somebody like me in the band?
Is that a serious question? To be honest, we get a lot of similar requests. It’s almost like, “I am a great person, can I have an affair with your spouse?” (And I lost my chance of quitting school to become a rock star.)
Future Albums? Upcoming gigs?
Our label Aum-I Artistes is opening a new studio on the 15th of September and we are the reason they built such a studio. Hell yes! Songs are written, studio time is a given, new albums are coming. Season has also commenced in India, so the gigs are also kicking off. It’s a good time for us and we have worked for it.
A couple of studio albums under the titles of Insane Biography(2002) and Maktub (2009) are one of the many reasons for the growing numbers of Janiacs. A quick note about Maktub: Ya’ll aware of Rolling Stones Magazine yea? MOTHERJANE was featured in 2009 for coming up with The Best Rock Album for that year. That’s Right, Maktub was its name.
Apart from studio albums, they recently ventured into the South Indian Cine Arena as a music director composing the original soundtrack, Jihad, for Anwar, a Malayalam movie. It has been receiving rave reviews and many have cited it to be one of their favorite since its release in August.
I haven’t listened to their debut album entirely, but, I can vouch for Maktub and why it makes sense that Rolling Stones India named it the best album of the previous year. Almost all the tracks are of a favorite of mine, however, I am obliged to mention a few tracks one might wanna look out for. Such as Fields of Sound, Chasing the Sun, Mindstreet, and Broken. Guitar accompaniments are a major highlight for each of these tracks.
We would suggest you go grab their records from the first record store you come across. Then again, if you are reading this series for the first time and really doubt our music taste or perhaps are already expressing distinct music preferences than the ones we have to share here; you can always head over to www.reverbnation.com/motherjane or http://www.last.fm/music/motherjane or http://www.motherjane.in to get a taste of what MOTHERJANE has to offer.
Assuming you were impressed with their compositions and is now a true blue Janiac, welcome to the club! You may now stalk them at www.facebook.com/motherjane or http://twitter.com/motherjaneindia to keep yourself updated on the latest happenings of MOTHERJANE.
You guys also owe the PR Angel of MOTHERJANE, Eva Dowd, a Thank You for ensuring these sites are duly updated for us Janiacs.
To the readers: Guess it’s time we heard from you since Indie Rhythms began. All you have to do is let us know the Indie Musicians around India that you want featured in this series. They can already be making waves or they need a platform just so they can start creating some ripples or if you, yourself is a budding talent and need an audience; we’re all ears for ya. Mail me: Usha and I will get back to you.
Thank You for tuning in!
Note: Images courtesy of MOTHERJANE.