They were probably the youngest guests at former governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi’s recent farewell dinner. At 26, Soumyojit Das and Sourendro Mullick may be greenhorns when it comes to the music album circuit, though they have become veterans of numerous live performances. On December 19, however, they joined the ‘music album’ club when they launched their debut collection, Back to the Future (Cozmik Harmony), featuring vocalist Kavita Krishnamurti.
For those who haven’t heard them perform, Sourendro plays the piano and Soumyojit sings, and they call themselves You & I. A ground floor room of the city’s legendary Marble Palace, which is home to Sourendro and which seems to be the duo’s favourite practise pad, resonates to timeless Hindustani raag sangeet, of which the two are staunch adherents.
“The idea is to get people interested in Hindustani classical music, in India and abroad, and if we have to take a roundabout route, so be it,” says Soumyojit.
The ’roundabout route’ is evidently the eclectic mix of musical genres which lies at the core of their music. Their experiments have taken Soumyojit and Sourendro to many parts of the world, notably Europe. They are even set to score for a French film this summer and have already composed for a number of international documentary films.
Having begun performing together at St Xavier’s College, their alma mater, Soumyojit and Sourendro credit their former principal with bringing them together. They laughingly admit to having been “virtually inseparable” since. As they exchange jokes and casually produce snatches of brilliant, quirky, music, they reflect shades of the training that they have undergone under such luminaries as Pandit Ajoy Chakraborty, and the late Ustad Vilayat Hussain Khan and V Balsara.
“We have been fortunate to receive guidance from some of the giants in the field, and in our collaborations, too,” says Sourendro, who first began playing the piano at three, guided by his grandfather. “This is perhaps the first album where an artiste of Kavitaji’s stature has performed as a guest,”
Apart from Krishnamurti, who was in Kolkata for the launch, the album also features vocalist Stefan Stoppok, guitarist Roger Schaffrath, Western classical bassist Bernd Keul, pianist Martin Kubert, jazz guitarist Norbert Scholli, and drummer Phillipp Imdahl. “There are also some very talented musicians and artistes from Kolkata and Mumbai. So this is a truly international album,” says Soumyojit.
Having experimented with sources as diverse as Rabindranath Tagore, Mirza Ghalib and William Shakespeare, the two believe in finding their own sound, and no territory is too sacred. “Indian classical music is a living, dynamic thing. The more you experiment with it, the more possibilities it throws up,” explains Sourendro. “If we seek to popularise classical music through popular forms of music, it is because we want people to be aware of this great tradition.”
As they span various musical genres, You & I push the envelope with both their lyrics and music, writing of love, peace, and nature, inserting a Tagore couplet here, or parts of Goethe’s translation of Shakuntala in the track Banke Bihari, but none of it is forced or conscious. Watch out for some spontaneous sound, then.