‘Musicians should not be secondary to actors,’ says music maestro Bickram Ghosh

Having performed for more than a decade with genius Pandit Ravi Shankar, music maestro Bickram Ghosh is also a stalwart in Indo-fusion music. He has also done four albums that were nominated for Grammies including George Harrison’s Brainwashed. Excerpts from a chat about his latest independent collaboration:

Tell us about your collaboration with Hariharan…

We have just completed an album of six songs where the music and compositions are mine. Hariji has sung all the songs. This is an important project because it is an independent music project. We don’t have such independent music scores happening anymore. The budget was quite huge and almost as much as a feature film’s budget. Sufiscore is handling it. They support independent music big time and have done some great work in this area.

Why is it that the independent music scene in India isn’t as hyped as it is in the West?

India as a country is very filmy! Our music originated from stage performances, jatra, etc. The song and dance is a staple in our cultural scene. So when cinema came into the picture, that same routine took shape in cinema. But slowly things are changing. What was happening in the late 1990s is happening now all over again. That was the time Indie music burst into the scene and my work from that era began to be noticed because the role national television played in the scenario. Now again with the internet and the fact that cinema is not really living up to its expectations with good music of late, the independent music scene has got a huge space to grow. And grow fast! You don’t need a big label to promote you anymore and anyone can put up a video on YouTube! I am very hopeful that independent music will finally break free of the shackles of cinema and come up with great legacy!

What are your thoughts on musicians who solely work in films?

I feel no artiste should ever be dependent on films. That is because in a film, music is never the focus. The focus is always on the actors. So, that sort of takes away the credibility to a large extent! Musicians should not be secondary to actors. In the West, Michael Jackson as a musician is a bigger star till today than anyone in Hollywood will ever be. But in India that is not how things are! The independent music movement is going to change all that in a big way.

Recently a lot of musicians in Bollywood, especially Abhijeet, claimed that musicians lose out on good work because of the coteries they don’t cater to…

Coteries are there in every profession. It has always been there. But people should concentrate more on music than politics; eventually good music will always be noticed irrespective of where it came from! Musicians have moved away from Bollywood now because earlier there used to be 8-10 songs in a Hindi film. These days there are barely two or three. Of that only one is properly shot while the others come at the end. So, films have no security blanket for musicians. I have done 38 feature films. But as a musician that is not what I want to do. I want to play in a live concert. For composers film is a mainstay, but not for musicians.

During the lockdown you were conducting online music classes. Is it actually possible to learn music online?

During the pandemic students in my academy all shifted online. But we did meet up once or twice a month to jam together. So, it has to be a combination of both. Only online is not good enough because there are certain nuances one will tend to miss unless one watches something happening right in front of him.

Has political interference hampered the music scene in India?

Not in music per se, but definitely in content especially dialogues! Unless of course you make a song that is provocative, then it will immediately get flak. But that is silly. I think social censorship is slightly scary, in the true sense of the word. If differences arise, they can always be sorted out amicably!

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