• Dec 15,2012
  • In Review
  • By Niloy Thakur

Sounds of Bengal At the Birla Academy of Art & Culture, Kolkata, India

This is the second time Abundant Art has covered on ‘Sounds of Bengal’. Its the same show, but performed in two different countries. The first time that AA had written about the performance was when it was staged at the Southbank centre, in London, UK, earlier this year. This second time was to a Kolkata audience, at the Birla Academy of Art & Culture on Sunday, 9th December. AA is keen to explore the interest and interpretation of music lovers around the globe. This time Sounds of Bengal went to the land that inspired it and evoked admiration and awe. To the audience it brought home a fresh perspective of what a melange of  classical and folk sounds could create.


An evening with Sarod and Tabla grows on you, slowly. You expect a calm, may be languorous buildup of the ‘alap’ as your senses gradually drown in soul soothing sounds. However, this evening was different! It was a young, vibrant musician, holding up an orange coloured electric Sarod, resembling a rockstar holding his Spanish Guitar, accompanied by a young and hip Tabla player. I am talking about Soumik Datta and Arif Khan, the composers and creators of Sounds of Bengal. Together they took the audience through their musical theatre, on a magical journey across Bengal and Bangladesh.

Sounds of Bengal is a magnificent musical ensemble of the sounds and sights of Kolkata. Whether it’s the prayer chants in the morning or the salesmen ferrying their wares in the bye lanes of Kolkata – you will get to align with the spirit of the city through the ‘jugalbandi’ of the Sarod and the Tabla, brought to life by these two young and talented musicians.

Soumik, an UK based emerging talent, despite being brought up in the west, has skilfully mastered the art of playing the Indian instrument Sarod. With a warm, welcoming smile, Soumik plays the Sarod and creates an effect which is sizzling as well as sensational. The notes follow the pictorial depiction with amazing sincerity and you are left overwhelmed. Of course, the effect would have been incomplete without the Tabla adding on to the musical magic.

Arif Khan is in love with his tabla and the tabla is in love with him! He tells stories with its beats. Whether it’s the constant nagging between a husband and a wife or the so typical Mumbai jhankaars or the Latin Merengue, it all comes alive with the flick of his fingers. I particularly liked the beats of “Dhaki” so typical in Bengal during Durga Puja, so effectively and innovatively recreated by this duo.

This performance at Kolkata had another surprise: Vocals by Saurav Moni, one of India’s prolific folk singers today, popular for singing Bengal Delta’s traditional folk songs. He sang a couple of “Bhatiali” songs while imageries’ of  boatmen drifting along the Ganges added to the visual effect. Folk songs have a flavour of their own and mixed with Sarod and Tabla, they take you deep into their Indian roots. The songs lift your mood and you are left refreshed as if you have just been through a deep meditative session.

Sounds of Bengal is evolving and adding on new dimensions each day. To quote Arif Khan “ Musafir ke raaste badalte rahe, muqaddar mein chalna tha, chalte rahe!” (The road keeps changing for the traveller, but he is destined to travel so the journey continues….). Wish all the best to “ Sounds of Bengal” in their journey ahead.

Arnab is a Telecom Professional based out of Kolkata with avid interest in music and creative arts.

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