Those of us who took up Shangon Das Gupta of Communication for Development and Learning on her invitation to an evening of music by Susmit Bose, went there without really knowing what to expect. And the first thing that struck me was the beauty of the little hall that the event was held in. Mrs Ubhayankar, who runs the Smritinandan Foundation in memory of her son, hires out this small, beautifully-done up hall to people in the field of the arts.
The first part of the evening,,which was called “It’s my right to draw” was an initiative by CDL; they had encouraged children to draw cartoons to promote communication through the visual medium.
As we settled down, Susmit Bose, his fellow-guitaritst (and sometimes, banjo player) Deepak Samson, and a lady from the Viveka Foundation who has been interacting with them, took their places, and Susmit explained how, hailing from a family of north Indian classical musicians (his father was a noted Thumri exponent) he took to the guitar, and wanted always to sing of present-day issues which touched his mind and heart. He had brought out an album called “Public Issue”…and he proceeded to give us a real feast of songs from the album. The lyrics were really excellent, and the music was very Simon-Garfunkel- and Beatles-ish…our generation related to it at once! He sang of children working with dimpled fingers on the loom, weaving carpet under forced labour; of the way daily life makes contradictions of us all; of existence and angst in the urban jungle. His songs reminded me of that gem that I love….”Another day in Paradise”…the same social themes running through them, without naming names or having prickly fingers pointing.
For an hour, he and his fellow-musicians kept us beating time to his catchy melodies and enjoying his sometimes poignant, and sometimes funny, lyrics;and he asked us to sing along with the refrains so that we felt completely that we, too, were part of the evening rather than just a passive audience. “There are certain thoughts I want to share with you…” he began, and went on with songs like “Friend of a friend” (indeed, that describes each and every one of us!)…on to Red Ribbon Express, which was written for UNICEF; “River of Life” , and “Public Issue”, which brought smiles to our faces even as it made us think. Occasionally, he played on the mouth organ too. He had a vivid stage presence and his enjoyment of his own songs was infectious. The three of them made a good singing trio.
Finally, he spoke of how he had defined his genre of music as “urban folk music”…only to realize that more than a century ago, the Baul singers of Bengal had perfected this same art, being roving musicians, who, with their ektaras and bells on their feet, sang of issues like emancipation and widow-remarriage. He concluded his recital with a lovely Baul piece, “Niraakaar Noire Bhojon”.
When he finished, we realized that the good times were not yet over….CDL ,Smriti Nandan and the Viveka Foundation had organized some lip-smacking chat, paav-bhaji and puchka (NOT pani puri!) and the softest rosogollas I have eaten since I attended my friend’s daughter’s Boubhaat in Kolkata last year…with our ears full, we made sure that our tummies were,too!
I didn’t get to asking Susmit if he has a website or an email id…but I ran a Google search and found this link, just before he released his album, “Public Issue”, last year: