Joydeep Mukherjee is a multi-instrumentalist and performer who is taking the legacy of the Senia Shahjahanpur Gharana ahead in all its fretless instruments after Pt. Radhika Mohan Maitra. He is the reviver of extinct instruments and a voracious composer cum experimenter of Indian music.
Joydeep Mukherjee has been recently bestowed with the prestigious Sangeet Natak Akademi’s Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar award for the year 2019. On 26th February, 2023, in the 98th episode of Mann Ki Baat, Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi mentioned his name and explained his work in a detailed manner to the citizens. I spoke to Pt. Mukherjee learned about his musical journey.
Q. Congratulations on the SNA Yuva award and for your wonderful achievement in restoring the Sursingaar instrument about which the Prime Minister also spoke in his radio address. But before we start, please tell us about your musical journey?
A. I do not belong to a Gharana. My family has music lovers but no one is a professional musician. So, I am a first-generation. My Guruji Pt. Pranab Kumar Naha was not a reputed performer but has vast knowledge. He studied under the legendary musician Late Pt. Radhika Mohan Maitra for about 22 years. He used to come to my Behala’s residence to teach Sarod & Sitar to my paternal uncle and aunt. On the day of Saraswati Puja in 1987, my Sarod training started under Pt. Naha and since then I have been under his tutelage.
Q. Did music affect your studies or did your parents feared that you will lag academically?
A. Not actually. Infact, it boosted my studies. I had a brilliant academic record throughout my student life. I cracked JEE and become an Engineer in Information Technology with first class Honors. I got admitted in the prestigious Symbiosis, Pune and did my MBA, secured a silver medal. Later I even got hired by one of the top marketing research and consulting firms of the world and serviced top FMCG companies of the world for 11 years before venturing out full time into music.
Q. How did you manage life between these two opposite fields?
A. Honestly, I do not know – it was completely due to the blessings of my Guru and parents. I worked 17-18 hours a day and yet never left my Riyaz. I kept a spare instrument in the security guard’s room and would practice whenever I got time off. When I attained some seniority at my work place, I had to travel for days for meetings or conferences. I would note down compositions as and when they came to my mind. And during my off days I used to forget the world and just do hours and hours of Riyaz. Luckily, I have a wife who is extremely cooperative and understanding else my music would have gone for a toss.
Q. When did you realize it was time to say bye to the corporate world?
A. When I started getting invited to a lot of concert organizers and got my AIR gradations, ICCR Empanelment etc., I realized I can take the risk to venture out in music full time. The decision was not an easy one. A handsome amount of salary was coming to my account every month. I was married with a kid. I consulted everyone in family. They supported me and I resigned. I bid good bye to the company I had served for 11 years in March 2019.
Q. How has it been as a full-time musician?
A. The years since I became a full-time musician have been extremely satisfying and rewarding. I am learning every day. Before I turned to music full time, I was also working to revive some rare instruments of India since 2015. Post leaving my job I started to focus and devote more time to this field. At the same time, I kept increasing my Riyaz time. I also started to improvise on my existing music. I have been working closely with instrument makers – focusing on improving the sound quality, experimenting on hardware, researching, and studying the music of stalwarts.
Q. Can you please tell a little more about a special project that you have been working on?
A. My other Guru, Pt. Debasish Sarkar, who is a tabla wizard of the Farukkabad Gharana, asked me to work on Rabindra Sangeet. Hence, I started this wonderful project of Metamorphosis of Tagore’s songs into Bandish-es.
Tagore experimented a lot with Shashtriya Sangeet and had gone deep into the raagas and had found some unique & unusual chords in many raagas. The taala or tempo of the original song might get changed but the tone and feeling of the song is kept intact. The song might be in slow dadra but the transformed bandish is in drutteentaal and whenever the bandish will be played, people can follow the song as the bandish flows. A total of 30+ such popular songs of Tagore have been metamorphosed so far and an album will come up shortly.
Q. What are your future plans?
A. I am lucky that the Honorable PM mentioned me and that Sangeet Natak Akademi has bestowed their prestigious Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar to me, but this is just the beginning. I am still a student of music and every day I try to learn something new. I have the hunger to perform better and better. Every day I wake up and think how I can improve my music. The best is yet to come. I am getting the support of a lot of people and I need that so I can serve my country, my music.
Suman Doonga is an educationist and social worker with a passion to preserve and promote Indian art and culture.