A conversation, on music and how a single instrument can transform a life from being ordinary to living with an intent, was due until we had a tete-a-tete with guitar maestro Amyt Datta.
What could be the apt definition of music for a person practicing it for more than four decades and imbibing it as a unique form? “It’s a big question with a very big answer,” Datta laughs at the beginning of this discussion that went on to become a mini guidebook for aspiring musicians finding it difficult to make a choice between their passion and work.
Known for his quintessential style with the six-string and backing it up with a body of work that can be envied, Datta, relaxed in his laidback south Kolkata apartment, is otherwise more vocal with his instrument. He delves deep into the psyche of a potential musician in India and how the Indian society still remains a cynic in terms of embracing world music.
“Like music, if you look at life, we are living in Kolkata or India but we don’t live a life only concentric to that city. It has become a life which is like this one global community and to my mind, we should not stop that, we should embrace that. Music is also like that,” Datta said while talking about something that he calls the ‘one world sound’.
The music scene in India and especially in Kolkata has seen a sea change since Datta chose music as his work and passion. He talks about the society being choosy and calling western music “not a part of our culture” and also asserts that pursuing music as a profession is equally difficult in New York or London like it is anywhere in India. However, maybe the scene is better now. While we witness gradual shutting down of pubs and cafes with independent music, the western countries might have a better outlet for upcoming musicians to express.
There would be many who might have wondered, why he didn’t leave Kolkata, or Calcutta, as Datta would like to say. He is absolutely unapologetic about his choices. “It’s not like that. I love Calcutta and it is my city, I never thought any other way. I have been here, I have learned things and yes there were people who asked me to leave Calcutta and join them in places where it was more happening; however, it didn’t happen somehow, “ Datta was poised until he started addressing the second part of the same question. “I am not too sure, but maybe because I stayed back in Calcutta and because I was less busy and was not part of the rat race, I had the time in my headspace to have a voice of my own,” he muses.
He points at the guitar fretboard and says, “You have to corner yourself to find yourself. I had to take the time out to think and discover this, you know, this is larger than the Amazon!”
While sharing allegories from his childhood and how a simple dodge on the ninth note might have taken him a couple of years, Amyt Datta remained firm while he spoke about the perception in the society and how misinterpreted notions linger the minds of so-called ‘rock stars’ in the country. Talking about the authorities being more supportive and the society being more open to changes and embracing new forms, Datta was rather deep in his belief and stern in his approach. Now, as he would still spend his afternoons learning and appreciating his love of life, a romantic journey with the six-string is perhaps half-baked in words, papers and confined spaces like these, but what remained unsaid or undocumented will still be blowing in the wind.