I felt the familiar discomfort of attempting to reconnect with a friend, especially one who is now a Bangla pop diva, the ever charming Somlata Acharyya Chowdhury. Fortunately, at the other end of the telephone, I found the same old, shy, demure friend I went to school with many moons back. Here are excerpts from a chat between two friends, who had the good fortune of catching up after ages.
Did she always know her destination?
As someone who knew Somlata during my growing up years, I often find it hard to associate the quiet friend from the livewire on stage. So, I had to ask. Did she always know what she wanted from her musical pursuits?
Her answer was a resounding negative.
“I am not an overnight success; it has taken a long time for me to be where I am today. The industry has so many talented artists, and I did not dare think I will be able to share space with them. But even then without expectations, I kept going. Right strategic moves, at the right times, and a bit of luck, and suddenly, one day I realized things have beautifully fallen into place!”.
Somlata’s family has deep cultural roots. Her parents identified her talent at a very early age, and she was pestered to practice music, while her elder sister passionately pursued academics. Her mother first introduced her to the world of music. Later, Somlata had the good fortune of getting the guidance of Late Pt Biresh Roy, making her foundations of Hindustani classical music rock solid.
“In fact, for a long time I had very limited knowledge of anything other than classical music”, gushes the famous face of the Bengali Music Industry, and the lead vocalist of the band, “Somlata and the Aces“!
I am a Barbie Girl!
So, what nudged her towards commercial music? It was, in fact, the much popular chartbuster from the 90s, Aqua’s “I am a Barbie girl.” The song piqued her childish curiosity regarding popular music. Soon after, she realized she was good at performing voice modulation techniques, like yodeling.
Somlata admits, during her initial stage shows, she was very apprehensive and nervous. But, as they say, there is magic in holding a mic and a guitar, in front of a loving audience! The adulation showered on her by the audience, helped her get comfortable under the spotlight.
“Now I love doing stage shows! My Band is like my family, and stage shows give me the motivation. The instant feedback from the crowd, the applause, the cheering sounds, these are my biggest motivation and things I take back home at the end of the day!”
The initial journey
Somlata completed her academics and joined Ashutosh College as a guest lecturer while continuing her musical endeavors. She started getting small projects in varied media, sometimes as a backing vocal or as a part of a chorus.
A family friend introduced her to a studio where she started getting noticed. It was during the Tsunami Fund Relief program(2005) that she got her first break and performed along with various famous artists, including Usha Uthup. From there she performed in the Musical show Take a Break hosted by Parambrata.
Ranjana Ami Aar Ashbona!
Her first playback success came with “Ichhe Gulo Dichhe Ishara” in the film Cross Connection(2007) by Neel Dutt, that eventually led to her selection by popular music legend, Anjan Dutt, for the vocals of the film, “Ranjana Ami Ar Ashbona.”
Somlata’s husky and melodious voice happened to be a perfect playback for the protagonist, who was playing an upcoming Rockstar!
After “Tumi Ashbe Bole Tai,” a song from the same film, she became a household name in the Bengal. Her band, “Somlata and the Aces” was born in 2011. Her electrifying live performances have made her one of the most coveted “Bangla Band” singers of the present generation
The Unconventional Rabindra Sangeet controversy
Somlata has experienced the flip side of being in the limelight too. She had rendered a Rabindra Sangeet in an Alternative Rock style while donning her casual ‘jean and shirt clad band girl’ avatar. This did not go down well with some traditional Rabindra Sangeet artists and some of the discerning audience. But, the experience did not deter her from taking risks and doing what she wanted to do! And the popularity of her innovative Rabindra Sangeet renditions grew exponentially.
“After my first album, many people wanted me to do a project on Rabindra Sangeet. Initially, I was apprehensive, but after many stage performances and positive responses from my audience, I mustered the courage to work on a Rabindra Sangeet album”.
Riding on the Mor Bhabonare Success
And thus Mor Bhabonare, an album comprising five beautiful Rabindra Sangeet, came into being.
“It’s been a week, and we have received an incredible response. All our copies in Amazon were sold out within a couple of days.”
A couple of songs, Tomar Khola Hawa and Roope tomay Bholabona, are highly appreciated by her fans, while Je rate Mor Duar Guli, was a special demand from her husband, gushed the singer.
Family and Fans!
By the end of our conversation, I was incredibly proud of my friend, the professor, the rock-star and the family woman, straddling many worlds with equal grace, I asked her how she “does it all.” She gave absolute credit to her supporting family, and especially to her husband. Her travel schedules, work locations, work hours, often keep her away from her family. But everyone is very understanding and is equally proud of what she is doing.
Owing to her love for Hindustani classical music, a fusion album is not out of question. Somlata hopes to work on it in the (hopefully) near future. As for now, she is enjoying her music, her performances and just being herself.
Team Blank Slate Chronicles wishes this melodious superwoman all the best! Keep Rocking as you do, while we all wait for your next album!
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