To be honest, Onkita Banerjee has been able to carve a niche for herself with some mild sounds of memories, as well as mellowed descriptions of feelings in her debut album Rhythm and Raagas. Onkita, wilfully and cautiously, abandons the much traversed path of the Rabindrasangeet style of singing, which most singers try to follow early in their career. It’s quite unlikely for a new artiste to try to develop a gayaki of her own in her debut album.
Onkita’s dissociation from contemporary trends brings all the difference to the album. She does a commendable job in Rhythm and Raagas by developing a common soundscape for all the tracks. Her effortless and captivating style of rendition is largely a rarity in recent times. All the songs of the album leave behind a trail of memories and captivate the mood of the listener.
The first track of Rhythm and Raagas is Sooni Sooni. It is a bilingual track that freely uses both Bengali and Hindi lines and projects a rustic folk allusion. Onkita’s tonal transcendence does the trick. The effect of the song becomes more obvious when Onikta smoothly alternates between the two languages. The next track Kon Banke has a different effect than the first track because of the sarangi pieces and electro beats.
Kuch Door has a reprising and soothing feel with the flute, mouth organ and fleeting rhythms of the ghattam weaving magic. In Beetein Who Din, Onkita acknowledges Hariharan’s famous ghazal Kaash as the inspiration, on the album cover. Strangely however, the track sounds more similar to Srikanto Acharya’s Musafirana than Hariharan’s.
A self-confessed fan of Rekha Bharadwaj, Onkita adopts her style of rendition in some places. It’s a commendable effort for a new artiste. Most of the songs in Rhythm and Raagas are hummable, even long after you have listened to them. There’s a reverential feel to at least five of the eight tracks in the album. The sound design by Shameek deserves mention. He has peppered the tracks with a lot of Carnatic style instrumentation. This, again, is a bold a attempt for a debut album. Shameek also lends backing vocals in some of the tracks.
Onkita’s voice has haunting effect which is perfect for the soundscape of this album. But we would like to hear some unplugged numbers from her in her next venture.