Salil Chowdhury Once Shred His Chord Structure to Pieces: Palash Mukherjee

He is widely considered as the undisputed jingle king who has worked in thousands of commercials. Veteran composer Palash Mukherjee has now joined hands with some extremely talented young individuals to come up with his new band Jhankar. In a freewheeling chat with RBN, the veteran composer talks about his career and his plans ahead.

What prompted you to come up with a band after all these years?

Well, I feel there are several areas in Bengali music that are yet to be explored, like a proper short choir. We will celebrate different forms of music with Jhankar. We will rearrange some golden retro music and folk songs with western classical choir. These will be interspread with original compositions.

Most popular Kolkata bands are now more into film music rather than what they started with. How do you plan to take Jhankar ahead?

Yes, I am aware of that. Our debut show is on 15 February. Maybe we will write and compose music for films at a later stage. But we will always retain the band’s identity in whatever music we produce.

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Let us know about your band members

We have Debasree Roy Chowdhury, Aditta Chatterjee, Pujarini Das, Neelabja Sengupta, and Swarup Ganguly in vocals. Debraj Dutta plays the tabla, while Noni Gopal Karmakar is on the octopad. Deep Chakraborty plays the keyboard and Kamal Pal is on dhol. All of them are immensely talented and I am proud to work with them. My son Gourab will play the guitar and will lend his voice as well. He is also helping me in music direction.

Tell us about your career as a jingle composer

It all started accidentally. Back then, I was a member of the radio choir, where I met the legendary composer Salil Chowdhury. There was another singer in the choir who offered me my first work as a jingle composer. It was a radio commercial about an exercise book. The jingle became a big hit and there has been no looking back since. I went on to compose over a thousand jingles, many of which were major hits.

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Which composers have had the greatest influence on your work?

Salilda, undeniably. He was such a powerhouse of talent. He could play several instruments with the same perfection. Salilda’s paperwork regarding his compositions and music arrangement was outstanding. They were meticulously detailed.  Next of course is Abhijit Bandyopadhyay. We were both his disciples.

You have worked closely with Salil Chowdhury. Any memorable incident that you would like to share about the man?

There was this incident that happened during a recording. The best music arranger at that time was arranging one of Salilda’s songs. He gave him the complete chord structure. When the arranger was finished with it, Salilda snatched the paper from him and shred it to pieces. He rewrote the entire structure from a scratch. Such was his genius.

Any interesting information about your colleagues in the industry?

I worked closely with Abhijit on several projects. At one point in his career, Abhijt used to write two songs every day. I once asked him, why he did this? Abhijit said, it helps him to be in the habit of writing songs. That aside, V Balsara was like my elder brother. He used to call my parents maa and baba. He was one of the most versatile musicians I have ever known and could play almost all instruments with equal finesse. He was unbelievably fast in writing notations. Then of course is Shibaji Chattopadhyay, a great singer. He was a late riser. In fact, sometimes, an extremely late riser (laughs).

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And the memories in your career as a singer and composer?

Well, there have been many memorable incidents over the past four decades that I have been in this profession. I have done few thousand stage shows and it’s really difficult to point out any single incident (smiles). But there was this duet I was once recording with Hemanta Mukhopadhyay for Tarun Majumdar’s film Sajani Go Sajani. Hemantada was also the music director of the film. In the studio, none gave me a headphone before the recording. I was hunting for one. The recording was just about to begin when Hemantada signaled to stop it. He almost shouted at the studio staff for failing to hand me a pair of headphones.

Your achievements

There’s nothing greater than the love and affection that I got from my audience all these years. Jhankar is my dream project and I hope people will love our music in the same way they have loved me all these years.

Pic: Gourab

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Foodie, lazy, bookworm, and internet junkie. All in that order. Loves to floor the accelerator. Mad about the Himalayas and its trekking trails. Forester in past life. An avid swimmer. Also an occasional writer and editor

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