Indrani Mukherjee, with her melodious voice and exceptional artistic temperament, captivated hearts of audiences during her current maiden tour of the United States. After one of her performances, she spoke to Pritha Roy of India America Today about her life, her passion, and a difficult but rewarding path making a living playing music.
Is this your first time in the US and what is your reaction to the audiences here? Are they different from those you encountered in other parts of the world or in India?
A: Yes this is my first time in the US. I have performed in San Diego, Boston, Buffalo, Charlotte, Virginia and Washington, DC.
In all the venues I got fantastic audiences and got tremendous positive response and appreciation from them.
I have performed in France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and in some Middle east countries like, Syria, Lebanon and Azerbaijan, but I haven’t see so many Indians in the audience and even at Montreal Jazz, mostly all foreigners as audience.
In the US, however, I see mostly Indians as audience.
Where else have you performed around the world? Which is the best experience till now?
I have performed in many important festivals and in concerts in Europe and Middle East. Always it’s great to perform in different countries, new places.
Thanks to God that in all places wherever I have performed, people liked.
It’s always a challenge that in new places where sometime most of the people in the audience have never listened to Indian Classical music, so I try to take them into my music, with the feelings and emotions.
It was also a great experience while creating and performing with Erik Truffaz and Malcolm Braff for our Benares project (cd from EMI-Blue Note).
Performing in Damascus for Oriental Landscape Festival and in Baku, Azerbaijan for Mugam Festival was a fantastic experience, I was the only representative from India. Beside my name it was written: INDIA, so that was really a great feeling.
Also I have conducted vocal workshops to the beginners and also to the professional musicians in France, Germany, Ali Akbar College Of Music (Basel, Switzerland) and Damascus (Higher Institute Of Music, Syria). I teach in India too - I love teaching.
When did this journey on music path start?
As it was always musical environment at home, my mother, aunt all used to sing so I don’t know when I started singing. I have heard that I have started singing around 3 years of age. When I was around 14 years old, my grandfather, who was my first guru, asked me what is my aim in life? He gave me few days to make my decision and let him know. After a great deal of thinking, I wrote to my grandfather that "AMI GAYEKA HOTE CHAI" (I want to be a vocalist.) So from then my journey started as a musician.
Who has been the most influential person in the learning process?
There is no end to learn in Indian Classical Music. I am still learning, all my gurus are the main influence in my learning process like my grandfather, Sri Sanjib Banerjee, then Pandit Arun Bhaduri, Bidushi Purnima Choudhury, the late Pandit Ramashray Jha Ji, and Bidushi Manju Sundaram Ji.
How will you define music for yourself? What it means to you to make a living with commercial singing and its relation to your inner, more spiritual belief with music at the same time?
I think music itself is keeping me in balance between my professional, personal and family lives. To live my life I need to earn and as a musician this is the only way, but first are my feelings.
When I sing, I always try to go deep inside my music, with my passion, feeling, mood, spirituality and trust. I think when a musician likes or enjoys his or her own music with the perfect feelings and vibes, then it’s sure that audience will enjoy it too.
If I cannot express myself with my music, then people will not like. I think musician’s character and personality reflects in his or her music.
I follow the traditional classical music - with the knowledge from my gurus I try to give it my own feelings and try to present my own music, which could be different from others, even though we sing the same notes.
What is your dream and vision for yourself and your art?
To learn and learn, always it’s a great feeling when I learn new things from my gurus, and with experience also learning a lot, to be a good human being, a good musician, to teach and pass my music to my next generation and also keep on my hobbies, which are photography and painting.
On your personal life, how do you manage the role of mother, wife and performing artist, with travels thrown in?
My family is my biggest support in life as I am very lucky to have a son who is now nearly 8 years old, but understands my work. He is also learning violin and tabla.
My husband is a professional musician too, so I think music is keeping me and my family in balance. As I feel good while touring and performing so do my family, too. They love and pray that I could continue my music - my dream.
What is your advice to aspiring artists and students striving to learn the art?
Trust and honesty are the most important things in music. Also, to learn in the proper way, especially the basics, this is very important, and to know about yourself, to find out from your inside that what do you love and the best thing that you want to do.
If you get your answer, then is perfect, just go ahead, learn and work hard.
What is your message to Indian Americans?
It is an honor to be invited to come all the way from Kolkata to America to sing for them. I have had a chance to meet many Indian Americans during this trip who have shown a wonderful hospitality to me, and I feel very much at home in the Indian community here due to the hospitality and the shared culture.
Indian Americans know how to truly appreciate the music and its subtleties, which is always a great pleasure for the performing artist, and that I have many invitations for a return visit next year and am looking forward to that opportunity very much. I am thankful to them for their appreciation for my music.