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Interviews |  13 Dec 2017 13:32 |  By Mihir Samant

I feel incredibly fortunate and blessed to have been a performing musician: Ranjit Barot

Ranjit Barot falls in the rare class of musicians. He is a successful score composer, music director, singer and an exceptional drummer.

Born to eminent Kathak dancer Sitara Devi, Barot chose music as his career and gave himself no reason to regret this decision. He has had an association with almost all the leading musicians starting from Kalyanji- Anandji, AR Rahman, U. Srinivas, L. Subramaniam, Zakir Hussain and many other known names. He was termed as ‘one of the leading edges in drumming’ by guitar legend John Mclaughlin.

Barot has been a part of some superhit Bollywood movies like Fiza, Main Hoon Na, Aks, Shaitan, Tashan and many more. He is also known for his work in the musical show MTV Unplugged.

The composer is all set to perform at the Serendipity Arts Festival 2017, happening in Goa which will be an eight-day festival held in the month of December this year.

How excited are you to perform at the Serendipity Arts Festival?

I’m always excited when presented with an opportunity to showcase unique talent or an idea based on a musical ensemble. The fact that SAF has taken it upon themselves to be torchbearers of an otherwise dying tradition gives me great courage and hope.  

Which instruments will be a part of your performance at the festival?

Well, it’s not so many instruments but artists that are the focus of my presentations this year, as I will not be performing myself.

We have the wonderful duo of Shadow and Light from Delhi, to which I’ve added Manas on violin and Shikhar, son of Taufiq Qureshi, on percussion, and Esani Dey, guitar prodigy. The idea is to see the impact of these young versatile instrumentalists on the electronic soundscape that is the foundation of the writing.

Then there’s the Harlem Jazz event, featuring the Dallas Horns and the legendary pianist Louiz Banks. They will trace the origins and history of jazz from the clubs of 1920s Harlem and to the present.

And lastly, Stars in a New Sky, my reinterpretation of the repertoire of some of today’s YouTube stars.  

Which was your first musical assignment?

As a drummer, I have been playing with the leading bands of the day from the age of 16. My first recording session for a movie was with Kalyan ji and Anand ji in the early 80s. As a composer, it was an ad film for Kailash Surendranath sometime in the mid-80s.  

You have been working for past four decades and you have worked with almost all legendary composers. How does it feel to have such a great and wonderful journey?

I feel incredibly fortunate and blessed to have been a performing musician since the age of 17, and I don’t take my life for granted. I’ve always strived for excellence; I suppose this is something I inherited from my mother. She was always creatively restless and I’m happy to have inherited this aspect too. This is the only way to move forward and stay relevant with the passage of time and the changing cultural landscape.

How did Commonwealth Games happen to you?

I was approached by my dear friend Bharat Bala, who always had faith in my abilities as a composer and producer. It was a mammoth task and I couldn’t have done it without his guidance. I learned so much by meeting various folk and tribal musicians. I barely scratched the surface of the wonderful music that exists in our country. I want to now dedicate myself to unearthing these treasures.  

You have also been the music producer of MTV Unplugged.

It was a huge task in terms of the time needed to complete the music. The first season was nine episodes, six songs per episode and they had to be rearranged completely. The second season saw AR Rahman perform and I had so much fun working on his material. I think all the artists were very easy to work with, considering I was taking some of their biggest hits and changing them completely.  

Tell us about your upcoming projects.

The biggest project I undertook a year ago and which came to fruition on this 25 October 2017 was the launch of our very own live music venue in Mumbai, The Quarter, on the premises of the iconic Royal Opera House. This is essentially a Music Club venue, which will feature the finest local talent and an international star or two, once every month, along with larger shows on the Opera House stage. It’s a labour of love but a very exciting venture to be a part of. The aim is to elevate the standards of live music performance in our city and to expose audiences to the finest artists there are. Coupled with a restaurant, wine bar and all day cafe, we aim to create a cultural hub, a multi-layered destination to speak.

On the music front, I want to do a large East-West ensemble featuring some of the music I’ve been writing over the last few years. It’s an expensive project and one that will require funding, so I’ll start the process once my tour with John Mclaughlin and the 4th Dimension is over in December. I also have a vocal project featuring me as a singer singing songs I’ve written, some current and some old. This should be on air by early next year.  

What else is Ranjit Barot doing other than music?

Trying to understand Ranjit Barot further, learning music and spending time with my family.