Rocking a harmony

Young talent

Rocking a harmony

She is 18, extremely confident and knows that she has the talent to scale the heights. One doesn’t even get offended by her cheekiness as she casually, in a matter of fact tone, says, “You may not be able to understand as I am talking about jazz!”

The teenager isn’t audacious. It’s her hard work that has made her the top woman bass guitarist in India, having played with A R (A R Rahman for us), Ranjit uncle (Ranjit Barot), Zakir sir (Zakir Hussain), Taufiq Qureshi, Stephen Devassy, Sivamani, Aditya Kalyanpur, Suchismita and others.

“I enjoy it. Music is my life now, and because of music, I dropped out from first year in college. I decided that Commerce, my subject in college, and music didn’t gel!” says Mohini Dey, the Mumbai-based bass guitarist. Her passion for music can be easily gauged by her latest update on her Facebook page. It says, “Having a killer time in Chennai at the rehearsals for the North American tour with A R Rahman and band.”

Popular demand

Mohini speaks in a language typical of an upmarket teenager, punctuating each sentence with a ‘yep’, ‘hum’ and seems to be in a tearing hurry. “I am rushing for my rehearsals. I am performing with my trio band today in Mumbai and later with Ranjit uncle. Then I fly to Singapore to play with Shankar Mahadevan and then I fly back to Chennai to start rehearsals with Rahman for our North American trip of 18 places like Toronto, New York, Vienna etc. You can find the details on Google,” says the girl who also informs that she is her own dress designer and in fact many a time tailors her own clothes for the show.

Her tryst with the world of music, and especially with bass guitar, started when she was just a three-year-old and heard her bass guitarist father Sujoy Dey play. Even though she has Hindustani classical music vocalist Romia Dey as her mother, she got hooked on bass guitar and once she started, hasn’t stopped playing since. In fact, she started playing in concerts since she was 10. Adding to her enthusiasm was her father introducing her to drummer, composer, music arranger Ranjit Barot. She credits Barot and her father for her successful music career. Impressed with the youngster’s precision with the bass, Barot featured her in his album Bada Boom and made her a part of his band on MTV Unplugged. She has been part of Coke Studio for two seasons and one was with Rahman where she performed with the maestro’s sisters, Rayhanah and Issrath Quadhri, Sivamani, Suchismita and others. Her association with Rahman continues.

When she was just 13 years old, through Barot, she got a chance to perform with Zakir Hussain at Prithvi Theatre in Mumbai. “My father took me to Prithvi Theatre with my guitar on getting a call from Ranjit uncle. When I saw Zakir sir checking the sound system, I just couldn’t believe that I was going to perform with him,” recalls the teenager who till today sounds incredulous about that moment.

Love for rhythm

Ask her whose music she listens to when she isn’t rehearsing or playing, she rattles off several international names like guitarists Victor Wooten, Jaco Pastorius, Abraham Laboriel, Mark King, Tom Kennedy, Marcus Miller and keyboard player Herbie Hancock. She explains that as a bass guitarist she enjoys the freedom that instrument gives her for experimenting with notes. “I love listening to percussion like drums and tabla and then I make it a point to play the same on my bass. Basically, I love rhythm.”

In her journey with her bass, though she has never attended any formal music classes or studied it, on her “job” she has learnt to create music. She can write it. “I do need to write my music to help my other band mates to play along with me.”

Next on her agenda is to bring out her own album. She has already started work on it. But, at present, it’s North America, Rahman and concerts on the mind of young Mohini.


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