Mandolin artiste Kuntal Raj Chakraborty, who hails from Guwahati, delighted Bengalureans recently with melodious yesteryear Hindi film numbers rendered in Kishore Kumar and Mohammed Rafi’s evergreen voices. The artiste, who is much sought out to compose scores and play for Bengali and Assamese film and TV back home, is visiting the city for the first time. “I had heard that it was cosmopolitan and had great weather, now I’m pleased to have experienced it myself,” he says.
The musician also has family here — an elder cousin Deepankar from whom he, literally, picked up the mandolin as a teen. “Back then, when I was 14, I had started learning guitar from Johny Joseph," he recounts. "My brother -- cousin, actually -- brought back a mandolin from some city.” Fascinated with the new instrument, he took it to his guru and, together, they experimented with adapting guitar techniques to the mandolin.
Over the decades, Kuntal Raj has worked with several big names in the Bengal and Assamese film and TV industries, the most popular among them the 2007 release ‘Jatinga Ityadi’.
“I’ve really enjoyed working with Deepak Sharma, a well-known filmmaker in Assam,” he says.Given a chance, he would have liked to play for the Kishore Kumar song 'Tum bin jaoon kahan'. "I love Kishore Kumar and this is my favourite," he elaborates. "Originally too this has the mandolin, and the chord progression is great for an artiste to play around with."
An unlikely friendship South Indian mandolin player Shivram struck up with the Assam native. "I found videos of him on Facebook, got his number somewhere online and called him," says the Bengaluru-based musician. "I called him and we got talking."
Shivram travelled to Guwahati to meet this new-found maestro. "He is such a simple man, but his technique is superb," he says. "So I had invited him over too, and here he is." Once back home, Shivram spoke to N S Prasad, the founder of Rangashree Music Academy that promotes the mandolin, about the artiste he had just met, and the concert was arranged.
Kuntal Raj says he has enjoyed a music session with his host and the "mandolin swamy", as he calls Prasad. "Here, the focus is on classical music, and I've picked up some pointers," he offers.
Initially, he adds, he had learnt some Indian classical. "I plan to be back here again soon, and lets see...I’ll play some classical, perhaps even some Kannada composition, next time," he says as he signs off.