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Wah, Taj!

Published Jun 2, 2015, 5:56 am IST
Updated Mar 29, 2019, 12:37 am IST
Junaid also did music for Amazon Kindle
Tajdar Junaid
 Tajdar Junaid
This guy with a Charango strings together stories from the past, effervescent with spurts of artistic brilliance and a voice that mesmerises, almost tranquil in its essence. Yes, Tajdar Junaid, the musician who’s debut album What Colour Is Your Raindrop was given the best album moniker by Rolling Stones is a sum of all experiences and melodies. In the city to perform on June 5 at the Humming Tree, he gets candid with us.
One of Kolkata’s favourite musicians, Tajdar, who now performs all over the world is known for channelising the essence of the city into his tunes. He has worked his music on Emma Thompson’s Sold and enthused, note by note, the minds of various film makers. About his fondness for the Charango, a South American folk instrument, it’s probably the 10 string beauty, its complexity, a musical journey Junaid enthralls in, “It is tuned as G, C, E, A, E. It has helped me open newer musical avenues in my mind,” he says. On the Rolling Stones accolade, he feels, “It’s great to know your work is recognised and respected. With each accolade, I know there is so much more to do and learn,” says the artist.
Music left its own mark on Tajdar as a child, “I was 13 and my cousin played Led Zeppelin’s No Quarter followed by Whole Lotta Love. And I was hooked for life. My heart stopped and I got sucked into the speakers. I knew something special was happening — some weird voodoo and a high, I didn’t question it. Today, when I am uninspired, I become a 13-year-old kid looking for that feeling, realising the power that music commands. You just submit to it. No questions asked. The next bolt was when I was 28 and heard Ustad Ali Akbar Khan. I was going through a lot of turmoil in life with too many questions in my head about identity and my role as a musician. And his music completely untied the knot in my head,” explains Tajdar.
Junaid is almost Picasso-esque in his searching, as the soul of his symphony comes from a myriad inspirations, “My debut album is a personal photograph of what has inspired me. I like the serenity of Indian classical, the textural chaos of Sigur Ros. I like the gap between notes of Chopin and I also dig Albert King’s wails. I also love the innocence of Iranian cinema, I am amazed by Haruki Murakami’s wicked imagination.
The adventure was to put all these emotions and colours together and have a bucketful of fun too. What Colour Is Your Raindrop has 20 musicians and collaborations from across the globe so it sure has been a party recording it. I am lucky to have good friends and talented musicians such as Anusheh Anadil from Bangladesh, Greg Johnson from NZ/USA, Fred White from the UK band Acoustic Alchemy, Israeli composer Nitzan Sagie and many others embracing these songs,” he explains, of his album that is available on iTunes, and Amazon.
On how his music got into Sold, he explains, “The Academy and Emmy award-winning director Jeffrey Brown heard me play my Charango at a concert while he was shooting the film in Calcutta. He liked what he heard. Later, he asked for more of my music. I gave him my yet unmixed album. The crew went back to USA and found two songs, Dastaan and Prelude to Poland that fit the scenes. Jeffrey didn’t need to brief me as I wasn’t composing watching the scenes. Luckily, it worked the other way round,” smiles the musician who has worked with Aparna Sen, Rituparno Ghosh, Anurag Kahsyap Productions among others. “Each film maker has his own take on music and how it effects a scene. Music shouldn’t overpower the emotion in a film — that’s crucial. I have been a part of OSTs for an Australian film Waiting City, Rituporno Ghosh’s Memories in March and Aparna Sen’s Iti Mrinalini and a few others,” he ambles on.
Mohsen Makhmalbaf's film The President also sees Tajdar at his explorative best. “I got in touch with him after seeing and falling in love with his films, specially The Silence. I sent him my music out of pure respect. Little did I know I’d be doing music for him,” he reveals.
Now, straddling his music and mystic need for depth, Tajdar is working on an exciting film project and his next album, where he explores what excites him — music, cultures and forms of art. “I have recently composed music for a TV advertisement for Kinley which has Papon singing. I’m quite happy with it, as it lets me utilise my influences from Raj Kapoor's music,” he adds.
His band too is a sum of some varied experiences, he says, “This is a new band formed with my friends in Calcutta — Jivraj Singh on drums — someone I know from the time he hadn’t started playing drums, Nischay Parekh, on bass, is my oldest student and I’m extremely proud of his musicality, Dwaipayan Saha on percussions is a close friend. I have been wanting to combine percussions and drums, just the textures marrying one another is a high. The performance will have lot of spaces between notes and a rearranged What Colour Is Your Raindrop.”
Junaid also did music for Amazon Kindle. And now he aspires to create an album with his favourite musicians —  Ustad Shahid Pervez, Zakir Hussain, Toumani Diabtete, YoYo Ma. “I wish I could add Ustad Ali Akbar Khan and Bismillah Khan to it,” says the musician who loves going on long walks to rejuvenate his artistic temper, and can’t wait to lie on grass and stare at the clouds, and forming patterns. Succinctly, put, in his own words, “I’m a dreamer!”