Singer-songwriter Anushree Gupta, feels that music is her life. The other half of Sukanti and Anushree – the duo band from Kolkata – she says that their group’s music is trying their bit to change the world. Though Anushree studied Mass Communications in Mumbai, mainstream journalism was never her calling. So she decided to follow her heart and pursue music professionally.
Anushree spoke about her life and her journey as a musician.
Anushree started training in Hindustani classical music and Rabindra Sangeet when she was six years old and continued till she was 14, under the aegis of Veena Chaudhari. “I love Ustaad Alla Rakha’s compositions. Though I grew up on a lot of 70s rock and roll. I love CSNY, Yard Birds, and Beatles. In those days, music was available on cassettes only, and they were expensive back in 2000,” says she.
Later, Anushree got interested in folk music because according to her folk is the source of music in the world. She decided to delve deeper into it: “I started with Baul because it is folk music from Bengal. I also delved into folk from Punjab, Gujarat, and Rajasthan. Then we formed our band. I am one half of the electronica-acoustic duo Sukanti and Anushree. And we do music in our own space”.
The music duo fuse electronica with folk to create their brand of music: “The way we approach electronica, is very psychedelic, and very trippy! It is useful, energetic, and engages with young people to give them a spiritual lift. That is what Stoned Caravan, our second album, is going to be about.”
Recently, she has written a song called Dupa (which means two-feet) for her women friends who try to cling on to someone or something because they are scared of loneliness. She says the song is about breaking free from the fear of loneliness: ”Even if it is a bad thing it is okay! There is dirt in your hand, throw it, and plunge towards the darkness. Being alone is better than questioning your self-respect every day. Enjoy a cup of coffee by yourself without anyone coming and patting your back. ”
Sukanti and Anushree’s first album was Ashmaan. It had eight original numbers written by Anushree, and composed by the two. It even got nominated for the Radio Mirchi Music Awards 2014 in the category of album of the year.
“I come from an upper-middle class family but my father is from a humble background and has seen a lot of suffering. Thankfully I am self-made. In college, I have been on scholarship and taken care of my own expenses. I did my graduation from St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai, through a loan that I cleared last year,” says Anushree.
But even then there were family hurdles to overcome before she plunged into her musical career:”I had to convince them and communicate my dream to them. Even if you are unable to convince them you have to make them come to terms with it. That is what I did. ’I will do this’ I declared firmly.”
Initially, she says that her father was upset with her decision as she is a good student. He had worked his way up and could not understand anyone throwing away a serious career. But things changed when he saw her onstage: “He told me that I needed a lot of practice. Even though I was rehearsing for seven hours everyday and came home sweating. I am very happy that my father has respect for my music and work. That is all I’ve wanted from my father.”
But it was not always so. She remembers that once her father had told her – “What are you doing? Baul music? I’ll see how long you can do that!!” This upset Anushree because of the lack of respect for her decision but at the same time she wanted him to understand her choice. So, ever a letter-writing addict, she penned a four pager to him: “I wrote everything in it – exactly what is in my head, what I am, what I wanted, what I was doing, and how I looked at music. The last line was somewhat like this “Baba, if you are with me, it will be a great journey. I will feel like you are on this side on the stage with me. If you are not, then this show will go on. Just that I will miss you! You must know that I am doing this with all my heart and I love doing it.”
Needless to say the letter won over her father.
Anushree was a gold medalist in college. And naturally her parents asked — “You are so good at studies, then why music?” To that question her answer was: “Did you want me to be an uneducated musician?”
Anushree, who is now a music teacher at a school called Baleganj Shiksha Sadan, feels fortunate to have got a good education. Says she: ”Education gives you the perspective, if you really take it. And you can take in what you want from your education and pour it out into art. That is where the magic begins.”
Education and music
Anushree counts being a teacher as one of the best things that have happened to her:
Music has always tried to educate people and bring about a positive change in the world. Musicians love peace. Music is a source to spread love and honesty. People have to stop discriminating on the basis of sex or color, and respect people for who they are.
Many educated people feels Anushree do not apply their learning to life: ”There has to be a set of people who think otherwise. Only then musicians will make songs; and painters will paint what they want the world to look like. That is what art is all about – an honest attempt to share an experience.”
Gigging throughout the year, Anushree feels that travel makes you grow: “It makes you grow at an unimaginable rate, not in age, but in spirit! One sees so much. Life is always full of surprises and nothing more than travel makes you realise this.”
Message for women
Anushree would like women to stop gossiping about other women and respect them for what they are: “Respect yourself. Let the other person be the way she is. Stay connected. Be friends and look at men the way you look at women. The same goes for men too. Just be in love. My message to all both men and women — enjoy life and help each other out.”