Soumik Datta was 14 when he first found his grandmother's sarod in the house, and since then, he has been hooked on to it. "That was when I learned music was in my family," says Datta, the London-based sarod player who is in India for Circle of Sound — a string of concerts along with Australian drummer Bernhard Schimpelsberger. Eager to master the instrument, he first trained under Pandit Budhdhadeb Dasgupta — "guruji" as he calls him — and later at the Trinity College. "I did my masters from Trinity and got into orchestration," says the 29-year-old.
That is where the seeds of his contemporary style, which has a strong base in classical music, were sown. "There is a difference between contemporary music and fusion. A lot of people define contemporary music as change. My perspective is that it is music where every decision has a purpose. The intention is to create a whole instead of parts," he says.
Datta has also developed an electro-acoustic sarod that offers him a wider emotional range to produce on the instrument. "It has bass and distortion like a guitar," he explains. Schimpelsberger has also invented an instrument called Bayan-bass drum, a combination of tabla and drums.
Datta says Schimpelsberger listens to a lot of western contemporary music, along with Indian classical music. "Pandit Nikhil Banerjee inspires me," Datta adds. He says his collaboration with Schimpelsberger explores how new music can be created "with the texture of drums and sarod." Apart from Schimpelsberger, his other collaborations include eminent choreographer Akram Khan, sitarist Anoushka Shankar and bands such as Samay. "Collaborations are about a human connection first and then a musical one. My bonds have also developed in the same order," he says.
A project that close to his heart is the music he composed for the film Life Goes On, directed by his mother Sangeeta Datta. "As a musician of this era, you are bound to explore all the platforms you can. It helps you understand your instrument better," he says. Giving a peek into his future projects, Datta says concerts with Schimpelsberger, Khan and Shankar are lined up.