Kolkata Artist Tajdar Junaid’s Music In Emma Thompson-Produced Film
Two tracks from the multi-instrumentalist, songwriter’s debut solo album, ‘What Colour Is Your Raindrop,’ make it to SOLD, directed by Academy award-winning director Jeffrey Brown
One evening, earlier this year, 32-year-old Tajdar Junaid accepted an invitation to perform at an informal gig with a group of musicians from Kolkata including promising new vocalist Nischay Parekh and genre-bending band, Skinny Alley’s guitarist Amyt Dutta and drummer Jivraj Singh. Taj, as the guitarist and songwriter is better known, had just finished recording his debut album What Colour Is Your Raindrop, and almost didn’t show up at the gig, but changed his mind when he realized this would be his first solo gig with his charango, a South American cousin of the ukulele. Taj, who began teaching himself how to play the instrument in 2011, had mail ordered the charango from a luthier in Bolivia and had gone to great lengths to acquire it. “I also needed a breather [after the album recording],” he adds.
The gig was in the interest of bringing a long forgotten art gallery in South Kolkata back to its feet and a motley audience had been gathered together. Among them was Academy award-winning filmmaker Jeffrey Brown, who was shooting his next film SOLD, with actor Emma Thompson stepping in as executive producer, in Kolkata. So moved was Brown by Taj’s performance that he knew right then that he wanted the charanguista’s music for SOLD, a film based on child trafficking. Says Brown in an email, “Tajdar’s charango music broke my heart with its sad beauty the first time I heard it. I love fusion music and hearing someone from Kolkata play a charango, a South American instrument, so beautifully and then mix it with traditional Indian instruments was amazing. I immediately wanted to talk to him about using his music in our film.”
Soon after the show, Brown set up a meeting with Taj and recorded a video of the artist playing the charango to show it to his crew and film producer Jane Charles, who were all as inspired by his music as he was. Adds the filmmaker, “Our film SOLD is about the issue of human trafficking, specifically the trafficking of a 13-year-old girl. We knew that such a dark subject would be challenging for audiences, so a great deal of our work was to bring grace to this brutality to help our audience deal with this global reality. We mainly accomplish this through caring relationships in the film, colorful costumes and beautiful lighting and music. Tajdar’s music is deep, sweet and very pure. It goes straight into the heart.”
When they next met, Taj handed over the unmixed versions of tracks from his yet-to-be-released debut to Brown, who chose two songs for his film. Taj says of these tracks, “The song ‘Dastaan,’ which is the Persian word for story, has no words and a lot of empty spaces that make you reflect on your own story. ‘Prelude to Poland’ is my tribute to one my favorite composers, Chopin.” Brown reveals that both tracks have been used to drive the story of a character named Monica. He adds, “She is so happy because she has earned enough to pay off her debt to the madame of the brothel and return home. Soon, she returns to the brothel. Her family had refused to accept her back— then we find out that she has contracted AIDS. The women of the brothel make a collection to send her off with some money. We play both of Tajdar’s pieces as she is sent off to survive on the streets.” Taj indeed plays both tracks with feeling, conveying a sense of both despondency and spiritedness in equal measure.
Both tunes also befit the serendipitous scenario that brought Taj’s music to Brown. The art gallery in South Kolkata has since shut down, but the role it played in the life of an independent musician, who just released a self-funded album will endure. Says Taj sounding older than his years, “All you can do is be as honest as you can and let the universe do its thing.”
Stream Dastaan here