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Tajdar Junaid: ‘Playing Live is Just Being on the Edge’

The Kolkata-bred musician talks about life in Mumbai, being nominated for his score to the film ‘Mukti Bhawan’ and going acoustic

Anurag Tagat Feb 03, 2018

Tajdar Junaid at the Ziro Festival 2014 | Photo: Pranab Doley

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When guitarist and composer Tajdar Junaid says it’s been about two and a half years since he moved from Kolkata to Mumbai, he’s quick to add “there was no plan as such” with the transition. He adds, “Who knows tomorrow where it leads to? Right now, it’s here and I hope to make the best of it.”

Junaid released his debut album What Colour Is Your Raindrop in 2013 and went on to tour with band put together in Kolkata, but when he moved to Mumbai in search of more work, he also roped in drummer Rohan Ramanna (currently part of electronic duo LANDS), keyboardist-vocalist Rohan Rajadhyaksha (from alt rockers Spud In The Box), Sarangi artist Sangeet Mishra and upright bass/electric bass player Abhinav Khokhar in the band. Junaid likens interpreting What Colour Is Your Raindrop at live shows to being a theatrical adaptation of a film. He says, “You want to take chances. There’s an audience in front of you that you want to bounce off ideas and energy from.”

Last month at The Humming Tree in Bengaluru, as part of gig series The Gig Week, Junaid and his band held a full-house to complete attention, extending silent spaces between parts and being their evocative best. He’s changing it up again at a special set in Mumbai on February 3rd, featuring acoustic arrangements, Nathan Thomas on bass, an electric piano for Rajadhyaksha and visuals created by photographer Parizad D and artist Nikunj Patel a.k.a. Moebius. The setlist includes the first ever performance of “Aamna,” off What Colour Is Your Raindrop, and a cover of “Lullaby,” written by sarod legend Ali Akbar Khan. He says, “The set will have softer moments. It will have me playing a solo piece on the ronroco, which I haven’t done before.”

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With the Mumbai show sold out, Junaid does want to take his music to more auditorium spaces in the future. The artist’s popularity doesn’t just come from his expressive, stargazing sound on the album. Junaid composed “Kindle the Prayer” for a widely-watched advertisement and scored 2016 film Mukti Bhawan, which gained international acclaim. Closer home, Junaid earned a nomination at the Filmfare awards last month. He says, “It was a surprise. I didn’t know it was entered for the awards. I had no idea until the producer called and told me we were nominated! What I had done was not something that goes around in Bollywood, it was personal to the story and I’m glad it’s recognized.”

There’s more film work that’s come his way, including a Ladakhi children’s short film called Chuskit, for which Junaid picked up a Tibetan lute called dramyin. He says about going to Ladakh to record, “I just locked myself in a hotel room and figured out the instrument and recorded it on my laptop. I got the music back to Bombay and layered it with other instruments.”

While he’s open to working with anyone who can understand his sense of aesthetics and meet on common ground, Junaid does mention he’s concentrating on his next album and performing live. There’ll be new material at the show on February 3rd, and a possible change in direction. Junaid says, “There’s this new pedal I got, and we were fooling around with it in the jam room and there was a lot of electro, ambient stuff coming out, so who knows how it’ll affect our shows. In the studio, you play it safe – this is working and you can do these many overdubs and all. But live, is just being on the edge and giving it all that you have. That’s what the band thrives on.”

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Tajdar Junaid performs at G5A Foundation for Contemporary Culture, Mumbai on February 3rd, from 9 PM onwards. Event details here.

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