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Artists To Watch Out For: Mohini Dey

Young bass prodigy Mohini Dey has been collaborating with Ranjit Barot, Louiz Banks and features on the ongoing season of Coke Studio @MTV

Sharin Bhatti Jul 16, 2012
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Sujoy Dey with his daughter Mohini Dey. Photo: Roycin D’Souza

Fifteen-year-old Mohini Dey sits by the window at her Kandivali house in Mumbai, restlessly working her Ibanez bass. “I have to practice. That’s the only way I will not lose dexterity of my fingers,” says Dey. The young bass guitarist is a sought-after musical prodigy who has been playing with the likes of music composer and drummer Ranjit Barot, sitarist Ravi Chary, jazz musicians Karl Peters and Louiz Banks. A stage performance with tabla maestro Zakir Hussain when she had just turned 10 is another accomplishment on her ever-expanding list of musical achievements.

Somehow, between all the giggling and chatter, Dey manages to sound far older than her age. “I have a lot of responsibilities as a musician. I cannot afford to lose focus. I cannot let my uncles down,” the teenager tells us. Dey’s “uncles,” Barot and Banks have been mentoring the young bassist ever since they were introduced to her by her father Sujoy Dey, a sessions bassist of repute. Barot recalls being stunned watching the then seven-year-old handle a fretless Fender bass like a pro. “The way her fingers moved up and down the guitar amazed me. She was slapping, plucking, sliding with the ease of a professional player. She understood harmonies, which is very rare in a bassist,” says Barot, who spent the next three years training her.

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Barot took Dey under his wing and even featured her on his 2010 album Bada Boom. A natural performer, she soon became a part of Barot’s band on 2011’s MTV Unplugged. “The talent was within her. Her father is an exceptional musician. All I did was help harness her natural abilities,” says Barot. The jazz drummer remembers how she delivered a one-take recording at her first studio session. “The song was “Supernova.” Someone asked me a while later listening to track asking me if that was Matt Garrison [American bassist],” says Barot, “I said, ‘No, that is Mohini and she’s 12 [in 2010].’ She was killing it on the record.”

Dey fits right into a studio setting simply because studios have been almost like a second home while growing up. Dey remembers how she tagged along with her father every time he was called for a recording session. As a kid, Mohini remembers very little of doing anything else but learning how to play the C major scale. “That was a tough benchmark to cross, but once I got a hang of it, I really did not want to do anything else,” says Mohini.

Jazz pianist Louiz Banks sounds equally impressed by the young bassist. “Sujoy had been talking about introducing me to his daughter who played bass. I was expecting a child in the raw, but here I found a true prodigy,” says Banks, who roped in Dey to perform with him two years ago. “I would like to record with her someday. She’s a real talent,” adds Banks.

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When not in school or on stage or in a studio, Dey spends all her time at home listening to jazz greats such as Jaco Pastorius and Chick Corea. “I love funk. The rhythm is infectious,” she says, “I also noticed that if you play funk then you can improvise really well.”

Currently, Dey is busy recording her own compositions with her father. “He keeps encouraging me to write new melodies and I find that challenging. But it’s also a lot of fun because it keeps me hooked. I would like to form a band someday with my dad and my younger sister who is learning Carnatic music,” says Dey.

Watch Mohini Dey performing with Hitesh Sonik, and Jyoti and Sultana Noora on Coke Studio @ MTV


 Catch Mohini Dey perform with Nitin Sawhney this month on Coke Studio @ MTV, 7 pm. Dey also performs with Suchitra Pillai at Blue Frog on August 14th, 2012.

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