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Super Smokin’

Ashu and Dhruv are jiggling multiple projects

Bobin James Jul 10, 2008
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Considering Dhruv Ghanekar and Ashutosh Phatak have been composing music as a duo ”“ varyingly as Ashu & Dhruv, or as Smoke ”“ for a bit now, it’s rather ironic that it’s so hard to get both of them together for an interview. We didn’t ”“ and had to do the interviews over two sessions. But their being busy is completely understandable, too ”“ they have their fingers in a lot of pies.

After having composed the soundtracks to movies like Snip, White Noise and Bombay Boys, next up is a slightly more mainstream Bollywood project ”“ Abhishek Bachchan-starrer Drona. But expect anything but the mainstream on this one. “There are more open-minded people than there used to be. People making Bollywood films now are people who have watched other kinds of movies. So it’s much easier to work with them,” says Phatak, who is also working on a couple of solo albums ”“ including a rock opera ”“ simultaneously. In terms of scale, Drona is miles away from the advertising films that the duo usually compose for. “Films take a lot of patience. It could go on for years. Advertising is the exact opposite”¦ it’s like a quickie,” explains Berklee grad Ghanekar, who with his band Chakraview, was amongst the earliest individuals to play original music in the country.

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The duo has, as Smoke (also the name of their production house), just released an album, Smoke Signals. An album that they first started working on about 8 years ago, Smoke Signals is “a twisted view of India through our eyes,” according to Phatak. So you have a Bengali jazz song that sounds like it’s sung in French, you have a thumri that is fed on considerable amounts of distortion and you have a traditional Naga folk song with African drums on it. “We took the different influences we had and tried to marry those with an Indian sound,” says Ghanekar. The album was one of the first albums to be released on the Blue Frog label at which both are founding partners, along with a few more likeminded friends.

“The label was actually the third thing we tried to shove into this whole palette of companies we were starting,” says Phatak – the first two were the music production company and the nightclub. But as it turned out, it was the nightclub that took off first. Today, Blue Frog hosts live acts six nights a week, and has established itself as the place to go to for live music beyond the regular rock. “I might want to listen to a slightly different sound and there’s nobody who addresses me. There’s not enough space for stuff that’s ten degrees off-centre,” says Ghanekar, explaining the logic governing their decision to set it up. And Blue Frog manages to create this very space. The club has hosted acts as varied as Austrian beatboxers Bauchklang (who incidentally have done a piece for Drona); the electronica lads from Delhi, Jalebee Cartel; India’s original bluesmen, Great Society; multi-Grammy winning banjo player Bela Fleck and jazz-fusion guitarist John McLaughlin, amongst others.

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