Hejira world music radio show host Jeff Spitzer-Resnick recently had the opportunity to interview Susnata Har, leader, guitarist and background vocalist of the Indian fusion band, Gharana Fusion. The band’s other members are: Arnab Roy on bansuri and Argha Dey on tabla, cajon, khamak, kanjira, ghungroo, bols, and vocals.
Click on the SoundCloud link above to hear the audio of the interview. Below is a lightly edited transcript (for clarity.)
JSR: I have Susnata Har in India, who has given me the pleasure of granting me an interview. He’s the leader of the band Gharana Fusion. Welcome, Susnata.
Susnata Har: Hi, Mr. Jeff. It is a pleasure to meet you too.
JSR: I understand you go by Shush.
Susnata Har: Yeah, you can call me Sus.
JSR: Sounds good. And you’re in Calcutta?
Susnata Har: Yeah, I am in Calcutta. It is a hot and humid city, which is our weather now.
JSR: Yeah, I bet. Well, it’s very rainy here but not so hot, which is good. First of all, tell me a little bit about your band.
Susnata Har: Okay. So, our band is called Gharana Fusion, and we started this band way back in 2006. During that time, we didn’t have this idea to start a band. Actually, we just loved to jam around even though I was playing and my percussionist was there, and one sitar player was there. The three of us were just jamming around and just used to play around whatever we used to feel from our heart and emotions.
Slowly, we started playing in friends’ houses and some parties and house gatherings on some holidays. So slowly people started liking our music and this idea came up in our mind to give a name to this band, Gharana fusion.
JSR: What does that mean, “Gharana”?
Susnata Har: So, Gharana actually is an Indian term. It means the specific schooling of teaching music. There are different kinds of Gharanas in India. It is actually from the Indian classical background because Indian classical music and that domain, they have different Gharanas.
But what we think about our current and future is that we love to play. We love to present to the people. It is from our heart and emotions, mother nature, traveling to different cities. All these things influence very much our composing this kind of music.
So this is our own style of music, blending different cultural elements, different rare instruments you have never heard of, unheard rhythm patterns also. So, this is fusion. They know us as Gharana Fusion.
JSR: So let me ask you a couple of things. First of all, what instrument or instruments do you play?
Susnata Har: I play the silent guitar. It is a Yamaha. It is called silent because it is a bodiless guitar and it produces a fantastic electro-acoustic sound, and a very unique sound I have with my guitar.
JSR: And you mentioned you have a sitar player, right?
Susnata Har: No, the sitar is not available right now. We used to have one in the initial days of the band’s formation, and I have two more musicians with me, there’s the percussionist playing tabla and cajon, djembe, some cymbals, ghungroo, and the kanjira made from the skin of the monitor lizard.
JSR: Wow. So, those are traditional Indian percussion instruments?
Susnata Har: Yeah. This is a traditional south Indian instrument. Also, we play a folk instrument called khamak. It is made from the skin of a goat. So, these are different instruments you play. And we also have a bansuri player, a flute.
JSR: Is that a wooden flute, a traditional Indian wooden flute?
Susnata Har: Yeah, a traditional Indian wooden flute. So this whole setup actually creates a world music style of sound, actually a fusion music sound.
JSR: Right. So, you sent me some music that we played before the interview. I’m going to play some more, and I noticed a number of the cuts were live. Do you get around India or do you mostly primarily play in Calcutta or maybe even go to other countries to play?
Susnata Har: We actually started from Calcutta. We originated from Calcutta, but we started over the years, getting invitations from different organizations, different arts festivals, music festivals in India. Also, we have traveled abroad for performing concerts. So, we have traveled to Latvia, Armenia, Georgia, West Russia, then Egypt, Oman and United Arab Emirates. A long time back, we composed a background score for a New Zealand based theater organization.
JSR: Yeah, it seemed to me based on what I saw on social media that you’ve got a pretty good fan base.
Susnata Har: You know, this is a story of a struggling band. So slowly, slowly, we built up this fan base and people started liking our music. We started liking playing to different people, different cultures and meeting people. So it happens like that, music is so universal. It connects you to the whole world.
JSR: Absolutely. And have you ever been to the States?
Susnata Har: No, we are very much interested to perform in United States and to perform something unseen and unheard stage acts that you can’t even imagine.
JSR: Well, that would be fantastic. You know, if you ever get to Madison, we’ll definitely want to make sure that you get a good audience. So, what do you have planned for your band’s future? I know you dream of maybe coming to the States, but what’s coming up, let’s say, in the next few months?
Susnata Har: As you know, due to this Corona(virus) for almost two years, we were not having these shows. Because of this shows were cancelled, and festivals were cancelled. We have started getting some inquiries from different college festivals now. And this is the summertime in India right now, the next two-three months will be a rainy summer. So, the events will be a little less. In the end of March, we got a prestigious invitation to play at the historical Red Fort by the Ministry of Culture of India. So that was fantastic, and it’s the most prestigious invitation we have got so far.
JSR: And where is that?
Susnata Har: That Red Fort is in north India, in Delhi.
JSR: That sounds fantastic. And when will that be?
Susnata Har: No, we already participated there.
JSR: Oh, you already did.
Susnata Har: If you see that fantastic photography on our Facebook page, that is from that.
JSR: Nice. It looked like you had pretty good light show going there. too.
Susnata Har: Yeah. They had lots of fantastic light options and all the things, they made it really special that night.
JSR: Fantastic. Did you have a good audience for that?
Susnata Har: Yeah. It was fantastic. After this Corona, everybody wanted to rush out and manage something nice, some music, some cultural events. It was like a fair going on, some food there. On the whole, it was a very enjoyable evening for everybody, for us, for our audience.
JSR: Let me ask you another question. Some musicians have a message to their music. I’m not sure that you do, but if you do, is there a theme or a message to your music?
Susnata Har: Yeah, we definitely have a message through our music actually, and our music combines different elements of life. We start our concert with a composition called “Tides of Time.” We worship the “Mother” entity. So, because we all get started from the womb of our mother that we specify “Mother” as our mother not only biological, but it is mother earth, mother nature, everything in mother form.
So, we start a show or a concert worshiping the mother through our music. This is one part.
Susnata Har: Thank you. Also, our music combines different elements, like harmony among people and care for mother nature, some traditional songs of the village connected to the river and also the universal power because everything is connected with our music.
The message we have with us is to celebrate life in a good way, not to fight with each other in an immature way; we should always, all of us should be as friends, help each other, support each other. Love music, love poetry, love literature, love life, love different places. Enjoy life! Why? Because we are born once in our lifetime. So, not to waste a single second. Let’s enjoy it to the ultimate form with everybody in a friendly way.
JSR: That’s a fantastic message. I know you’ve had a lot of conflict in your country, and we’ve had a lot of conflict in our country as well. Is there any particular message you might like to give as we wrap up this interview to our listeners on the Hejira world music radio show?
Susnata Har: I hope that your audience will be enjoying the kind of music we produce, the style we play. We generally love the U.S. from our childhood. Also, we Indians are very respectable about the U.S., and we are very good friends and let’s enjoy together. That is our message. We enjoy your music, your style, your orchestration of your country, live guitars and everything. I really praise it, like, fantastic. You also have some new music in your years from some of the unheard instruments and rare instruments.
JSR: Well, thank you so much for that beautiful message and sending me your fantastic music. Let’s listen to some more music of Gharana fusion. Thanks again, Sus. Take care.
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