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The girl with the guitar

Mohini Dey

Mohini Dey  

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Meet 18-year-old bassist Mohini Dey who is busy preparing for a month-long tour of North America with A.R. Rahman

You really need to have a head for music, don’t you? For, most often, the mop of long, unruly, braided hair many musicians sport, adds drama to a gig. So it is with Mohini Dey. Behind those strands of soft spring-like curls is a young and powerful bass guitarist. From the little that you get to see of her face through the tousled mane, you notice a stoic expression as she explores the spectrum of tunes.

The Indo-western styling of her outfits seems to indicate the divergent moods of her music. Like a true 18-year-old, she explains excitedly, “I particularly like the kurta-over-denim look. Sometimes, I add some shimmer to my unfussy attire with a long, sparkly bindi or big hoop earrings or danglers.”

Mohini performed in the city recently at Nethra Utsav, a fund-raising concert, organised by the Chennai Vision Charitable Trust. “It’s not about drawing attention. I use my image to convey the emotions of my guitar chords,” she says, sounding like a veteran.

Music has never been a pastime for Mohini since she first picked up the guitar as a three-year-old. She was introduced to its sound by her bassist father Sujoy Dey. “I grew up with guitar riffs for lullabies and musical notes to me were like nursery rhymes,” she laughs. “But, I knew this was the world I wanted to belong to. Practice sessions with dad were enjoyable and by age 13, when I began to perform in gigs, it was super fun,” says Mohini, who has been endorsed by Markbass, the Italy-based manufacturer of high-quality bass amplifiers.

Her prodigious talent was noticed and honed by her father’s friend Ranjit Barot, one of the country’s foremost drummers. She began to tour as part of his band and was the chota member of the team behind Bada Boom (Barot’s album).

Mohini also found an endearing mentor in jazz exponent and composer Louis Banks, who helped her find her groove as a soloist and expand her repertoire by not being genre-specific.

And what next? A call from A.R. Rahman’s manager. “It was to play for his Coke Studio tracks. Amazing compositions they were. It was truly a musical high,” says Mohini, who later played at the Berklee College of Music where Rahman was awarded an honorary doctorate. The association with the composer continued with her being the bassist for the a cappella band (NAFS) he founded to promote Indian talent internationally. She soon became a regular at his recordings, including Kochadaiiyaan, and is now gearing up for Rahman’s 17-concert tour of North America next month.

Another important telephone call that she thinks impacted her musical career was the one she received inviting her to perform at one of Ustad Zakir Hussain’s concerts in Mumbai. She’s currently working on her album, featuring well-known Indian and international artistes, and plans to release it by the end of this year.

With most of her time spent on stage and in studios, is it all work, no play and no friends? Her answer is punctuated with a high, fluttering giggle. “My classmates always found me a little weird. I thought so too about them. Anyway, I didn’t have much time to hang around. I do have friends. Even if they are much older, I love being with them. There is Ranjit uncle, Sivamani uncle, Shankar Mahadevan uncle and Louis uncle. Like school and college-goers, we exchange notes.”

After completing her schooling, Mohini gave up academics finding it difficult to balance music and studies. “Once, before an algebra examination, I recorded frenziedly all through the night at A.R. Rahman’s studio. It was stressful. I realised one needs to invest time in something one enjoys doing the most. In a world of creativity and imagination, you definitely cannot live by formulae,” she laughs, as she strums her guitar.

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Printable version | Feb 22, 2019 10:25:51 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/the-girl-with-the-guitar/article7093036.ece

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