Amrit Ramnath clearly doesn’t think much of the canons of the music world: in his realm, music is many, and to conform to one means losing out on several others.
Son and disciple of the illustrious musician Bombay Jayashri, Amrit is unmistakably influenced by his mother-guru, even as he bears a striking resemblance to her and her singing. Soft-spoken, sincere and passionate, Amrit has a multi-pronged interest in music. Carnatic music surely forms his core, but he doesn’t carry it everywhere — neither in terms of his personal aesthetics nor with respect to music. He recasts himself as the context demands, but what remains a constant in each of his ventures is his desire to give the best.
Sumiran, his latest musical video, is a shabad by Guru Nanak, set to a charming tune in raag Yaman, and shot at an equally charming locale. Both music and video have garnered attention online.
“I’m so excited that you’re interviewing me,” he admits, without trying to behave like a ‘musician’. Amrit will soon complete his Honours in Philosophy from Birbeck, University of London, but in parallel, he is pursuing his music intensely — as singer, instrumentalist, composer, arranger and producer of music videos. How has the response been to his latest video, I ask. “Nothing much, a few responses here and there…,” comes Amrit’s modest reply. “I love to work, so I will keep at it.”
Was music a genetic inevitability? He thinks so. There was an inescapable musical environment at home, with both maternal and paternal families steeped in it. “My father, who grew up in Kolkata, was exposed to a lot of Hindustani music. He sings and is also a violinist. He writes poetry as well. My mother needs no introduction. Both my maternal uncles are accomplished musicians as well.” But the intensity with which he currently pursues his music, Amrit says, is a conscious process. “I realised a few years ago that nothing keeps me going like music does. I decided to make this my journey,” says the young man who schooled at Krishnamurthi Foundation in Chennai.
Exposure to music genres
As a little boy, he was a student of the legendary Lalgudi Jayaraman, on whose suggestion he studied Western classical music. He learnt Carnatic singing from his mother, but became exposed to many genres of music in exactly the same way as his mother. “I can resonate to film music from the 40s to 90s more than I do to the current period. I listen to ghazals and Hindustani music, mostly of maestros like Ustad Salamat and Nazakat Ali Khan, Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan and others. I also love listening to Sirkazhi Govindarajan. Though I respond to other forms, Carnatic music is my core.” For Amrit, switching between forms has never been an issue. “Suppose I am singing a ghazal, I need to get into the shoes of a ghazal singer,” he explains.
In Sumiran, the spiritual song turns into a piece of real-world memories. Serene and reflective, with lovely sitar moments from the well-known Purbayan Chatterjee, the song is beautifully arranged and shot. “It is a song we sang in school. I have been trying to figure this out for a while now — my school days, my interaction with people there, the landscape — how all this came back to me in my moments of solitude, shaped Sumiran. I have been working on this since 2017.”
Amrit seems clearly at ease performing music. “I am very comfortable before a camera. The initial 20-30 minutes is difficult. I enjoy the whole process. Having an aesthetic background, looking good, everything is important for me. Each project has a different aesthetic demand, and I do it meticulously. After all, an artiste has to entertain.”
Amrit has packed days: music classes, practice sessions, his work as a commercial music arranger and composer, making sketches, and a host of other things. Given the range of things he is doing, it is evident that the young and talented man is trying to find his musical route.
The Bengaluru-based journalist writes on
art and culture.