Talking About Music, Creativity and Teamwork

Jan 16 08:42 2008 Sunita Sachdev Print This Article

Finally... here's the interview that I had promised my readers. A detailed one-on-one conversation with Sanjo, where he talks about his music, his style of working, the delightful experience of having Chandrani for a partner, and his future plans.

A long,Guest Posting long time ago, I had promised to publish an interview that I conducted with Sanjo, a marvellously talented musician in India whose debut album I had stumbled upon by sheer chance (please read my earlier article to know how it happened). The reason I took my own time is that I wanted the earlier article to gain some momentum in terms of page views.

So here goes…


Sanjo is a multitalented person in the area of music. He writes English lyrics, he composes, he arranges, he sings, and he produces his own music by playing a mind-boggling array of musical instruments — in fact, everything from keyboards, guitars, bass and flutes to harmonica, drums and percussion. He has an equally versatile partner in Chandrani, who writes Hindi lyrics, composes, sings, harmonises, and also plays a couple of instruments.

So it is anything but surprising that the debut album put out by this duo is fascinatingly rich in music, meaning and moods. The album titled Barson Huey contains ten beautifully composed, lyrically rich songs that stand out as acoustic masterpieces with haunting melodies and intricate instrumentation.

In this interview, I sent a questionnaire to Sanjo which he answered in great detail. Unfortunately, Chandrani was away in London at that time and was not able to participate in the interview. The interview as it appears here is not a reproduction of the Q&A verbatim; instead, I have restructured it to give my readers the essence of Sanjo’s responses in an interesting and engaging manner.

The Interview

Sunita: How do you account for the immense variety that Barson Huey offers to its listeners?

Sanjo: Yes, that was a deliberate move. I have noticed that most debutantes get stuck with a certain style, and most of the songs on the album end up sounding very similar, stereotyped. I certainly didn’t want people saying: hey, all their songs sound the same. So I painstakingly composed each song in a different style… soft rock, reggae, pop, salsa, flamenco, country, and so on.

Sunita: Which is which?

Sanjo: Well, the title track, Barson Huey is composed in a reggae style. Then there’s this song which opens Side B — Zindagi. That’s out and out flamenco. Chandrani’s solo, Palkon Pe Thaa is in a Latin American style. There’s a salsa piece: Khushiyon Se Hai Duniya. Sapno Ka Ek Shahar is much like a ballad, while Aanchal is a country styled song. Mujhe Tumse Kuchh Kehnaa Hai is soft rock. Shaayad Kabhi is a bluesy piece. And so on.

Sunita: That’s fascinating! You’ve covered a whole lot of genres there.

Sanjo: Yes, I know, but we weren’t consciously trying to span genres. We just went with the mood of each song… and we wanted it to be refreshingly different. And things kind of fell into place.

Sunita: Tell me about Barson Huey, which incidentally is my favourite. Everyone who has been in love at some time in their lives can identify with this song. So who is it written to?

Sanjo: (Laughs) Chandrani should be answering this question! I am just the composer. But let me tell you this: the sheer beauty of the lyrics and the evocative sense of nostalgia that surrounds them helped me to come up with a beautiful melody. People talk about how lovely and soothing the tune is. Well, I thank Chandrani for giving me those lovely lyrics to work on.

Sunita: You give Chandrani a lot of the credit for what you do, don’t you?

Sanjo: Yes, obviously. It’s a perfect partnership… total teamwork. She thinks. She writes. She explains the song to me much like an advertising brief — meaning, mood, target audience, visual clues, et al. And then I go to work. She adjusts the lyrics wherever they need to be tweaked, for reasons of metre mainly. And the song just happens.

Sunita: Do you have creative differences? Do you fight?

Sanjo: I won’t answer that question. The last time an interviewer asked me this, my reply was taken out of context and misinterpreted, and I ended up getting a lot of flak for it. So… no comments.

Sunita: Come on! I won’t twist your answers.

Sanjo: No comments.

Sunita: Some websites did report that the two of you had broken up, and that Chandrani was pursuing a solo career. Isn’t that right?

Sanjo: I’ve read no such thing.

Sunita: How long have the two of you been working together on music?

Sanjo: Around five years.

Sunita: Oh, that’s a long time! How did the two of you meet?

Sanjo: Oh, that’s an old story by now. It’s out there, all over the Web. Don’t bore your readers, please.

Sunita: Well, I don’t know… so tell me.

Sanjo: Okay, in a nutshell… I was in advertising back in those days, and the agency packed us off to Mussoorie for a short getaway during a long weekend. Gaurav, a colleague who was also the first songwriter on the project, brought a friend along — and that friend was Chandrani. We sang, we jammed and by the time the holiday was over, she was in on the project.

Sunita: What happened to Gaurav?

Sanjo: He chose to quit the project after he got married. And that’s when Chandrani took over as the lyricist.

Sunita: And the two of you have been together since then. How come you never invited anyone else to join the group?

Sanjo: We didn’t need to. We’re self-sufficient. Writing, composing, arranging, music, singing, and harmonising. Everything’s in-house. We don’t need additional resources.

Sunita: But how do you play on stage if you don’t have a band?

Sanjo: We don’t do live shows. We are studio musicians.

Sunita: And you’re happy to keep it that way?

Sanjo: Yeah.

Sunita: So what are you two working on now?

Sanjo: New material.

Sunita: Another album?

Sanjo: No, we aren’t album-focussed. We move forward, one song at a time. When we have the material for an album, we’ll take a call on it, when we want to.

Sunita: And how far are you from having enough material for an album?

Sanjo: We have enough material for two albums.

Sunita: Wow! So what’s holding you back?

Sanjo: Nothing. It’s just that we aren’t in any hurry.

Sunita: Okay, let’s go back to the first album once again. Everybody’s talking about the passion with which you’ve played the guitar in the intros and interludes, each solo being in line with the specific style of the song. In particular, they’re talking about Woh Shaamey, Shaayad Kabhi and Sapno Ka Ek Shahar. Did you have to work very hard on them?

Sanjo: I love all these three songs. I’m also very passionate about the interludes in Palkon Pe Thaa and Zindagi. Yes, I had to work very hard on them… most of them, but I enjoyed it. The reason I said “most of them” is that some of the best interludes (and a lot of people don’t know this) were composed in the studio at the time of recording. Right there — on the spur of the moment!

Sunita: Which one precisely?

Sanjo: The lead solos of Zindagi and Shaayad Kabhi.

Sunita: Wow! That’s incredible. Both the solos are so complex and well-structured. Did that happen in a single take?

Sanjo: Now don’t get carried away! It took several takes, especially that swinging bluesy piece in Shaayad Kabhi, but somehow the mood was right… and everything just fell into place.

Sunita: So Sanjo, tell me, what lies ahead.

Sanjo: Lots of music. I have a lot of music in me that I want to leave behind when I’m gone. So I’m in a bit of a hurry. In fact, I’m positively hyperactive right now. Full steam ahead — that’s my mantra.

Sunita: Why the sudden gloomy reference to Death? In fact, it isn’t there in any of your songs, so why is it in your thoughts?

Sanjo: It’s there in my English songs alright, the ones I’ve written. Death is an inevitable end, why shy away from it?

Sunita: Enough, I don’t want to end this interview on that kind of a note, so why don’t you deliver a positive, forward-looking message for all your fans.

Sanjo: All that you think… you become. So think BIG!

Sunita: Thank you. That’s so much better.

Sanjo: You’re welcome… thank you.

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Sunita Sachdev
Sunita Sachdev

Sunita Sachdeva is a New Delhi based freelance feature writer and journalist with a burning passion for music, and for discovering new talent — especially talent that has not been acknowledged in mainstream media.

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