Remember the bold female voice in ‘Gulaab Gang’, which stirred your soul for a long time? It belongs to none other than Malabika Brahma. Debuted as a singer in Bollywood with the critically acclaimed ‘Gulaab Gang’, which starred stalwarts like Madhuri Dixit and Juhi Chawla, Malabika described herself to A.Kameshwari from One World News saying, “In today’s world I live on dreams, love and magic that’s me. So, why don’t you define me. Do you think I’m a bit crazy??” And to decide if she is crazy or not (wink*), we asked her few more questions.
Share some memories of your growing up years?
Each moment spent with my family till 1988 are the moments I wish could come back. Everything changed after I lost my father when I was six. Soon after that my younger brother & best friend Manan left me at the tender age of eleven.
Was singing always that you wanted to do?
I think more than me it was my mother who wanted me to sing. Since the age of three, I was put on extensive vocal trainings much to the wish of my mom. Though I am happy with the decision she took, back then. I love working on any art form that helps my soul to stay composed and let me grow in a positive way and what can be best than music.
I am also passionate about photography; both these art forms have helped me survive challenging times. They are ideal ways to express myself.
Tell us something about ‘Brahmakhyapa’?
Brahmakhyapa is what I believe in, i.e. love, live and let live. It’s a musical platform where we, me and my musical partner Sanjay Khyapa, meet various artists from all over the world and create music. We collaborate, think and live together to form and create striking moments to be cherished forever.
What was the idea behind forming this band?
I always wanted to explore the innovative ways to produce music with different musical traditions, valuing their integrity, in a way discovering an authentic way to create world music which I looked forward to.
The concept was to create a jam band where artists could connect with each other through their piece of work. Let the art do the talking instead of words. I met Sanjoy fourteen years back when he was already working on his solo ‘Baul’ project. We spoke about what we want to do in our coming years and surprisingly our thoughts were quite similar. Hence, we started the voyage of Brahmakhyapa together.
We have collaborated with different musicians like Purple Haze, DJ 2 Tones Jones, Ansley Jukeboxx, Ko-the beat maker from Berkeley school of Music, Boston and many more, without doing severe rehearsals day and night. We feel this way the essence gets lost somewhere and it’s all so mechanical, practicing same musical piece again and again. The critical thing is music has to be free flowing. The journey must be exciting and worth living. That’s what matters the most to me.
What makes ‘Brahmakhyapa’ different from the other bands in India?
It gives the chance to share one’s creative experiences and seek common grounds to create art, pushing the boundaries aside. The approach is to think beyond nationality and strengthen the notion of cultural negotiation and community engagement. It has been an enriching experience for me so far.
Through this, I want us to connect on a global level as human beings who individually work and struggle for a better world and move ahead towards world peace. It’s truly a crazy thing, we don’t perform just for the sake of performing. Music to Brahmakhyapa is the way of living and the philosophy we speak of is what we practice.
How has ‘Baul’ music inspired you?
It has immensely inspired me to overcome certain critical moments in my life and I truly believe and have realized that nothing should be expected from anything or anyone. I learnt to remain composed in challenging situations, to release things and folks in an easier manner. It has inspired me to create a tranquil mind where the only thing that matters is unconditional love, which is boundless and takes me to a state of spiritual ecstasy.
What is important to you, songs or fame?
As I have told before, the journey of life is the most important thing to me. The trip must be exciting, enthralling and expressive. I believe in doing meaningful work without thinking about how famous or infamous one might get through it.
What sort of projects are you looking forward to?
The spirit and joy of collaborative work is something I am relishing at the moment. I wish to take up more collaborative projects with countless artist of diverse backgrounds and genre like theatre, photography, painters, dancers to name a few.
I want to create a community of artists who will create new ideas, path-breaking work methods and build their own audiences. I have started coordinating workshops with different artists as well. Since, I have a background of working in rural Bengal I want to create social engagement programs based on the music, various other workshops, interactive sessions and dialogues with local youth. This way we could create consciousness on social issues among the younger generation and also empower them through creativity.
Any Bollywood projects in the pipe-line?
My first Bollywood project, Gulaab Gang, came to me unexpectedly after spending a decade in the music industry. If more such things drop-in, I will be happy to do if they fit my genre and the kind of work I am looking forward to.
Talking about Bollywood, how was it working for the songs in Gulaab Gang?
Music has always thrilled me, so Gulaab Gang was no different. Everything went smooth from the day director Soumik Sen started the conversation regarding it. All of it was done over Skype as I never had a cell phone. He comes from a rich Indian classical music background so I felt very confident in terms of the songs. All were very aesthetically composed and had their own distinctive flavour.
Who is your inspiration?
The everyday struggle of an artist is my greatest inspiration.
Which artists do you look up to?
Artist from any genre who never gives up to the convenient ways thrown in front of him but keeps his focus towards doing works which he thinks will provide him emotional as well as intellectual peace and elation.
There have been a lot of artists, not any one in particular, whose work stirs me. I am particularly moved when I listen to musicians like Begum Akhtar, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Janis Joplin to name a few, I love literature no less than music, Keats, Robert Frost. Marquez and Tagore have been my all-time favourite; Sebastian Salgado’s work has been one of the most important motivations if I talk about photography.
How much have you evolved as an artist?
We all are changing every moment and artists are no different. Over the years, I have developed a theory of leading life and doing my work in my own specific ways which I learnt from the first-hand experience with this astounding world. I have learnt not to compromise and respectfully decline any work proposal which I feel will diverge me from my philosophies. Though I started my career of music as a performing artist, it is not restricted to that only. I have spread my wings and taking magical flights on various other ways of expressing myself apart from only being a performer.
What is your dream project?
My dream project is a musical film which I will make. It is also going to be an audio visual expedition. Hopefully, there is a lot more to come later.
Photo Courtesy : Hannah Devereux, BCCI, Santanu Chakraborty
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