Ambar Das is one name to reckon with in the musical scene. Das can do a bit of everything; music composition and production, and he can play multiple instruments. This prolific musician hails from Guwahati in Assam, from which he has been able to impact the rest of the world with his talent. He has worked with several bands, producing scores for movies, jingles, documentaries, web series, and several other productions.
His dexterity with various musical instruments is nothing short of remarkable. He learnt how to play the drums from his late brother, Bhaskar Das, and the guitar from talented musician Rana Roy.
There are very few musicians as talented as Das. When asked how it all started, Das says; “The phrase ‘Jack of all trades’ can be used to describe me. I love being connected with all forms of music. Quality music is all that counts. As for the origin, I come from a very musical family. My mother, Saila Bala Das, was a songwriter, she wrote songs like O Kajol Boron Konya which was performed by late Dr Bhupen Hazarika and Bhaskar Das, my brother.”
“My uncle too was not left out; he was the great Jiten Baruah who has unfortunately passed away. He started the FMC band with my cousins and brothers,” he adds.
Das fondly remembers when, as a child, he would wear his mother’s heels and perform using a badminton racket as the microphone until his mother would amusingly chase him out of the kitchen.
Das is an expert at what he does. He gives us an insight into what his life would have been like if he wasn’t into music. “I probably would still be lecturing at a college,” he says. “I did that after getting my masters in English literature. Even while lecturing, I occasionally did music, but on the side”, Das muses.
This went on for between 6 and 7 years until his brother opened the Sound Zone Studio. That was all the push he needed. Well, you certainly can’t keep a bird in a cage for too long.
During times like these, with the nationwide lockdown, a lot of creative people have seized the opportunity to create magic, and Das too is utilising his time efficiently. He has been doing a lot of writing and recording. “I was excited about the opportunity to create” he said amidst soft laughter. He’s obviously taking this time to write new songs, finish old ones, and work on the ones he intends to release soon. And yes, he’s learning some video editing skills as well.
Das, currently a resident of Mumbai, reveals what it is like living in the city of dreams; his love for the driving energy, and the acceptance he received from strangers when he first moved to the city. “Strangers gave me jobs based on my qualifications alone”, he said.
But growing up in a house of musicians wasn’t enough, Das also married one. As one of his favourite singers, his wife, Sarmistha Chakravorty, also helps him in so many ways. “She helps me sing the songs I compose and offers helpful insights. Even in the middle of the night she would still do a great job while a little dizzy. We don’t really jam together as often as we should,” he notes.
Das talks more about his family so cheerfully. He’s raising his own family of musicians. His 10-year old son, Zion Kashyap was fondly nicknamed Chom: short form of the popular Bengali sweet Chom-Chom . He says Chom’s ambition saw him singing from age 4 to dubbing for TVC and animations. “He appreciates my music but he’s more into contemporary pop and likes artists like Billie Eilish and Ariana Grande,” he adds.
Being a successful musician himself with over 60 audio albums to his credit, Das says there is hope for the future. “The independent music scene in India is still growing. Bollywood drives most of the music in India. There used to be a time in the 80’s and 90’s when independent music was strong and could even be compared to Bollywood. Although recently, there has been an uprising in the independent music scene, the key to sustaining this improvement is for musicians to find their own style and sound, and stick to it,” he says.
Das says originality and good marketing are important factors for growth. “So far, my journey has been good. I’ve reached some milestones and have more to come”, he says.
He talks about the ordeal of an average musician, stressing that every piece of music is a new lesson in life. On what genre of music he does, he says; “I’m still trying to find a style of music I can call my own. Music is all about expressing yourself. Growing up I was exposed to all the best Indian and regional Assamese music because we used to host some of the best Assamese artists. Personally, I am good with English, Assamese and Hindi and with a little help, Bangla.”
Das recognises the potential in Assamese music and emphasises the need to protect its style and essence, and not lose it in the search for a larger audience. He has composed music for films for many years. According to him, the secret is understanding the difference between both. “While music for movies are songs and background music, that of bands is more personal,” he observes.
Das’ great music is influenced by a range of talents, from Jayanta Hazarika to Jim Morrison to Ravi Shankar to Michael Schenker. Already, Das is considered to be one of the finest in Assam. Recounting some of his proudest moments, he notes quite emotionally; “Unprofessionally, it would be my brother who I looked up to musically, acknowledging my talent in the drums, while professionally, I’m proud every time my work gets duly appreciated”.
Das only needs inspiration when making personal music. For business, however, he follows the clients’ request. When he isn’t working, Das can be found watching movies, listening to music, and spending time with his son.
This Assam star says he will not slow down in delivering music that will uplift souls. Some of his upcoming works that are in the final phase of post-production include; Parinda, written by Pinky Poonawala and expertly produced by Nilotpol Bora, and ‘Begger on a Beach of Gold’, produced by Vishal A Singh. More recently, Das says, he’s composing some songs for his wife.