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At 16, she's performed with Zakir Hussain, Nitin Sawhney

Last updated on: December 12, 2012 16:12 IST

At 16, she's performed with Zakir Hussain, Nitin Sawhney


Divya Nair

Mohini Dey can't vote yet, but she has already performed with greats like Ustad Zakir Hussain and British Indian producer Nitin Sawhney. The young bassist from Mumbai is being seen as India's answer to Tal Wilkenfeld, and the next big thing in music. This is her story.

More than 15 years ago, when Sujoy Dey became the father to a child, the family's relatives weren't exactly in celebratory mode.

Reason? Mohini was a girl.

Three years later, when Esani was born into the family, nothing much changed, remembers Sujoy Dey, a sessions bassist who has performed with artistes including Asha Bhosle.

"When the doctor announced that my wife had delivered another daughter (Esani), some of my relatives weren't very happy," recollects the father, whose only question to the doctor on both occasions was about the health of his children -- the gender did not matter.

"They looked at me with sympathy. Some people in our country still believe that girls are burden to parents."

"Success doesn't distinguish between genders," says the proud father, as he tells us of what the young girls have achieved.

Mohini was three years old when she was enchanted by the sound of the bass. When girls her age were busy playing with Barbie dolls, Mohini found herself twiddling the keys of the bass.

Although she grew up listening to her father play the bass and her mother, who is trained in classical music, Mohini maintains, "Choosing music was an independent decision."

"I loved the groovy twang about the bass guitar, it instantly appealed to me. Or may be, I loved the way my dad experimented with it. But the next thing I knew was, I wanted to get my hands on it," says the 16-year-old, who studies in Class 11 at Bal Bharati's MJ Pancholia College of Commerce in Kandivali, Mumbai.

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Image: Mohini Dey on MTV Unplugged
Photographs: Courtesy Mohini Dey/Facebook


'Even sharing space with Zakir Hussain was a revelling experience'

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Mohini first performed in Kolkata in 2008.

"I was accompanied by my sister who was only eight years of age. We had to perform before a live audience of about 800 -- all musicians from different parts of the country," recalls the young bassist about her first stage show.

As a child, Mohini would prod her father to let her accompany him to his rehearsals and concerts where she would end up interacting with his peers and also jamming with them.

One such meeting led her to drummer and music director Ranjit Barot, who, amazed by her dexterity, instantly took her under his wings.

In 2010, she recorded a track for Barot's album Bada Boom. She also performed on three tracks with veteran Mumbai guitarist Babu Choudhary on his album Element of Surprise. Soon, a row of projects followed for this prodigy.

At age 13, Mohini had already performed with leading artists like Shreya Ghoshal and Suchitra Pillai, keyboardist Louiz Banks, global music producer Nitin Sawhney, leading sitar player Niladri Kumar, and Mumbai big names like Joe Alvares, Karl Peters, and Floyd Fernandes.

Ask her of her most memorable performance, and Mohini points to performing with Ustad Zakir Hussain in 2011.

"I loved performing alongside Zakir Hussain and Taufiq Qureshi," Mohini says. "For a young musician like me, even sharing space with a legendary artist like him was a revealing experience."

Image: Esani Dey (left), now 13, performs with elder sister Mohini Dey (right)
Photographs: Courtesy Mohini Dey/Facebook

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'Recording in a studio is different from performing live'

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Although Mohini, an ardent fan of jazz musicians Jaco Pastorius (often dubbed the Jimi Hendrix of bass guitar) and Chic Corea, has grown up to be a chronic learner and consistent performer, she is indebted to the seniors who have helped her understand music better.

"When I was young, I would study notations without understanding a word of it. I would memorise songs, as if I were preparing for an oral exam," she says.

During one of the rehearsals, Barot explained to her the importance of being a good listener and appreciating the nuances. "He said: You need to feel the music and play it, only then will you become a good musician."

Banks, Mohini says, "told me the difference between playing solo and playing for a band."

Recently, while recording for MTV Unplugged, Mohini had another learning experience.

"Recording in a studio is very different from performing in front of a live audience," she says.

"When we were rehearsing for the MTV show, I used the Ibanez (electric bass guitar). However during the recording, they gave me an acoustic guitar which changed the whole sound and mood of the song. Later on, I realised that it was done intentionally because the show (Unplugged) had a certain purpose and was meant for a specific audience."

Image: Mohini performs with Ranjit Barot
Photographs: Courtesy Mohini Dey/Facebook

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'If you have the passion, nothing can stop you from reaching the top'

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Mohini performs across the country, but makes sure she practises six hours a day.

How does she even find time for studies?

"I am a bright student," comes the quick answer. "I never let one come in the way of the other. I always scored above 85 per cent, sometimes, even crossing 90 per cent up to class 10."

When she is not listening to her favourite funk, reggae and jazz tracks, she is busy painting -- nature, being her favourite subject.

"I relate the seven notes of music to the seven colours of the rainbow," she says. "Each note has a colour and each colour is like a musical note. If the art is on paper, it's called a painting, when it's played on an instrument, it becomes music."

Her advice for young musicians?

"I don't understand it when parents come to my father or any musician for that matter and ask questions like: Can you teach my son/daughter to play the guitar in a month?"

There is no substitute to hard work, she stresses.

In a country like India, music is still not a preferred career option, especially for parents to accept.

"If your parents don't support you, don't be disheartened and give up," says Mohini.

"There are many videos and tutorials online and there is always some free music concert happening in your town that you can visit. Browse the Internet, surf the television and enhance your knowledge about notes and scales -- the basics to enter the profession. Once you know you have the passion, nothing can stop you from reaching the top. You will eventually find your way."

Please click NEXT to watch Mohini Dey perform with her newly-formed band...

Image: (LtoR) Esani, Sujoy and Mohini Dey
Photographs: Mohini Dey/Facebook

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Watch Video: Mohini Dey performs with her band

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Young musician Mohini Dey performs with her newly-formed band Generation that also features her 13-year-old sister Esani Dey on the guitar.

Video: Afsar Dayatar

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