By Priyanka Roy
Photographs by Saptarshi Chakraborty
Walking into his house on a rainy Wednesday afternoon, I was greeted by a rather sullen Amyt’da – unshaven, dressed in a pale tee-shirt, his voice sounding hoarse and worn-down, and his eyes slightly unfocused. He had evidently not been keeping well, because the Amyt’da we students and hundreds of fans are used to know is a man who can make your day simply with the uncontainable energy in his voice and the animated twinkle in his eye. However, Amyt’da agreed to keep his promise of granting me this unique interview, and here’s your scoop of the “boy” in Mr. Amyt Dutta, who has much more to him than meets the eyes or ears!
The first time you met the guitar:
(Squints, thinks hard) It was when I was only 13 years of age, back in the 1970s. I still remember exploring this really old and dusty Hawaiian guitar that just happened to be lying around the house. I knew it was an instrument alright, but wasn’t too sure of how one played it. It was a mix of curiosity and anxiety that pushed me towards it, and I pulled the fourth string gingerly, and WOW! That one sound told me right away that I just had to learn to play this thing!
Your first guitar lessons were taken from:
I guess the first lessons kicked off with friends of my older brothers. But they were mostly on the Hawaiian guitar.
The first guitar you owned:
Oh yes, I remember that one! It was local Rs.300 guitar, electric that too! (laughs)
Your first guitar idol:
Your first gig on stage:
Well it wasn’t a professional gig of any sort – it was more of a casual performance at school (Don Bosco School, Park Circus, Calcutta) back in Class Seven, if I remember right.
The first time you were whacked at home for paying more attention to music than academics:
Oh hell, never! In fact my mother, who is from a family of musicians, always prodded me to rehearse more with every passing day. She made me aware of the spiritual side of music-making and has supported me in my work to this day. I am truly lucky and blessed as far as a supportive family is concerned.
Your first band:
Umm, it was this trio where Kochu (his cousin Monojit Dutta, a member of the bands Orient Express and Los Amigos) and I along with a friend played, it was called Moonbeams. But New Blues Connection was probably the first professional outfit I played with. People really got to know us since.
Your first feel-good moment on stage:
The biggest feel-good moment was in Bangalore I think – it was a good gig and I really enjoyed myself there. By the end of the gig I saw the whole crowd bowing down! I hold it close to my heart to this day. That moment gave me the biggest joy of my life!
But the very first feel-good moment has got to be the time when my first band and I worked out a song right and played it well. It wasn’t a gig, not even a professional band (it was with one of our bedroom-makeshift bands), but yea, that is probably my earliest feel-good memory.
Your first terrible moment on stage:
Breaking a string on the stage! It was terrible! I was playing a classical piece on a Hawaiian guitar at a performance in school, and at the concluding bit, a string tore off! It felt like I broke up inside! I couldn’t continue and had to leave stage right then. Damn! That felt terrible, in every sense of the word.
First very embarrassing moment on stage:
Oh yes of course! When we were in the Ninth Grade, there was this band competition at the La Martiniere Schools called Beatstock. Lots of city bands participated and Gyan, Jeff and Jayashree (Gyan Singh, Jeffrey Rikh and Jayashree Singh, his current Skinny Alley band mates) were there too, but as parts of another band. Various others who participated played covers. Kids that we were, barely aware of what a guitar “pedal” is, we went along as Moonbeams, which only played originals! These were simple songs we had written and thought of trying them out on stage. It was a two-day long competition and all bands had to play both days. Well, on the first day we took stage, played our songs but were sorely booed off stage! We gathered only enough courage to go back up on stage the next day and as soon as we came on, the crowd jeered again! We couldn’t play. What was worse, Kochu and I suffered from “embarrassment fever” for the next five days! For the following months we avoided anyone spotted in tight jeans and leather jackets, assuming that he might have been part of the “hip” audience at the competition!
Your first “flop” show:
Oh, many! (laughs) But I think it’s the corporate gigs that dampen you spirits. As a matter of fact any show where people don’t listen to you is a “flop.” However it’s heartening to know that though most people at a pub or a corporate gig are socializing, there is a handful that’s attentive and respects your music.
Students you have particularly enjoyed teaching:
Taj (Tajdar Junaid of Span and Band Aid) and Bodhi (Bodhisattwa Ghosh of Insomnia and Crystal Grass).
The first lesson in music according to you:
If at all you are fortunate to enjoy any interaction with music, then it is you who must go to it, instead of expecting it to come to you. Music is too great to do that. If you are keen, you must try to find your way to music. If you are passionate, you get there someday.