An evening with Ambar Das

An evening with Ambar Das

The Interview: An evening with Ambar Das

How did you get interested in playing music – how did you start?

I was very lucky to be born into a musical family. My mother, Saila Bala Das was a lyricist of repute. She even wrote a few songs for the legend, Dr Bhupen Hazarika. She also used to sing and compose. My uncle Late Jiten Baruah who was a well-known musician and composer was another major influence. And of course, my brother Late Bhaskar Das who was a singer, composer, drummer and guitarist, already set the benchmark very high. So, the music came pretty naturally to me. And I started singing and playing at about the age of 5.

My musical journey has been shaped by incredible mentors and experiences. I started my musical education by studying Music and Compositions under the guidance of the late Jiten Baruah. He was one of the pioneers in introducing Western orchestration into Assamese music.

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In the early 80s, I delved into the world of drums and other percussions under the tutelage of my elder brother, the late Bhaskar Das. He was a prominent drummer in the northeast region during that era. To expand my skills, I had the privilege of learning from Mr. Jurgen Busse, a highly respected jazz drummer and music teacher hailing from Hamburg, Germany.

My journey into guitar and the intricacies of music arrangements took a significant turn when I studied under the late Rana Roy. A musical giant in his own right, Rana Roy was the lead guitarist of the Fusion Band Karma’ based in Kolkata. I also had the privilege of meeting most of the best musicians and singers of Assam regularly.

These experiences have not only enriched my musical repertoire but also allowed me to draw inspiration from diverse influences in the world of music. Each mentor has played a crucial role in shaping my artistic identity, and I’m also grateful for the invaluable lessons my seniors, contemporaries and even my students imparted to me.


What challenges did you face in adopting your instrument? Physically, financially, socially, anything that you can recollect, or mention?

Adopting and mastering a musical instrument comes with its set of challenges, and my journey has been no exception.

Physically, learning any instrument is a demanding task. The hours of practice and dedication are essential to overcome these hurdles. That’s the reason most people who pick up an instrument for glamour, give up very soon.

Financially, pursuing a musical education, and acquiring quality instruments, often involved financial strain. Balancing the passion for music with the practicalities of financial constraints is undoubtedly a challenging aspect of most musical journeys.

Socially, the unconventional nature of a music career sometimes raises eyebrows. Pursuing a path less travelled can be met with scepticism, and there were instances where societal expectations clashed with my artistic pursuits. However, the support of my loved ones, and friends, and a strong belief in my passion helped me navigate these social challenges.
Moreover, in our country, non-classical instrumentalists always have a tough time.

Ours is a singer’s world and they are always the stars. In the case of classical music, Indian or Western, the instrumentalists get their due. Contemporary mainstream music in the West has a nice place for instrumentalists, but not in our case. It is a sad fact that even some educated people still refer to musicians as “Hands”.

There’s always a constant need to prove oneself in a competitive and evolving musical landscape that poses its own set of challenges. Keeping up with industry trends, staying relevant, and establishing a unique musical identity required continuous effort.

In essence, overcoming these challenges has been an integral part of my musical evolution. Each obstacle has contributed to my growth as a musician, teaching me resilience, determination, and the importance of unwavering commitment to one’s craft.


What, when was your first performance and what was your first breakthrough performance? Were those the same?

My first proper performance was as a singer and I was around 6 at that time. I sang my own composition to a huge crowd of thousands at the Bharalumukh Bihu. And standing right next to me was the legend Dr Bhupen Hazarika. I was accompanied by my uncle Late Jiten Baruah, my brother Late Bhaskar Das and other stalwarts of the music industry. I vividly remember the thunderous applause after I finished but of course, too young to understand or care then. But I remember everyone happy and proud, especially my mother. I can only imagine how she felt. As for my first breakthrough performance, I guess I’m yet to have one. Hopefully soon.


Who have you played with?

I have been fortunate to have been a part of some bands of national and international repute, such as: Soulmate Band (Shillong, Meghalaya), FAITH (Mumbai), VOODOO CHILD (Assam), BAND OF BROTHERS (an Indo/German fusion band), CRYSTAL ANN (Assam), MONTHSMIND (Assam), CHOCOLATES N CIGGERRETES (Assam/Hyderabad), EAST INDIA COMPANY (Delhi), WARKLUNG (A Karbi progressive folk/fusion band), SWAR@AJ, FLOATING BOOTS COLLECTIVE (a band composed of artists from various genres and countries) and THE MUMBAI MARIACHIS (an Indo-Australian Gypsy Jazz band) RETRO INC and MELANGE, to name a few.

Moreover, I have been actively involved in the regional music scene and have accompanied artists such as the legendary Dr Bhupen Hazarika, of course, my brother Late Bhaskar Das, JP Das, Late Ross T Ahmed, Joi Baruah, Zubin Garg, Angarag (Papon) Mahanta, Raaj Jyoti Konwar, Santa Uzir and many more artists. As a music producer and composer, I have worked with some great artists like Shankar Mahadevan, Sonu Nigam, and Sukhwinder Singh, Javed Ali, Rashid Khan, Kailash Kher, Divya Kumar to name a few.

An evening with Ambar Das - bass

Current Projects?

Apart from my usual bread-and-butter work, I’m currently concentrating more on my music. Some of my upcoming songs are as follows: “Beggar On A Beach Of Gold”, is a philosophical progressive rock song. “Dinobondhu
” is a song about people in Old age homes, it’s brilliantly written by Chandana Pathak. “Ei Kuwoli” is a song about the beauties of mother nature with environmental messages. Beautifully penned by the maverick Rahul
Gautam Sharma, it will be a duet with the new sensation from Assam Shankuraj Konwor. “Ekolobyo” is a song against the evils of Casteism and untouchability.

I have also composed and sung 2 songs for an EP called “Aaxa” by Studio Nilima, All the songs have been composed on poems written by incarcerated inmates. Some have served their sentences and are released, while some are still in prison or on parole. It’s a first of its kind in a country where the jails are often filled with undertrials. There are quite a few others nearing completion. I am also working on an Acapella version of the classic Bhupen Hazarika song “Dola”.

An evening with Ambar Das - retro inc

Future vision?

I have a lot of plans for the near future, starting with completing and releasing my remaining music and also making a lot of new ones and have some collaboration plans with artists I love and admire. I am very intrigued by the visual medium as well, so I’ll maybe experiment with visualisations of some of my ideas. My immediate plan is to release my debut solo album.

Any funny incidents in your musical career?

There have been many, one particular incident that comes to mind right now is of a gig with Soulmate, somewhere in Delhi. It was a pub show and there was a live telecast of a cricket match. Of course, the audio was off since we
were playing, and Rudy (Wallang) was in the middle of his guitar solo. He was killing it and the crowd was cheering, but suddenly the cheering just started going wild and Rudy got even more into it. We didn’t realise it then but at that moment Yuvraj Singh hit 6 consecutive Sixes against England.

An evening with Ambar Das - funny

Any advice for budding musicians?

  1. I will only say what everybody already knows. Dedicate time to practice your instrument or vocals regularly. Consistent practice is crucial for improvement.
  2. Define your short-term and long-term goals. Whether it’s mastering a particular piece, learning a new technique, or recording an album, having clear goals will keep you motivated.
  3. Understanding music theory can enhance your overall musicality. It will help you communicate with other musicians, improvise, and compose your own music.
  4. Don’t limit yourself to a single genre. Experiment with different styles of music to broaden your musical palette and gain diverse skills.
  5. Collaborating with other musicians can provide new perspectives and ideas. It’s a great way to learn, grow, and expand your network.
  6. Create a website or use social media platforms to showcase your work. SoundCloud, YouTube, and other platforms can help you reach a wider audience.
  7. Attend concerts, open mics, and other live performances. This will not only expose you to different musical styles but also improve your performance. Networking can open up opportunities for collaboration, gigs, and exposure.
  8. Music is a demanding profession, both physically and mentally. Take care of your health, get enough rest, and manage stress to ensure longevity in your career.
  9. Be open to constructive criticism. It’s a valuable tool for improvement. Learn to separate personal feelings from your art and use feedback to refine your skills.
  10. Success in the music industry often requires perseverance. There will be challenges and setbacks, but staying persistent and dedicated to your craft is key.
  11. Educate Yourself on the Business Side. Learn about the business side of the music industry, including contracts, royalties, and marketing. Understanding these aspects will empower you in managing your career.
  12. Music is an evolving art form. Stay curious, keep learning, and stay up-todate with industry trends and technologies.
  13. Remember, the journey in music is unique for everyone. Be patient, stay true to your artistic vision, never let the belief die and enjoy the process of creating and sharing your music.
An evening with Ambar Das - Holocaust

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