The lights are dimmed in anticipation at a Kolkata nightclub. The stage is dotted with an assortment of table lamps. A boy in chinos and a formal shirt with his hair neatly parted to a side,makes his way to the stage. Fashion magazines would describe his look as nerdy but stereotypes fly out of the tinted windows when 20-year-old Nischay Parekh takes to the mike. You hear him talk about love as he slowly envelopes you in a haze. Before you know it,you are in Parekhs world,a world where one has a New York state of mind/In Indian standard time.
This Kolkata-based pop artiste is one of the few musicians to perform in all the four editions of Bacardi NH7 Weekender (Pune,Bangalore,New Delhi and Kolkata). His debut album,Ocean,has received rave reviews all over. Rolling Stone says its got pop hooks youre not going to tire of very easily. Yet,success doesnt seem to have gone to the head of this bhalo chele (good boy) who is studying music at the famed Berklee College of Music . I get to hear that a lot. But I realise music is all about collaborations, says Parekh.
Born to music-loving Bengali-Gujarati parents (his mother is a jazz-loving Bengali and his father is into Indian classical music),Parekh knew what he wanted to do from a very young age. The background score of my childhood had Nat King Cole and Stevie Wonder as well as Pandit Ravi Shankar, he says. He found a mentor in another Kolkata-based musician Tajdar Junaid. I really used to look forward to spending Sundays with Taj, he recounts,Initially,it was all about playing the guitar. But he changed my world view. I realised I could learn a lot for him,I was always ready to pick his brains, says Parekh. Thats when he started writing songs. It was a natural progression. I felt it was how one should go about it. Taj was also very supportive, he says. Berklee too happened because of his association with Junaid. He mentioned that a friend of his is studying music in Berklee. I didnt know that people could spend four years studying music in a university. The idea just bowled me over, says Parekh. He was 16 then.
Parekhs song Me and You from his debut album was written when he was 13 and its deceptively simple words are laden with deeper thoughts. In Love me baby Parekh confesses about his past relationships,while Philosophioze seems to be a wry take on the pressures of fitting in. Like most musicians of his generation,Parekh tries to innovate with his sound and technique. But the unconventional recording process of his album was need-driven more than anything. His collaborator,Dylan,recorded his portions in a studio in Boston while Parekh wanted a different soundscape and recorded his bit in fields and a small garden in his building.
The success of his debut album and his cult following in the music-festival circuit has changed Parekhs perception about a thing or two. Its amazing how music festivals in places as far-removed as Ziro and Kohima are bringing artistes together. Music festivals are cutting through demographics and independent artistes like us owe a lot to them. They make us work hard because now we feel we need to earn our gig in such prestigious festivals, says Parekh.
2014 will see a song from his debut album in a forthcoming indie film. I cant reveal much more about that, he says. But what he can tell us is that his band,Monkey in Me,may very soon begin recording a double album.