A BANKER’S MELODIC AFFAIR…
By Upagupt Mohanty
never went towards music yet the music brought him into its overlay. Being a banker and not been trained in Hindustani classical music in a formal manner, he attained the apex in his music career and got jewelled with awards. It was his enchanting voice and versatile persona that created an enthusiasm in music directors to work with him. Yes! It is Mr. Debashis Mahapatra whose blessed voice gave him the privilege to be a special guest of a legend like Asha Tai at a musical show in Netaji Stadium at Kolkatta. Outstanding singer Debashis Mahapatra exclusively shared with team Coffee Bytes about his melodic journey.
You were a banker by profession,how did you manage between profession and passion
As such there was no problem in managing between profession and passion except for taking leave from the bank for recordings in studios at Chennai or Mumbai. I must say here that my seniors and colleagues in the bank were tremendously supportive. Though, I was transferred periodically, I managed to keep up my singing.
From Akashvani in Cuttack to a frontline singer in the enter tainment industry. Introduce us briefly to your musical journey.
I was born into a family which was soaked in music. The first sounds that I heard were musical notes. Whether it was at Ranihat High School, Cuttack during early 60s or BJB College and Utkal University in the early 70s, my name topped the list in the music competitions. My real entry to the music world was in 1972, when I stood first in the national A.I.R Sugam Sangeet Competition. I was the first one from Odisha to have achieved this. I became a part of A.I.R. Then I got associated with Padmashri Prafulla Kar with whom I did many stage shows and finally in 1976, he gave me my first break in playback singing in a film titled Mana Mandira. My song ‘To Saathe Pirati Kari’ – a romantic number, was an instant hit. Interestingly, when I returned home, an appointment letter as Probationary Officer from Syndicate bank was waiting for me. I had to opt for a career in the bank, as singing was not a paying profession then. But I continued my passion for singing right through my banking career
• Won twice State Award as (Best) Playback Singer ( Male) – 1991 for To Binu Anya Gati Nahin – Duniya Duniya and 1992 for Mukti Tirtha – Nai Re Nai Tu
• Won OFJA Award- 1985 for Jaga Balia – Paana Gua Khaira Gua Kati, Dadena Bajar King Mu
• Got Featured as a leading performer at their 4th ODISHA MUSIC CONCERT by Tarang Music TV Channel
• Performed Overseas as Guest Artiste at Portland, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Minneapolis as well as at the Global convention of OSA in Washington D.C – (between) 2012 and 2015
• Some major films: Mana Mandira, Manasi, Priyatama, Chilika Tirey, Megha Mukti, Agni Pariksha, Dora, Jaga Balia. Hisab Nikash, Balidaan, Jahaku Rakhibe Ananta, Paka Kamala Pota Chhata, Lakhye Siba Puji Paaichi Pua, Golamgiri, Jiban Sangram, Bagula Baguli, Lalpan Bibi, Hira Nila, Udandi Sita, Ki Heba Sua Posile, Panjuri Bhitare Sari,Subhadra,To binu Anya Gati Nahin, Mukti Tirtha, Pathara Khasuchi Bada Deulu,Kotiye Manisha Gotiye Jaga, Hari Bhai Harena, Arjuna etc.
After you won the first prize in the A.I.R. Sugam Sangeet Competition, what were the other opportunities that followed?
Opportunities unfolded but I missed it. In 1973, Dr. Shastry, who was the then All India Head of Doordarshan and was also one of the judges in the AIR Sugam sangeet Competition, offered me a job at AIR Kolkata, with a condition that I learn Hindustani Classical from the famous Guru Gyan Prakash Ghosh for three years. Alas, that was also not to be.
While doing playback singing, did you find recordings to be a challenging task? Any interesting incident/encounter or any unforgettable memory during the musical journey, you would like to share with our readers?
I have never found singing challenging as music comes to me naturally. I have sung duets with all major singers like Usha Mangeshkar, Anuradha Paudhwal, Arati Mukherjee and K S Chitra, but never felt awkward. There are many interesting anecdotes, but what stands out and is etched in my memory forever is my encounter with the legendary Asha Bhosle. In 1978, I went to Mumbai to sing for a film with music by Gurukrushna Goswami and got the opportunity to sing with the iconic Asha Bhosle and Usha Mangeshkar. Impressed with my voice, she asked me to leave the job at bank and relocate to Mumbai and try singing for Hindi films. Those days I was posted at Kolkata and she even invited me to one of her shows there at Netaji Indoor Stadium and took me personally and introduced me to R.D. Burman, Kishore Kumar and Rishi Kapoor. It’s an unforgettable experience. Unfortunately, I didn’t have courage to take the risk.
You were given a title – Naayakanka Gaayaka, tell us something about it ?
The Kalinga TV channel did a four-part musical feature on me in their program, Kahani Geeta Pachhara, where they called me Naayakanka Gaayaka. It came as news to me that as per their research, I was the only playback singer who has sung for almost all the leading heroes, from Shriram Panda, Prashanta Nanda, Bijoy Mohanty, Uttam Mohanty, Mihir Das, Siddhant Mohapatra, Shrikant Gautam,Sreetam Das, and even Anubhab Mohanty.
Take us down to your musical roots, who was your greatest influence in music and what was your turning point which gave you the much needed lift for success ?
My parents Ramesh Chandra and Saudamini Mohapatra from Baripada, were good singers. Besides that my father was an accomplished Chhau dancer, who helped set up the Mayurbhanj Chhau Nrutya Pratisthan at Baripada. Being the younger brother of celebrated Music Director, Shantanu Mohapatra (my Adi Guru), I had the advantage of coming in close personal contact with all the stalwarts of that era, like Akshaya Mohanty, Pranab Patnaik, and Sikandar Alam and Pandit Raghunath Panigrahi who visited our home regularly. I have learned from all of them, observing their styles closely. The most interesting tip came from Akshaya Mohanty, who advised me that singing O Duniya ke Rakhwale of Md. Rafi from the film Baiju Bawra, five times in the morning is enough for music riyaaz and I did it religiously for quite some time. An interesting aspect of my musical career – I am Shantanu Mo h a p a t r a ’ s younger brother, got my break from Prafulla kar, and won my first major award under the direction of Akshaya Mohanty. My first debut film song was the turning point as it was a massive hit.
Under the guidance and tutelage of Guruji Shri Chandra Bhanu Satpathy, you have sung Lord Jagannath and Shiridi Sai Baba devotional songs, how would you describe the spiritual influence and the current devotional albums?
I came in contact with Dr. Chandra Bhanu Satpathy (lovingly called as Guruji by Sai fraternity) on 26th January 2010. He is a self-realised soul and an exceptionally brilliant lyricist-composer. After being associated with him I truly realised the divinity in music. Under work pressure, when I had almost stopped singing, it is he, who brought me back to music and took me to a different level. I shall be eternally grateful to him for this. I have sung Lord Jagannath and Shri Shirdi Sai Baba devotional songs, written and composed by Guruji.
You have lent your voice for more than 60 Odia, two Bengali and one award-winning Hindi film. Readers would like to know, which of your songs are your favourite? Who are your favourite lyricists?
I have sung all types of songs in films, title song, background theme song, romantic, satire, raunchy to rap, I wasn’t typecasted to any particular segment. My favourite is a romantic song from Manasi- Kie Se Priya Kahin Prema music by Prafulla Kar and Ki Heba Sua Poshile –Sua Poshithila Kete Sneha Dei (Climax Song) with lyric and music by Swaroop Naik. In the initial phase, Jiwan pani, Gurukrushna Goswami and Sibabrata Das have been my favourite lyricists, but later, it was Swaroop Nayak with his lucid style and experimenting rhyming. In devotional songs Dr Chandra Bhanu Satpathy’s lyrics and compositions are matchless.
What do you think about the internet as a tool for promoting yourself and your music in platforms like YouTube etc?
I had never thought of promoting myself. So no website or YouTube channel. Yes, internet is the in and big thing now. So, my well-wishers are insisting me to have a website and upload photographs and songs sung by me (filmy and non-filmy). My website will be launched soon.
There are lot of reality shows being done on television and new playback stars are emerging. What is your take on it?
Due to music reality shows, there is an increased awareness among families and they are taking special interest in training their wards in music. The ambition of singing live on TV has created an interest in young aspirants to learn and grow. Lot of fresh talents have come up in Odisha and made a mark for themselves.
What are your plans and hopes for the future with regard to your music ?
I still have a lot of singing spirit within me and I am working towards it. Currently I am working on Odia ghazals and folk songs like jhoomar. I love to work and experiment with song which has rich lyrical composition. Recently I recreated a song ‘Aasa Jibana Dhana Mo Pakhala Kansa,’ – with contemporary music arrangement, with Sarthak FM channel, which was or iginal ly sung by Balakrushna Das. It is a unique and typical song conc e ived 50 years ago on Pakhala(the traditional Odia cuisine) as the lady love or Sajani. Financial investment and return on investment becomes a major hurdle for such projects. I am looking forward to corpor at e sponsorship or music aficianados sp ons o r shi p to stimulate me for such experimentation and bring to light the beauty of ornamental rich Odia songs of the past to the modern time.
Any message you want to give to budding singers?
There is nothing like music and if singing excites you, keep on singing but never ignore the emotion or the soul embedded in the song.