The Song Whisperer
1993: It's a very early morning. I stand at the white door of the top floor of a house at the end of a narrow blind lane. But the door always opens up to the sky above. I wait for a couple of minutes soaking in the music as a guitar speaks to the wind carrying my soul on a trip round the world. Hesitantly I press on the calling bell and Bertie opens the door.
We never discussed music. We talked literature, while my mind wandered in and out of the adjacent room stacked with music discs and cassettes and a silent guitar.
2009: It's been a year that Bertram da Silva and the Supersonics have made a comeback. A musician by calling, Bertie is also a story teller and a poet who through his lyrics captivates the heart and stirs the soul with the same consummate ease with which he ignites the young minds with William Shakespeare or Blake and Yeats. to enter the academic world some two decades back he was the last of a clutch of musicians churning out original scores. The city has changed a lot ever since with bands taking the easy way to recognition, singing popular labels, before da Silva decided to do his gig one more time.
So why did you leave it at all? "I gave up music because it wasn't going anywhere and had become boring. I was doing the same old stuff and it was all very unstimulating and insipid. The classroom was pure intellectual joy. I guess the hard work it took to get into the classroom for a single lecture was a kind of galvanising adventure. So there was lots of joy, lots of heartbreak when a lecture didn't go the way I wanted it to, lots of different kind of creative thinking. So there you are," he says, the famous hint of a smile rippling across his face. Every working day he is at St Xavier's College, Kolkata, occupying the seat of Dean of Arts sifting through administrative monotony with diligence and teaching his students the flavour of literature, till a tired sun is ready to take a dip in the Hooghly. It is then that the musician comes alive.
In his word the return happened because of the excitement associated with it and perhaps it was destiny. " I can't really say. But the return of fuzz for a brief visit certainly acted as a catalyst," he says. And the balancing act that he does now, Bertie says, "I can't say I enjoy it nor can say I don't. It does take a lot of hard work and a lot of rehearsal. I guess the joy is in putting the music together with the band. But sometimes after a full day at work it can get stressful. It's difficult, but I have managed it so far. Let's see how it goes."
Bertram da Silva's literary background shapes his music a lot. The poetry and philosophy it exudes, his artistic responsiveness and the extraordinary guitar makes up for a fluent listening and creates a harmony that the music lovers longed for in the city. "I should think so since they've been coming for my concerts and from the kind of feedback I've got. Supersonics also does original music and they have a following. I believe that if you perform music of respectable quality and content you'll have an audience. Also, you have to work like a maniac to get the music right which means showing respect to your audience and presto you have one," Bertie relates.
But the man does not know if he will cut an album soon. For him music is for pleasure and connecting with even one person is a huge success. For he is not here to just make money, but to live a charmed life of music and poetry. "Life changes for all of us. Only some of us don't know it. I still get the butterflies when I get up to perform and as long as that happens it's good. It means I care about doing the best I can. And that is what complements my music. For now we do a gig once a month at Someplace Else and that is all I can tell," Bertram signs off. Supersonics next plays at Someplace Else on December 18.
Photographs by: Shurjo Mitra