Unnati Dasgupta: I love music for its power to heal and nourish one’s soul CREATIVE DRIVE: Unnati Dasgupta
UNNATI DASGUPTA is at her best when in front of a live audience and like many talented live performers, she was halted in her tracks by the coronavirus pandemic.
Now after having spent lockdown creating new material, the British singer-songwriter is back doing what she does best and delivering live concerts. She is one of the headline acts this week, at Mehfil Nights, Karamel restaurant in London on November 6, for a Diwali celebration that features diverse musical genres.
This is a part of a new series of events at the venue focussing on music from the Indian subcontinent, from Bollywood and bhajan to Indian classical, Sufi and ghazal, in an intimate acoustic mehfil setting.
Eastern Eye caught up with Unnati to discuss her show, performing live, plans and what music means to her.
How does it feel to be in front of an audience again?
It feels simply amazing! At first it felt surreal to be back after 18 months of silence. Since June, I’ve delivered a number of live performances, including the Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho and The Abergavenny Music Festival in Wales.
You are performing at Mehfil Nights at London’s Karamel restaurant in a courtly mehfil type show. What can we expect?
Expect a wonderful evening of film songs, Sufi, ghazal, and some tracks from my album Indigo Soul by myself, together with brilliant male singer Narayanan and the legendary keyboard and accordion player Mohamed Kassam from BBC Pebble Mill’s Naya Zindagi. Diwali is a time to celebrate light overcoming darkness and this is an apt time to shine light out into the world through music, given all the inner turmoil the pandemic has caused.
Which songs do you most enjoy performing live?
I enjoy performing songs I’ve written in Hindi, English and Sanskrit, as well as Sufi and qawwali repertoire by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Abida Parveen, and popular mantra chants. I also enjoy performing songs based on ragas, given that I come from an Indian classical music family and that musical tradition is incredibly rich. I love music for its power to heal, transcend, empower, and nourish one’s soul.
How it is for you as a live performer in a world coming out of lockdown?
It is a good feeling with performances starting to get back into flow. As a live performer, I am back performing at UK wide jazz clubs and London venues. During lockdown, I practised my piano and composing skills, so am now venturing into that space as well as performing. So, while there were challenges, the wins of lockdown and the silver linings were the opportunities and time to harness skills I’d been wanting to improve for many years.
What else can we expect from you?
I am in the midst of writing new material, including mantra chants based on Indian classical ragas I love, English pop songs with Indian classical nuances, and Sufi numbers. I am practising piano quite a bit, as I would like to accompany myself on stage in the future. I am also working on my composition and production skills, as I want to be in charge of my music sound. I want to be one of the few female composers in the music industry.
What does music mean to you today?
So many things! It comes with fun, responsibility, heritage, insight, creative drive, spiritual essence, and a divine calling. Music means all these things! On a personal level, it also means I get to do what I love and am passionate about every day.
What is your greatest unfulfilled musical ambition?
There are so many. To perform at venues such as Union Chapel, the mainstage of Royal Albert Hall as a solo show, to work with composers such as AR Rahman and collaborate with Alicia Keys and India Arie.
Why should we come to the Mehfil Nights event?
Come to firstly celebrate Diwali through music and vegan food! Diwali is a festival celebrating light over darkness. This is a time spiritually where good conquers over evil, and this is a universal message we can all resonate with and celebrate regardless of our religion. And listen to excellent music by some of the UK’s best artists such as singer Narayanan, the legendary Mohamed on keyboard, Bhavesh Patel on tabla and myself. You can expect musical excellence.
Mehfil Nights on Saturday November 6, Karamel, 4 Coburg Road, London N22 6UJ – Visit www.musicglue.com and www.unnatimusic.com