Most of us love or appreciate music in varying degrees. But when this love becomes an infatuation, one either becomes a musician, playing or singing or both, or becomes an avid follower. And when a journalist falls in this ‘genre’, you get an author, the author of Calling Elvis.
Shantanu Dutta is not just a journalist (now with The Telegraph Online), he is also a member of DI who wanted to contribute a copy of the book to our library. On hearing his gesture, classmate and friend Jayajit Biswas, President, suggested why not have a book adda at the club where he could do so? And so it was that Leslie D’Gama, Jr Vice-President conducted the adda himself last Friday (July 21).
A fairly good turnout of enthusiastic members and friends listened to various aspects of the book which, though released two years ago, would have remained hidden from us had the session not taken place. Calling Elvis (published by Speaking Tiger Books) is a compilation of interviews and memoirs Shantanu collected over the years since 1987. From brief encounters to unintended elongated interviews, amusing anecdotes to quirky twists of fate – all are interwoven in a vivid manner with phases of the author’s personal and professional life.
These aspects were brought out when the interviewer became the interviewee during the adda session. Leslie, a musician of some repute himself, was the right person to ask questions that evoked interesting and attention-drawing answers. For example, how the title was chosen, or which interview of a musician felt the most rewarding, or how he tackled job and family while pursuing his passion and putting it in print. And when the subject matter comprised all-time music greats ranging from Roger Waters (Pink Floyd), Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull), Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits), Gordon Sumner (Sting) to guitarist Carlos Santana, L. Subramaniam, John McLaughlin, Louiz Banks, Dilip Balakrishnan and Amyt Datta, the audience was all ears. These are just a few of the famous musicians Shantanu has encountered and featured in his book, which also covers accounts of the melodies and renditions by makers of Indian music – from classical to Bangla rock bands.
The audience too had some good questions. One was if he had another chance, which player or singer would Shantanu still want to interview? Which led to: You’ve written about the past; what have you in store for the future as a sequel? Do you think the growing role of AI would affect original music-making or playing? And so on.
A welcome development that emerged at the book-adda was a proposed tribute to High, the Kolkata (then Calcutta) group that created waves decades ago. Next year would be the band’s 50th anniversary. The DI was proposed and accepted in spirit to be the venue of the concert, which would also acknowledge the contributions by High’s founder Dilip Balakrishnan. In fact, both Dilip and DI both find worthy mention in Calling Elvis. As pointed out by Leslie during the adda, the style of writing on yesteryear musical events indeed made memories come alive, page to page and note for note.
[Editorial note: The Book Adda was followed by a get-together in the bar, where a video cast of the songs mentioned in the book were shared onscreen.]