The stage is filled with legends like AR Rahman, Sivamani, Ani Choying and Farah Siraj. However, as the bass guitar starts playing, all eyes are focused on the 17-year old girl who steals the show. Meet Mohini Dey, the child prodigy who started playing alongside legends since she was eleven.
We got a chance to have an interview with Mohini Dey.
Our readers probably know you as a bassist prodigy who played alongside Zakir Hussain. Six years down the line, we see you playing bass guitar alongside legendary AR Rahman in MTV Coke Studio. How has your life changed over the last 6 years?
I played with Zakir uncle at the age of 13 and I played on Ranjit Barot’s album – “Bada Boom” at the age of 14. His band consisted of musicians like John Mclaughlin(Guitar), Wayne Krantz (Guitar), Dhruv Ghanekar (Guitar); Amit Heri (guitar); U.Srinivas (Mandolin); Mohini Dey (Bass); Dominique DiPiazza (Bass); Scott Kinsey(Keyboards); Taufique Qureshi (Percussion); Sridhar Parthasarathy (Mridangam) and Tim Garland(Horn sections). Playing for Coke Studio and MTV Unplugged has always been fun as we get to collaborate with new musicians all over the world. It’s a platform where musicians are featured and musicians can do all the creative stuff they want. They can completely change or rearrange the song which can give them a new vibe and feel.. this process is very interesting to me. In the Coke Studio Season 3, I played with AR Rahman.. I had one of my greatest times playing with him. He is very innovative and creative and he wanted his episode to be really different and so he got some of the best musicians of the country who could equally ideate, create, grasp things as well have a great outcome out of their playing. A.R. gave me complete freedom to do whatever I felt like. I had a great time creating my bass portions which would complement the songs. I was a part of MTV Unplugged Season 1, 2 and Coke Studio 2 and 3. But after I played alongside A.R.Rahman in Season 3, my facebook account got over 2000 requests in one day; I got more than 500 messages on facebook and it was fully crowded with people’s posts and photos showing the love for me and my work. So, it’s a great feeling to get wonderful comments and tremendous love from everyone with the work I did. Now wherever I go, people already know me – It’s a great feeling.
What is it like working with AR Rahman? How has your practice changed ever since working with him?
My practice always stays the same. I get up early in the morning at 6 AM and I practice from 6-9 AM. I have loads of studies too. After a hour gap, I do my studies from 10AM-2PM and in between if I get bored, I start playing my bass guitar. My music is like a game for me. It’s like something which I can do anytime and anywhere. Even when I don’t have my bass guitar in my hand, I always have some ideas going on in my mind! But yes, when I and the whole band of AR Rahman were rehersing for Coke Studio I remember – the first day we had no idea of what to do; I, Sivamani and Prasanna – we were jamming and having loads of fun and after sometime we got the scoresheets of songs which were not final, we started playing them and slowly everyone joined. Everyone was coming up with new ideas which we could use, we had lots of ideas, possibilities but it is not necessary to use every idea that comes up; AR used the best ones and this way – we framed each song. In just 2 days, we were done with 6 songs ! It’s a miracle.
In one of the earlier interviews, you have mentioned the importance of focus & practice. How is a typical day for you? How much practice do you do every day?
Yeah. It’s very important to be focused, have faith and confidence in what one does. This is not only in music but in every field. If one wants to be the best in his/her field, then it’s important to give plenty of time to it. I make sure that I practice for atleast 3 hours every day. But I believe that even if a person practices for an hour, it’s good but it totally depends on whatever he practices in that one hour. I believe it’s important to listen to different kinds of music. That’s because that is something which helps one to have an open mind.
Ranjit Barot has trained you since 7? How is it working with him?
Ranjit uncle has not “trained” me. I have definitely learnt a lot of things from him. But I learnt those things while playing with him. So although it wasn’t a formal training, I always asked him whenever I faced any difficulties. I started to learn bass at the age of 3 from my dad. My father gave me everything what he had about music. I worked hard and now I do things on my own. My father was a very good friend of Ranjit Uncle, it was him who introduced me to him. I respect Ranjit Uncle a lot – he is a great human being and good to work with.
Experiences with other big names in the industry?
I started playing music with Ranjit Uncle at 11. Now I am 17. I performed with him at some of his music shows. Once in a gig, Mr. Louiz Banks was present. The next day, I got a call from him asking to play music with him. I was elited as I loved his compositions as they consisted of complicated unisons with Jazz chords and harmonies. That was the first time I had jammed with Louiz Banks and Gino Banks. At present, I am a part of his band called “Ganga Shakti” which is a fusion band having powerful western rhythm section with Indian contemporary classical melodies. Working with Louiz, it’s all about the creativity and there is complete freedom for me to play what I feel. It is now 7 years since I have been in this industry. I have always wanted to be the best in what I do. Recently, I played 2 gigs with Prasanna in October. It’s a great to work with a knowledgeable person like Prasanna. After Coke Studio Season 3 was over, I played a couple of gigs with Sivamani; I also played 4-5 songs for a telugu movie in which Sivamani was the music director. It’s amazing to work with him.
What are the qualities/lessons that you have learnt working with those legendary artists.
When I started working with AR Rahman, I learnt the importance of patience – it was mind-blowing to see how he was dealing with such a big band – it’s really hard to listen to each and everyone in the band when things have to be done fast. At that time, patience is the virtue. When I worked with Zakir Hussain, I saw that he is so down-to-earth..I realized that no matter how big you become, never forget the past and never forget the people who heloed you in your journey. Always remain who you are. I believe that learning in music never stops.
What skills does one need to possess or cultivate to become an excellent guitarist?
One needs to give time to music, it cannot be taken as a “time pass thing”, one needs to practice and he needs to have experience about how this process of music making is, one needs to listen to all kinds of music to understand the difference. He/She needs to study the particular subject properly. Best of all, you should love what you do.
What are your future aspirations?
I want to create my own music. I am happy by the way I am progressing.. very soon I am going to be coming out with my album.
What are your favorite songs/tracks? Who are your favorite music artists?
There are a lot of tracks which are my favorite, it’s hard name one. I like listening to funk music with jazz touch. I listen to a lot of drummers which helps me create new ideas. I love listening to drummers – Dennis Chambers, Dave Wekl and Vinnie Coluita etc and my favorite bass players are Jaco Pastorious, Victor Wooten and Marcus Miller.
How important is independent music today? How is the scenario changing in India(where movie songs have dominated over decades) when something like MTV Unplugged, Coke Studio is coming up?
Of course, independent music is important. Now a days, there are a lot of gigs and I believe people have started preferring gigs more than CDs. Music bands should perform their music live.
What do you think about Musicperk.com?
I think Musicperk.com is doing a great job in exploring a musician’s history.