They have been hitting the right notes for years now because nothing that they do is ever run of the mill. But for Bhoomi, the Kolkata-based Bangla band, the pitch has never got higher.
As they prepare to perform at the United Nations in New York on the afternoon of July 12 on an official invitation, the six-man band is going where no Indian band has ever gone before. The only Indians to have ever been invited to perform at the UN are Pandit Ravi Shankar, MS Subbalakshmi and Lata Mangeshkar. Bhoomi couldn't have been in more august company.
"We are really overwhelmed. It's an honour that is beyond our wildest imagination," says Soumitra Ray, the ponytailed St Xavier's College Kolkata graduate and one-time sports journalist who fronts Bhoomi.
Bhoomi topped the Bengali modern music charts with their very first album, Jatra Shuru (The Journey Begins…), in the late 1990s. The band hasn't looked back since, scaling new heights with each new recording, each new concert.
Bhoomi will perform at the United Nations in New York on July 12. The only Indians to have ever been invited to perform at the UN are Pandit Ravi Shankar, MS Subbalakshmi and Lata Mangeshkar. Bhoomi couldn't have been in more august company.
Seven albums and 880 concerts later, Bhoomi continues to capture the imagination of fans wherever they perform. It is obvious that there are officials in the United Nations who love their songs, which are rooted in a unique sound that combines a variety of traditional folk with an array of western rhythms.
Soumitra, who has been playing percussion instruments ever since he can remember, is always had a grounding in western music. "I had never thought I would one day stray into Bengali songs," he says. It was a meeting with Bhoomi band member and singer Surajit Chatterjee that changed the course of Soumitra's career. "Surajit had great knowledge of folk music," he says.
"I wasn't initially interested in that kind of music. Yet I collaborated with Surajit on a Bhatiali folk song as an experiment. The result was truly awesome. It sounded like a variation of Simon and Garfunkel," he recalls. Bhoomi was born following a sell-out two-hour concert held at Kolkata's Max Mueller Bhavan almost to the day seven years ago.
The popularity of Bhoomi has grown in leaps and bounds over the years. "It is the unusualness of our sound that has struck a chord wherever we have gone," says Soumitra. From urban centres to remote rural areas, the band's appeal has cut across all boundaries. "We've performed before villagers sitting on paddy fields," says Soumitra.
Bhoomi is now on the world map. The first couple of years saw Bhoomi do 40 concerts all over West Bengal. In the next five years, they have done well over 800, some of them outside the country. "The UN concert will be our 880th show," says Soumitra. "Our schedules our punishing. We are always on the road. But once we are on the stage and we see people screaming and clapping in excitement, our fatigue vanishes."
Bhoomi is currently on their third concert tour of the US. The latest tour kicked off with two concerts at the 26th North American Bengali Conference in Houston, Texas earlier this month. Besides the UN show, Bhoomi is scheduled to perform in North Carolina, New Jersey and Washington DC this time around.
On earlier tours of the US, Bhoomi has spread its magic in cities San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, New York, Atlanta and Dallas. The world is now at their feet.