Upamanyu Kar is a a promising composer, orchestrator and music educator from India. His music
reflects his wisdom and openness to experiment. He has been commissioned by orchestras, not only in India, but also in the United States and in Hungary. Kar is an erudite academician. He teaches Music Arrangement and Composition at The Metropolitan School of Music. In an interview with us, he speaks about his journey, motivations and inspirations that drives and creates his music.
Q: What has inspired your musical journey?
A: Life itself is an inspiration for me. I have seen many shades and colours of life. As a storyteller, I use different musical ideas as tools to express these sahdes and colours. Life and Music, for me, are twined together.
Q: Were there any difficulties, any challenges in your moving forward?
A: Life is incomplete without challenges. In the begining, I faced challenges at every step. There were betrayals, toxic relations, childhood traumas, that can adversely affect mental health and progressive thinking. Success, I feel, is more about coming clean through these challenges, rather than sheer professional achievement. I am truly blessed. Life has rewarded me with succesful career and freedom to create my own music.
Q: What are your most famous works till date?
A: I got my first breakthrough with the production of Numerous Strings. I was commissioned as an orchestrator. It is considered a pioneering work containing English and Bengali hymnal songs by Rabindranath Tagore, presented in choral and orchestral arrangements. It was debuted by Kolkata Youth Orchestra along with a choir at the Victoria Memorial Hall in Kolkata. I was also commissioned for a concert titled Tagore On Soul and Strings by Tagore Beyond Boundaries, a non-profit NGO and the Pioneer Symphony Orchestra in Michigan (USA). Later, Indo-European Youth Orchestra at Budapest (Hungary) commissioned for me to write a Tagore Medley for performing at the Danube Palace. My independent work Naborupe Rabindranath: Tagore’s Songs in Choir and Orchestra was published by INRECO label.
Q: Would you describe yourself as an arranger or an orchestrator?
A: I maintain no real boundaries or limitations when it comes to Music, Arrangement or Orchestration. When I arrange, I work as a visual soundscape designer to express the meanings of the words. For this, sometimes I blend ethnic strains, or sounds from Indian musical instruments or choral notes. Whatever suits the need for text-painting. Quite often, I infuse relaxing ambient sounds to build-in a therapeutic or healing aspect. One of my professors in composition class once said, “we cannot create music; we need to let go of our ego, following which music happens through us”. This is what drives me to put together innovative musical ideas. Since last year's lockdown, I’m now working more actively as a contractual musician with international clients.
Q: What differences do you find between European and traditional Indian music? How do you blend the two in your works?
A: Fundamentally there are not many differences between them. Both have their own nuances, applications and each rooted in their own cultures. For example, in Indian traditional music, melodic nuances are considered of utmost priority, while the musical languages of Europe is based on their forms of tonal harmony, which classical composers have used and cultivated over centuries. The expressions of any musical form, genre and style is different, largely depending on the geography, culture and people from where they originate. When I create something that blends the music of the East and the West, I look beyond expressions of origin to understand the message, soul and purpose.
Q: What are your future plans?
A: I wish to take the journey ahead furthermore, and keep exploring the unknown and the lesser-known things in order to create more musical ideas and to execute them with utmost passion. I’m extremely passionate in my work, but being a contract musician, I have to be mindful of client satisfaction. And I’m yet to see what destiny holds for me.
Go to Music Composition and Arrangement lessons by Upamanyu Kar.