Neel Sarkar is an instrumentalist and composer from Shantineketan, India, who started his musical journey at the early age of nine. His first instrument was the tabla and he picked up the classical guitar as his primary instrument in his teenage years. “The guitar is a multi-dimensional instrument. It has a polyphonic sound,” says Neel. “As a composer, I see the guitar as a small orchestration – it can play rhythm and melody at a time.”
Shaped by various trajectories of musical genres and forms, his style of playing reflects a mix of Hindustani Classical melodies and flamenco rhythmic textures underscored with an essence of Western Jazz harmony. Apart from composing and playing his primary instrument, he has been under the tutelage of Pandit Shantanu Bhattacharyaz (Patiala gharana) in Hindustani Classical music. He can also play the Persian sitar.
Neel pursued a career performing with various local bands and got exposed to different genres of music like Rock, Pop, Modern Jazz, Latin and Flamenco. In 2007, he decided to move away with his guitar from the urban cacophony to the countryside and started to write and compose songs for himself. Afterwards, he started looking for like-minded musicians to collaborate and perform with. Soon, he launched his first independent musical initiative called the Neel Sarkar Project with four other musicians from different parts of the world and cultures who connected with each other through their own philosophy and spirituality in the form of music. They played in different venues and received widely positive reactions from the audience. The enthusiastic response to their music led Neel to produce two albums with the project ensemble - Vishnu's Report and Zikr, released in 2014 and 2016 respectively.
Neel then released his solo freestyle guitar album Soliloquy in 2017 and toured with it in different places. “By definition, 'soliloquy' is a speech in a play in which a character tells the audience how he feels by talking to himself –this album embodies that idea. It comes together as one body of work,” he explains. Neel's musical inspirations come from life events, people whom he meets and even other forms of art like theatre, films and paintings. His upcoming album, Art of Balance, will be released in 2019.
He further spoke about the excitement of doing live shows. “Seeing people come and enjoy what you are playing is the greatest feeling,” says Neel. “That's what we musicians really expect - to connect to an audience through the beauty of music.” His show at Jatra Biroti in Banani opens at 7pm tomorrow.