“I have a habit of recognizing pitches in any sounds that I hear. Like that fan, it’s creating a G-Sharp right now.”
These are the words of a very amusing, and talented musician that I recently got to know a little bit.
Always on a lookout for new artists and musicians, I came across Ronojoy Sircar. Ronojoy is a Delhi based musician and a full time explorer, with a day job as an English literature professor in a college in Delhi. He also writes poetry and has written and composed all of his songs himself.
Along with being a part of various group projects, Ronojoy has recently come out with his own individual project, R#onbus. He just released his new single Before, which is a part of the album he’s about to release under R#onbus, and I decided to have a conversation with him. Here you go:
Mansi: Let’s talk about R#onbus. How did it happen?
Ronojoy: So, I was in the music scene about 10 years back and I was touring pretty much everywhere. The bands that I was part of were into good stuff too. But eventually it became about money. So I quit. All of them at once actually.
Then I did my BA in correspondence from this campus in this really beautiful campus in Keshav Puram. Music wasn’t anywhere in the scene except for a couple of gigs here and there, even when I was doing an MA in Venky. I had lost my skills, had kind of purged myself of them.
Till about three and a half years back. I remember when it happened. I was at a friend’s house, and I picked his guitar up, and played just one note. It was a D minor. And I just kept playing it.
That’s when the idea of R#onbus actually began. I guess I just realized that I really like playing music. I started writing, and not just poetry but also music. Mostly to express myself. That’s essentially how R#onbus began.
After three years now, R#onbus has expanded quite a lot. I’m still curating the songs that I want to put in my first album. Exploring ways in which one can express oneself, even if it’s just one note.
Mansi: Is there a specific genre or theme then, to the album that you’re about to release? Or to R#onbus itself?
Ronojoy: I find this hilarious, and it could just be me. R#nbus is like the shape of a rhombus, hence the hashtag. But it also means “Ron, bus”, something people could say if they want to me stop.
Mostly it’s a story about essentially me, but also this persona I’ve created. I was always fond of this poet called Fernando Pessoa. He had this thing where he had eight or nine personas under which he wrote poetry.
That’s my idea.
R#onbus is just a story. Of someone travelling through the country, trying to explore ways in which he makes art.
I don’t think R#onbus is necessarily male or female though. There’s no gender denomination, but since he’s connected to me in some ways, I’m calling him a ‘he’. The stories that I’m telling could be female or very very masculine, or just about wandering. R#onbus is a story of exploration. I’m just trying to figure out if there’s something I can communicate through music. That’s about it, that’s what R#onbus is about.
Mansi: What about the album? Is it in a particular genre?
Ronojoy: Exploration is an idea which is central to R#onbus. The album too holds it close. It could be a tune I heard somewhere, or just a sound. My travels are mostly solo. I have a habit of noticing sounds and their pitch and so on. Because of that, whenever I go around and hear people talking, even those sounds are going into the album.
So the album is structured with eight songs. A song that I wrote day before yesterday, has actually bumped a song song that I wrote 2 years back. It’s called Pablo. It’s a tribute to Neruda. And in between the album, there are these interstices. In those interstices, there are stories. Two Lovers having a conversation, a chana jor garam waala singing some song about chana jor garam in Saket, temple bells. Such sounds, that I recorded during my travels.
Mansi: What are these sounds? Are they present as separate tracks?
Ronojoy: So, interstices in the sense that there are two tracks, and in the middle of them there’s a story. These are mostly soundscapes. Kind of declaration of their spaces, even if it’s a very intimate space or a very far off space. Some of them are through a radio voice; I’ve kind of worked on the sounds of the voices themselves.
You see, the album tells a story throughout. Something similar to Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly. Lamar’s album has this poem that runs through the entire album, and he ends each track with a line of that poem and then recites whole of it at the end of the album. It’s beautiful, and that’s the kind of storytelling I want to do.
I miss listening to albums from beginning to the end, so “1” will be about that. These interstices will connect one song with the other. Like Before, for example, has a conversation at the end of the track, although I’m not sure if I’ll release it with the track itself. It’ll be there in the album though.
Mansi: I noticed that the name of your Album is “1”. Why “1”?
Ronojoy: It’s tied in with the idea of story telling through the album. This particular album tells one story. R#onbus’ first story. Hence the tracks will be called something, the interstices will be called something (or nothing at all), but the albums will be numbered. Hence 1, and hopefully 2, 3…
Because the first album, it has come out of nowhere, literally just me travelling and exploring. Anyone who knew me before in the music scene thought I was dead, because I’d cut off completely. So the first album starts very simple. Form the beginning to the end, you can actually see the artist growing. Most importantly, the way in which R#onbus communicates the stories he encounters, grows. So from very simple chord progressions, and a kind of fixation with love, and death perhaps, the tracks move on to become more abstract. Dealing with ideas like estrangement, or just atonement.
Mansi: I got to know that you’re also a poet. Are all the songs in “1” written and composed by you?
Ronojoy: Um, yeah. I mean everything is being done by me. I’m quasi producing it as well. I initially wanted to produce it by myself, but I felt that if there’s something I can trust someone else with, who is far superior to me in that area, then I should. So I met Vaibhav, and we hit it off immediately. And he’s been lovely. I don’t even have to tell him now, what I mean with a particular tune or song.
And though it is called R#onbus, this character explores spaces. And in these spaces, he encounters people who then collaborate with him. So Before, which is my first single, that has Abhishek Mittal on it in the background on the guitar. And he’s done such a beautiful, beautiful job. He’s added this soul to it that I can’t imagine. There are more people who feature in other songs. And these are just people who happen to come by.
So that’s essentially what this album is.
Mansi: So how does it work, the process of writing and composition? Is there something that comes first, and then you think for the other on those lines?
Ronojoy: With other projects that I’m into, like Three Hrs, the band that I’m in, it’s slightly more happenstance.
In R#onbus, because it’s “Ron, bus”, just me, I generally find that I’dbe playing something…or…
Like, I’ll give you an example. With Tasveer, one of the songs in the album, I had this one lyric stuck in my mind “Firdaus me tabdeel Hui ye taqdeer ” for about two months. And then one day, I was just sitting…mai usually apna Kona pakad ke baith jata hu. People come ask me to play something, I play and then I just continue with my chai and sutta or whatever. The tune for Tasveer came them. But with Pablo, for example, the tune came first.
But now I find that the gap between when the melody enters and the lyric enters, has reduced. Before, it took a while. I’d just play something, and the lyrics would come a day or two later. The music and lyrics now go hand in hand.
Mansi: You mentioned that you were in the music scene about 11 years back. Let’s talk about that a bit. How was it, and what made you take the break?
Ronojoy: I’m Bengali. A lot of people sang in my house, and I’ve grown up with my mom singing about while cooking and going about her work. I’ve grown up with sounds from Cliff Richards to Kishore Kumar, Manna Dey. Very eclectic sounds. I started learning keyboard by myself. I’m very restless and extremely energetic. So my mom bought me a keyboard, and she would assign me tasks. She was like a Japanese instructor, she would say “try Kar lo hota hai ki nai…” (laughs). That’s how I started getting into Piano too. And I picked up the guitar by the time I was in eighth.
I got into western music, I think, with this music teacher I had in sixth grade, Joe sir. He had this smooth jazzy voice, and was damn cool. He’s been a huge influence on me too. So Joe sir started a western music thing in our school. It was just Indian classical before.
When I was in 7th, I joined my first band. I think we called ourselves Inertia, and we started playing Sweet Child Of Mine and all these songs. We won Pepsi storm Song, third prize. I really got into it, around this time. I started listening to Buddy Guy and all these beautiful people, and we started singing with as many people, as many forms as I could.
But eventually it became about money…and showing off…
Nai hota hai fir.
So when it ended, it just ended. I thought I was done. That was also the time when I got a facture in my ankle and was told that I can’t play football professionally. So the two things that I had going for me, I lost both of them at once. I got into heavy drugs and alcohol. I kind of spent a year and a half marinating myself in every drug out there.
Then in college, I remember I was sitting in this class during my BA, and the professor was talking about the Miltonic universe. And I just got interested. That’s when I got to know I liked this, I liked “ideas”.. and literature.
It’s only some time back that I realized that I’m not done with music, and I can’t be.
Mansi: So is there anything else you’re involved with, or anything new you’re planning for R#onbus that we should know about?
Ronojoy: I’ll tell you about R#nbus first. There’s something very interesting that I’ve been working on for the last two months now. R#nbus is producing a dance drama. It’s the story of two warriors who meet in the middle of they forest and they can’t fight, or walk away. It’s not a love story, but of curiosity and intrigue. And we’re bringing in two completely different dance forms. Music as a part of dance is something that I think we need more. The dance drama is essentially going to be dance first, and I’ll add as minimal a music as I can.
Three Hrs is my band, as it were. That also happened accidentally. I was just sitting at chai, and a person I had just met Sayon (who I still can’t believe I haven’t known all my life) brought his friend Rahil. And we sat and talked for three hours. That’s where the name comes from. There are five of us now. So Three Hrs is just freedom. It’s an open field.
I also have a web series with a bunch of people called ARSSHOLES, which we’re trying to build into a production house. It’s Abhishek, me, Sonamm, Shibani and Shekhar. We’re making these random things to build up to a web series. It’s interesting because we’re a bunch of people from different places getting together and creating.
There’s also something else, which I can’t really talk about. It’s a bit hush hush.
All of these are just about doing what you like. I’m a big believer of that way of life. And the music scene right now is so welcoming. For anyone who wants to do something good and their own. There are problems, but there’s always people who help and support.
R#onbus released his first single Before on November 2nd, which is a part of his album which is scheduled to release around February 2018. He’s also going to tour around late November, performing gigs in Delhi as well as Bangalore and Bombay and possibly Kolkata.
Here’s the link to the first track of R#onbus
Image Source: @amemoirphotography