The Musical Techie Who Aims for the Stars 


This gentleman has two distinct personalities. Five days a week he works as an electrical engineer in a high-profile multinational company, with the national (Delhi) capital region as the place of his current posting. However, as soon as the weekend dawns he is virtually transmogrified so to speak.

The corporate gear packed way, you are likely to see him in his casual avatar denim and tee shirts; with his guitar and camera as companions he wanders off (read drive) where his fancy takes him. You could spot him lolling on a bench in a park or sprawled on a grassy patch under a shady tree, humming to himself or trying out a tune or two. If caught in a sudden downpour while driving, he might just park his car in a safe spot and enjoy watching the rain lashing his windscreen. Not surprising if he fishes out a pen and paper to scrawl a few lines just as his fancy takes him.

Yes, guitar-happy Rajarshi Debray is a diehard nature lover, a self-taught lyricist poet and lastly a doodle artist. There is a maverick spirit palpable in Debray that endears him to all those who interact with him including his audience and fan following. Yes, Debray is already creating ripples among the music-loving Bengali Diaspora in the National capital. But he feels it’s not time yet to rest on his oars. He still has many more miles to go.

My interview with Rajarshi begins here:

From the remote Barak valley in N-E India to Delhi please trace your personal and musical journey

My family hails from Sylhet Bangladesh, though I have never been there. Owing to my dad’s transferable job we have lived in various places e.g Silchar, Guwahati (Assam) Agartala (Tripura) and Kolkata. I graduated in electrical engineering from Regional Engineering College Silchar Assam. By then my family had relocated to Kolkata where I began my professional career. Later I got a transfer to Delhi. And that’s where I have been for over seven years now.. Regarding music, my native place Assam (especially Barak River valley) boasts of a rich repertoire of music. On a personal level, music runs on both sides of my family. My grandparents were music lovers and amateur singers. I had my rudimentary training in tabla from my paternal grandpa. Then there was a tabla-playing mesho  (maternal uncle) who also helped me along the way. It was my Mom who taught me Tagore’s songs since this was in vogue in urban educated middle-class families during those days. During my Agartala years I had a fairly long stint in a reputed music college ( teaching institute). In the eastern part of the the country there exists a wide range of music viz folk, semi-classical,  bhajan  and  kirtan  (genres of devotional music) so it was part and parcel of  daily life. I also learnt to play   Srikhol  (percussion drum) which always goes with kirtan.  

That’s rather interesting. Now tell us where and how  you learnt to play the flute and the guitar?

Oh!  I had learnt to play the flute during my college hostel days. I had purchased a simple flute (the one played sideways) from a  mela /country fair. I tried teaching myself. Initially, the result was sheer cacophony, you see that’s because a flute lacks a sound-producing element of any sort. You are solely dependent on your breath control and movement. But I managed somehow and subsequently engaged a professionally trained teacher for a short while t learn the ropes. I learnt guitar from the younger son ( can’t recall his name) of a renowned vocalist the late Angshuman Roy. That was in Kolkata. After I moved here I continued to learn guitar from a young student who could keep flexible timings to suit my free time. However, my knowledge of the guitar is very basic. I use it only as an accompaniment while I am singing

You also dabble in lyrics and poetry writing? How did that come about?  

Well, you see I was into the habit of keeping/ writing personal diaries since my younger days. It was no fancy, flowery, or frilly stuff. Just my own feelings and emotions. I record incidents events and happenings of the day- to-day life. Since I was deeply  into music I thought it might be a good idea to set my emotions and feelings to music. In that manner, I would be able to reach out and share with the public at large. So that’s how it all began. Vignettes of daily life crept into my lyrics. Ditto for poems. The themes are never far removed from reality. For instance, I penned a poem about how a One Paisa a coin is still in circulation in Kolkata a city that’s unique in many ways. 

Now tell us about yourself as a sketching artist 

I must stress that when it comes to sketching again I draw my themes and characters from anything or everything that I see around me. They are mostly flippant, light-hearted unadulterated fun. For example, do a lot of teasers when Durga Pujo approaches. People relish them in good humour. Trust me it needs a lot of effort to pour out inner self on paper. I get lots of ideas concepts etc but then i grow dissatisfied and scrap them. The quantity of stuff that I have finalised is much less than what I have discarded.   

Who are your favourite singers, language and time frame notwithstanding?

Among Bollywood singer Mukesh tops the list. His songs are replete with melancholy andpathos, which I find soul-stirring. Rafi is the epitome of class, a blend of latent talent and thorough classical training. Suppose I were to emulate any famous singer’s style, it would definitely be Kishore Kumar (laughs). That’s because his songs have so much melody and exude an air of peppiness. Plus they have a simple, easy charm that appeals to the masses. Among Bengali singers, I have great regards for Kabir Suman and Nachiketa whose brilliant lyrics  portray ground realities of modern (urban) lifestyle  vividly and lucidly. Their mundane, earthy quality is unmistakable. But Suman is classy while Nachiketa has mass appeal. Manna Dey and Shyamal Mitra also figure on my list of favourites.  

What are the qualities you feel an artist/ singer must possess?

Singing is a performing art. The lyrics, compositions and tunes already exist. Innumerable artists have sung those umpteen number times. I too can get away with singing accurately merely for the sake of singing and entertaining the audience. I Instead I ponder: what is my personal contribution to the performance? Am I able to project my inner self a part of me into what I do? Having inborn talent  is one thing and acquiring skills is another. A true artist is someone who is able to hone his skills and achieve a fine blend of the two. He must merge his inner self with the nuances in such a way that after a point they become inseparable.  

How do you juggle a corporate job with the pursuit of music? What are the struggles involved? 

Well for one, my job and my music are distinctly separate. People at my workplace are not quite aware of  this aspect of my personality unless of course they have seen it on social media. After work, I return home  to spend some time with my family. After dinner, once things are winded up I devote myself totally to  practice / doing riyaaz for not less than an hour, besides tackling other music-related issues. As of now, I am taking online training in pure classical music from Pandit Hegde who is based in Karnataka. So you see I need flexible hours to pursue music. Secondly, I don’t perform during weekdays, they are all confined to weekends and national holidays. Even during the Pujos/Fiesta season I seldom take leave, My programmes are mainly held during the evenings and merge into nights. 

Would you agree that music is your parallel career?  

Surely. It’s a fairly recent development though. Earlier music was only my passion. But the pandemic changed all that. Cooped up at home I resorted to uploading several songs on digital media. That increased the visibility of my work. This coupled with the fact that I had given performances on television from time to time made things easier for me. Organisers invite to perform on various occasions social, religious, cultural and more. The going has been smooth so far  It would be relevant to mention that digital media has adversely affected people’s mindsets. Nowadays they prefer to grab freebies rather than spend on entertainment. I nimbly sidestep all that and ensure that I as well as the instrument layers receive proper remuneration. A professional approach is a must.