Father-daughter Ranjit and Mallika Barot and their ‘unbreakable bond’
By Bryan Durham - June 16, 2019
The bond that musician Ranjit Barot shares with his daughter Mallika is a strong, emotional one and one that warms the cockles of our hearts. Our sources tell us, he was so invested as a parent that he built a state-of-the-art recording studio at home, so he did not have to miss out on her childhood. Mallika is 23 now and they’re able to work and perform together. Mallika is also part of her father’s electronic pop/ R&B/soul band Superphonic.
Ranjit himself started playing the drums early on, at age 14, encouraged by his mother, the legendary Kathak dancer, Sitara Devi. His career includes collaborations and performances with the widest range of celebrated artists in the recording and live performance genres. Ustad Zakir Hussain, maestro A R Rahman, R.D.Burman, maestro Louis Banks, Laxmikant-Pyarelal, Kalyanji-Anandji, Pandit Ravi Shankar, U. Srinivas, L. Subramaniam, Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, Ustad Sultan Khan, Taufiq Qureshi, Ismail Darbar, Pritam, and Anu Malik and Vishal-Shekhar to name a few.
We sent over a few questions to the two on Father’s Day. Here are their answers…
Ranjit, is there ne thing you wished you had done differently as a parent?
Wouldn’t change a thing. I engineered our lives so that I would have maximum time with Mallika in her early and formative years. As a working musician, you spend so much time in recording studios. So when she was born, I even built my very first state of the art recording studio at home in one bedroom, a tiny space where I produced and completed huge works such as Vande Mataram 2, the songs and music score for Aks, and numerous other albums and films, just so I would not miss out on precious time with her as a child. This has created an unbreakable bond that I cherish. It also created an amazing environment for her to spend time organically immersed in music, listening to voices of some of the most incredible singers in the country who came for recordings.
As a father of a 20-something, does what she listen to, bother you at all?
Not at all. Actually, a lot of my playlist comes from hers. I’m always asking her if she’s listened to anything new.
Would it have irked you if she had not taken up music as a career?
Again, not at all. I urged her to explore all her possibilities. There was never any pressure from either me nor my wife to force her to take up music. She’s got an amazing way with photographs and is completely committed to the rescue and care of animals. We are still not sure she won’t escape to some animal sanctuary at some point. But yes, when she sings, you cannot miss that this is what she was born to do. I’m very happy that this was wholly a decision she made on her own.
The one thing you love most about performing with your daughter?
There’s not one thing but many, really. The pride is there, of course. I have done and achieved whatever I have in this lifetime and I keep great musical company. I haven’t chosen Mallika to front this band, just because she’s my daughter but because she’s a unique singer and brings her personality to the songs we do.
When can we see more of your role in 99 Songs? Is this your debut role? What can we expect?
Yes, it’s my debut role and I’m not quite sure when it’s releasing. Expect the unexpected. 🙂
Mallika, does coming from a lineage and having a legacy to live up to, weigh down on you?
I have a very artistic family, to my great fortune. This has been a huge positive in my life, ever since I was a child. I even did a few lessons with my amazing and beautiful grandmother, Kathak dancer Sitara Devi, when I was 6-7 years old. At some point I felt like it wasn’t for me, and decided not to pursue it further. She was extremely understanding and never made me feel guilt for not prioritising her beloved dance. It never affected her relationship with me, and she was always so supportive of everything I chose to do as I grew up. She showed me only love. The way that I was exposed to music was nurturing and positive, not forced or with pressure. It is only in my adult life that I found music as a career path, but never with the sense of feeling ‘weighed down’ by my legacy. My legacy is only to pursue it in a way that brings light to my life and others, and to do what makes you feel most fulfilled, just like my father, grandmother, and the rest of our family has done.
As a child, the one instrument from your dad’s collection, you coveted.
The first thing I was drawn too, was not an instrument but a device 🙂 My father used a device called a Dictaphone, which essentially was a voice recording device. He would always have it on him, and would use it to record melodies or other musical ideas that he would think of through the day. It was a small rectangular gadget with various buttons and dials that was always fascinating to me. But as an instrument, I have to say, the beautiful blue ‘rainstick’ that was always by the wall near my father. It’s a South American percussion instrument and one of my earliest memories from his studio at home.
One famous friend of your father’s you would love to have followed as a guru.
Bombay Jayashree ji is an incredible singer, and though she had worked with my father only on a few projects, I heard her first on his song and had always hoped to have learned from her. I have done the basics of Carnatic vocal training and I am still working towards doing this one day. And then there is Vasundhara Vee who is is an amazing vocalist and a friend of my fathers. They have worked together so much and I am fortunate to know her personally. I was an admirer of her voice from the first time I heard her because it resonates so much with what I love about singing and music. She is someone I absolutely look up to, and after spending more focussed time on my voice and practice, I am now learning under her guidance. I’m grateful and lucky that today I actually do get to say that she is my teacher.
Your thoughts on your dad starring in 99 Songs?
My father has been a musician for 30-odd years, and just a year or so ago he was asked to be in this film by Mr Rahman. I don’t think he had any such plans but when the opportunity came out of the blue, he stepped up. Though I was surprised at first, I’m so happy and proud of him for expanding his exploration with himself and with the arts. To embark upon a brand new project, the likes of which you’ve never been involved in, while already being an established and prominent musician with an entire career behind him, is so inspiring.
Any Bollywood aspirations for you?
I’ve grown up around so many different styles of music, from western to Indian classical, both of which I have practiced – although I wish I had done more Indian classical in my life. Western music has been my primary and most pursued style of music, and although I do have plans of studying Indian classical again, I don’t think Bollywood specially is something I would pursue. I don’t listen to a lot of Bollywood and I think it requires a specific musical identity that I don’t have.>