Amit Chaudhuri is a novelist, essayist, poet, a composer in experimental music, and an Indian classical musician. He is the author of seven novels, a collection of poetry, and two collections of essays on literature and culture. His debut exhibition of artworks, The Sweet Shop Owners of Calcutta and Other Ideas, opened in Calcutta in August. His third book of essays, The Origins of Dislike, will be out this year, his second collection of poems, Sweet Shop, is published next year in January, and Friend of My Youth, his seventh novel, will be published in the United States in February 2019. He is the recipient of many awards, including the Commonwealth Writers Prize, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the Government of India’s Sahitya Akademi Award, and the inaugural Infosys Prize in the humanities for outstanding contribution to literary studies. His writes essays and articles for, among others, Granta, n+1, the London Review of Books, the Guardian, the New Left Review, and the Times Literary Supplement. In the past four years he has organized an annual “literary activism” symposium in the hope of generating critical discussions among artists, writers, and academics in a space distinct from both the literary festival and the academic conference.
Music, Listening, and the World
I wish to write about North Indian classical music primarily, but also Western popular music, and even classical music from Europe, and my relationship to these. Besides being a novelist and essayist, I'm a singer in the North Indian classical tradition, and a composer. I have recordings from HMV and other record labels in Indian classical vocal and experimental music. In 2005, I embarked on an experiment bringing together Indian classical modes with the blues and even rock and roll, primarily through overlaps between the pentatonic blues scale and certain pentatonic ragas. The experiment began with a “moment of mishearing,” when, practicing raga Todi one morning in 2004, I heard the riff to Derek and the Dominoes’ “Layla” in some of the notes I was singing. This led, over the next few years, to an experiment I called “non-fusion.” I wish to write of Indian and Western music from the multi-perspectival vantage point my Indian metropolitan background gives to me.