One is likely to overlook the bass guitarist in a musical ensemble as elaborate as in AR Rahman’s Zariya — his sweeping ode to motherhood that opened Season 3 of Coke Studio@MTV last week. But, in spite of the presence of world music imports such as Ani Choying and Farah Siraj, and seasoned musicians such as Sivamani and Prasanna Ramaswamy, a 17-year-old girl quietly steals a moment or two as the camera pans into a pair of hands making assured plucks on a bass guitar.
Meet Mohini Dey, the girl with the guitar, who has been making swift inroads into the live music circuit, playing with Rahman, Nitin Sawhney, Zakir Hussain and Niladri Kumar, among other established musicians. Marked a guitar prodigy since childhood, Dey was playing gigs with fusion artiste Ranjit Barot at the age of 11. “I was three when my dad put his guitar on my lap and I started to just strum. I wonder at times if I chose the instrument or it chose me,” says Dey, whose father, Sanjoy Dey, is a professional guitarist. She played with Barot’s band for last year’s MTV Unplugged and for Sawhney in last year’s Coke Studio as well.
If there is anything that explains her quick rise in the music circles, apart from her gifted guitar skills, it is her ability to seal opportunities as and when they came. Barot was bowled over by the dexterity of her fingers when she once accompanied her father — a close friend and fellow musician of Barot — to his studio. “He told my father that I was playing the way a mature person would,” she says.
She particularly remembers another event, when she was told about a show hours before it started. It was an informal jam session with Zakir Hussain and a few other well-known musicians outside the Prithvi Theatre in Mumbai’s Juhu, in front of a group of music lovers. Dey remembers going blank for a second because the urgency of the show hadn’t given her the time to prepare, but she pulled off a guitar solo within seconds of being
on stage. “I am never nervous. Once I am on stage, I go wild,” she adds with obvious confidence.
Rahman discovered her talent when Barot was arranging for him ahead of a song recording. Impressed, he roped her in for his set of six songs in Coke Studio,