The lights are dimmed in anticipation at a Kolkata nightclub. The stage is dotted with an assortment of table lamps. A boy in chinos and a formal shirt, his hair neatly parted, makes way to the stage. Fashion magazines would describe his look as “nerdy”, but stereotypes fly out of the dark tinted windows when 20-year-old Nischay Parekh takes to the mike. You hear him talk about love as he slowly envelops you in a haze. Before you know it, you are in Parekh’s world, where one has “New York state of mind/In Indian standard time”.
This Kolkata-based pop artiste is one of the few musicians to perform in all the four editions of NH7 Weekender (Pune, Bangalore, New Delhi and Kolkata). His debut album, Ocean, has received rave reviews from across the country. Rolling Stone describes the album as: “It’s got pop hooks you’re not going to tire of very easily”. Yet, success doesn’t seem to have gone to the head of this “bhalo chele” (good boy), who is studying music at Berklee College of Music . “I get to hear that a lot. But I realise music is all about collaborations,” says Parekh.
Born to music-loving Bengali-Gujarati parents (his mother is a jazz-loving Bengali and his father is into Indian classical music), Parekh knew what he wanted to do from a very young age. “The background score of my childhood had Nat King Cole and Stevie Wonder, as well as Pandit Ravi Shankar,” he says. He found a mentor in another Kolkata-based musician, Tajdar Junaid. “I used to look forward to spending Sundays with Taj,” he recounts, “Initially, it was all about playing the guitar. But he changed my world view. I realised I could learn a lot from him, I was always ready to pick his brains,” says Parekh. That’s when he started writing songs. “It was a natural progression. Taj was also very supportive,” he says. Berklee too happened because of his association with Tajdar. “He mentioned that a friend of his is studying music in Berklee. I didn’t know that people could spend four years studying music in a university. The idea just bowled me over,” says Parekh. He was 16 then.
Parekh’s song Me and You from his debut album was written when he was 13 and its deceptively simple words are laden with deeper thoughts. In Love me baby, Parekh confesses about his past