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NE fertile ground for new wave in music, says David Baker of Dr Dope

Multi-instrumentalist and vocalist, David Baker, is hopeful about the music scene of northeast India with great artists emerging from the region. Baker has been entertaining audiences for years and is now gearing up for their debut performance at the Ziro Festival of Music in Arunachal Pradesh.

In an email interview with Anupam Chakravartty, he tells EastMojo about the quirky name of the quartet he is attached to, Dr DOPE and more

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Can you please introduce the band/quartet along with the members for our readers? Is the acronym more important or does Dr. Declan Oppenheimer’s Polyphonic Experience have a significance that I somehow missed?

We call ourselves Dr. Declan Oppenheimer’s Polyphonic Experience, (Acronym: Dr DOPE). Consisting of Parashar Kashyap, our lead guitarist, Rishav Bhuyan, our Bassist, Priyanku Saikia, our drummer and I, the rhythm guitarist, harmonica player and vocalist.

The idea behind the name is we imagined having a thinker and a healer who is experiencing music, or life, in a new way. (Signifying our listeners – saints and sinners all!) We had wanted to go with Dr. Dope, meaning ‘awesome’, but it was regularly misconstrued to mean contraband. We got fed up explaining that in this context the meaning is positive. So we decided to unambiguously explain the name and what it means. In my mind there is a lot of meaning attached to it and hopefully it reflects through our music.

As a quartet, tell us about your musical influences? What kind of an influence did music coming out of Assam had in your signature styles?

As the band is a mix of generations the influences have been varied and wide ranging. Our youngest is our drummer Priyanku who is quite naturally influenced by modern and contemporary jazz, R&B, rap and other such influences of the modern era of music. Rishav our Bassist has quite a large palette of influences, ranging from old time jazz, rock, pop, to R&B, bebop, right up to Assamese modern music. Parasher Kashyap is primarily a finger style guitarist who has discovered his versatility over a period of time, making a very mature approach to music. His background and influences come from rock, country, pop, hip-hop, jazz (both old school and contemporary), Hindi, Assamese and other regional music and other world music genres. Actually all music he can lay his hands on.

I am heavily influenced by British rock bands mainly, and Bob Dylan, and a couple of American and other European bands. Although in reality, I like listening to music without classifying any genre, I like it all and I am influenced by them all. I am more influenced by music delivery rather than style or genre. I am particularly fond of our local Oxomiya traditional rhythms and vocal phrasings. They are so energetic and happy, I try to base my music out of all these influences that have worked on me to give me my sense of music.

Mr. Baker, you have been around in the music scene for a while in Assam especially in Guwahati. How has the scene evolved for jazz and blues/rock and roll musicians of the city over the years?

When we were kids trying out our musical shoes, getting content to learn and music to hear was in itself a very difficult thing to learn. And we did what we could. Hence the quality of music was limited to our fumbling approaches, basically we did our best. But these days with the advent of social media and other personal entertainment apps, like FB, YouTube, learning anything has become such a wonderful experience. And one can immediately see the quality of music improve. I think the NE is fertile ground for a new wave in music to take place.

What more can be done to support independent musicians from the northeastern region? Any interesting initiatives in this regard that you want our readers to know.

Something nice is already happening. It is awesome to see how nowadays the music scene is picking up. There are many more very very good musicians coming out, many more teachers and music shops. This can only mean that in years to come it will get better.

What I do believe could be done in a concrete manner is use music as a learning aid in schools and teach the kids music appreciation and have music classes for those who show an aptitude. I believe that this gets many to the presentations and displays, which is what is needed for musicians and music to survive.

Dr Dope will be performing at 3 PM on September 30, 2022 on Signature Danyi Stage at the Ziro Festival of Music.

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Also Read | Ziro Festival: Baba Sehgal talks 90s Indipop, Bollywood rap and more

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