Samir Bodhi’s album Stairway to Nirvana is about the journey toward enlightenment
He has collaborated with several Indian musicians to give life to this album.
Growing up in Kolkata, Samir Chatterjee aka Samir Bodhi was fond of everything musical from a tender age. He did not only train with the guitar extensively but was influenced by the vocals of legendary musicians like Hemanta Mukherjee and Runa Laila as well as classic bands such as Eagles, Pink Floyd, and Beatles. As luck would have it, societal expectations pushed him towards engineering for which he crossed seas in due course to settle in The States and become a professor. However, even amidst all the major twists and turns, he chose not to lose touch with his passion and started building his own network which brought numerous concerts and gigs on his way. Thirty years down the line all his efforts have culminated in his debut album Stairway to Nirvana featuring an all-Indian ensemble. We caught up with the music producer for a quick chat about his musical ventures.
What is the main idea behind Stairway to Nirvana?
The racist and anti-immigration sentiments ashore USA has always pestered me ever since I moved here. The hatred spewed by white supremacists and the black lives matter movement got me into thinking about why people of different colors cannot get along when for a fact the USA was built on the very foundation of immigrants. This thought pushed me towards conceptualising a musical project which at its core would bring people together through harmony and peace. Stairway to Nirvana was created with the idea of offering people some tranquility and a moment to pause and think about these sensitive issues. Coincidentally, my album also poses a fitting answer to the post-pandemic era where every other soul out there has gone through tumultuous, uncertain times. My album is synonymous with the light at the end of a dark, long tunnel.
What are some of the musical components of this album?
I believe this album can be categorised as New Age, with a heavy emphasis on Indian classical with a hint of jazz. We have used two of my favourite Indian classical instruments- Sarod and flute, extensively in this album for a meditative feel. I am a guitarist myself so of course, it has been thoroughly used as well. One of the tracks, N=The Nirvana has seen the use of the bowed, short-necked instrument Sarangi. The entire album was extensively planned for a long period before it came into being and the detailing can be found through the names of each of the tracks that progress in a sequence– tranquility, OM, harmony, peace, nirvana. I reached out to some very close musician friends in India with whom I had worked before and shared with them the entire project idea.
What made you adapt Bodhi as your surname and how does it reflect on your music?
It was mainly done for audiences to not confuse my music with others with the same name Samir Chatterjee. Further, into it, Bodhi seemed like an apt choice since I was working on an album where enlightenment and peace were the dominant themes.
Through Stairway to Nirvana you trace the journey of an emotional transition that leads to enlightenment. How did you navigate through each phase of this journey?
OM is not just an auspicious chant for Hindus, but the essence of ultimate reality and truth. I truly believe that music knows no barriers and is a universal way of uniting people. The transition can not only be traced through the progression of each of these tracks but also on the cover art of the album. A close look at the artwork will reveal a spiral staircase heading towards glorious light reflecting the “Om” symbol.
What’s subsequent down your pipeline?
My immediate plan is to record a few fusion originals that merge Indian classical music with western arrangements. I also have plans of producing a Rabindra Sangeet album featuring my wife Madhumita’s vocals and a new age project with a collaborator from Hollywood.
Stairway to Nirvana is available on Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes, Amazon, Pandora, Deezer, and CD Baby