Meet the Composer Turning Recipes into Viral Music Videos

From macher jhol to music recipe videos, Sawan Dutta talks to us about her unique compositions

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You may recall Sawan Dutta from ‘Macher Jhol’ and ‘Ode to Boroline’ —songs that were viral hits a few months ago. Dutta had a short stint with India’s pioneer rock band, Indian Ocean, during their early years. She started out as a graduate from the School of Planning and Architecture and has studied operatic vocal performance and piano from established names in the music field too.

The musical powerhouse now works out of her Mumbai studio and has provided the musical score for a number of documentaries, feature films and has composed ad jingles to boot. She also manages her personal vlog, The Metronome where she shares her musical projects with her fans. She talks to Bayside Journal about how she came up with the ideas for her unique ‘musical recipe’ videos, her latest ode to the now discontinued 500 and 1000 rupee notes, and what we can expect from her in the future.


1. You quit architecture to pursue music. Why this sudden and drastic decision?

Architecture and music are really like two different sides of the same coin. There used to be a graffiti scribbled on a wall of our architecture college canteen that said, “Architecture is Frozen Music” – which I think is very true. They both combine science and art in equal measure. In architecture, you enclose space with building material. In music, you use sonic material to enclose time.

The one advantage music has over architecture is that it’s possible to pursue music as an independent interest, even without a client involved. It’s also entirely possible to pursue music as a solo professional, to see through a creation from concept to completion all on your own, something that is not really possible with Architecture. And right through my student days at SPA (School of Planning and Architecture), I’d spend more time playing music, first with my college rock band and then with Indian Ocean (which came into existence around then), than studying architecture. So, the decision wasn’t really too drastic or sudden.


2. Would you describe yourself as a typical Bengali?

I’m not too sure what being a typical Bengali involves, so I couldn’t say! I’m a probashi Bengali who’s never lived in Bengal. There are many things I absolutely love about Bengal, starting with its cuisine, which is my favourite cuisine in the whole world. I suspect I’m more of a typical Bengali than I realise.

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3. Your Bengali-themed songs are where you are in your element. Why did you decide to compose songs based on Bengali culture and traits?

I guess it started with ‘Ode to Boroline’, which was meant to be a one-off thing. It was actually my audience who made me realise that my creation of the Bengali Aunty “character” had immense potential. I had no idea what sort of a reception the Boroline song would get, whether people would like, hate or even ignore it. After the unbelievable response that the song received, with all the accompanying requests to do more such stints with the same character, I decided to look at the possibility of further exploring something similar.


4. How did you come up with the idea of a recipe music video?

Like I said, I started thinking about what more could my Bengali Aunty do. I have a knack for trying out things that haven’t been done before. It’s also the reason I started my song blog. I wanted to keep experimenting with new ideas, learn new things, and expand my musical, creative and technical horizons. So since recipes was a popular genre on YouTube and music was another huge genre, I decided to try combining the two to create a brand new hybrid genre, one that didn’t exist before, just to see what would happen. The reaction, again, was a lot more overwhelming than I had imagined!


5. This is coming from one Bong to another—can we expect a song on ‘Begun Bhaaja’ anytime soon?

Now that’s a thought! I love begun bhaja!

Well, The Metronome isn’t even a year old yet, so hopefully there’s a lot more that I’ll end up doing over time. So all I can say is, why not?


6. In your ode to the 500 and 1000 rupee notes, you seem quite calm and composed about the whole situation that India is facing. Why did you compose a nice, nostalgic ode to the notes? Why not an angry rant? I’m sure demonetisation must have caused you some inconvenience? 

You know, my song blog is like a refuge for me, where I come to escape from what’s happening in the real world, and where I try to create my own fantasy world. So actually, it’s because of the fact that there is so much anger, so much hatred and divisiveness around me, whether on my social media feeds or in the real world, that is the reason why I decided to create something that is like an island of calm, an oasis of detachment in the middle of all the negativity. Anyone who wants to listen to an angry rant these days can just look around them, or log on to any social media platform.

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7. What more can we expect from you in the near future, besides these fun videos? 

I guess the blog will keep moving with me and whatever’s going on in my life. Hopefully there will be songs about travel, food, small and big incidents, about interesting people I come across, and about friends. So a healthy mix of fun, laughter, slices of life and the occasional dark serious stuff is what you can expect.