Sonali Nath is a Hawaiian Guitarist who plays tunes of songs of various genres – Hindi and regional Film Songs, Semi-Classical Songs, Ghazals, Qawalis, Bhajans, RabindraSangeets, Nazrul Geetis, etc. She has created a niche for herself in the world of instrumental music. Her music comprises of unplugged versions of songs, instrumental covers of different songs, emotional improvisations, fusions of classical ragas with Western music, pure Ghazal renditions etc.
Sonali Nath’s versatility ranges from old and very old songs that have transcended the barriers of time and also the songs of the present time. And by this she has created her own space in the hearts of the old and the present generation music-lovers.
Sonali Nath weaves magic not only with the tunes of the songs but also makes them alive by bringing out each and every word of the songs with so much clarity that the listeners are almost pushed to hum along with her playing. It’s almost as if her Guitar sings, but then that is the trademark of the Guitar Gharana she is a disciple of – the Sunil Ganguly Gharana.
Born in 1968 to Mrs. Kalpana and Mr. Debashis Dutt and brought up at Dhanbad of present day Jharkhand (then in Bihar), Sonali was a sincere student of Hindustani Classical Musicsince her childhood. It is interesting to note that she was firstly a student of Hindustani Vocal Classical Music and Rabindra Sangeet. She then also treaded steps in the Classical Dance arena. However, she found her true calling once she heard the instrumental tunes of the Guitar Legend Sunil Ganguly on Hawaiian Guitar on the radio, in records and in cassettes.
She started her Guitar-training and her Guitar journey with a very fortunate turn of events. Dhanbad at that time didn’t have any good Hawaiian Guitar trainer. Her father, Mr. Debashis Dutt, while travelling in a train started discussing the problem and the desire of his daughter to learn Hawaiian Guitar with one of his co-passengers who Mr. Dutt thought had a musical bent of mind. The gentleman after listening to him very patiently introduced himself as Mr. Purnendu Adhikari, a renowned violinist of Raniganj, West Bengal and a very versatile teacher in that region of coal-belt India. It is due to his extreme tenacity and sincerity to his student that Mr. Adhikari used to take all the pains in coming from Raniganj all the way to Dhanbad to teach Hawaiian Guitar to Sonali. Mr. Adhikari was the foundation on which Sonali built her entire Hawaiian Guitar career. He was the inception of Sonali’s dream of becoming a renowned Hawaiian Guitarist in her future. Mr. Adhikari was so large-hearted and such an excellent judge of music that he always used to inspire Sonali by saying that “One day, you will have to be one of the best disciples of Sunil Ganguly.” Mr. Adhikari breathed his last in a way that is most coveted for a musician – while imparting training and playing Violin to his students.
Sonali trained under Mr. Adhikari for 6 years till her marriage to Mr. Supriyo Nath in 1988. In these 6 years Mr. Adhikari had created a Hawaiian Guitarist out of Sonali who would perform at local clubs, auditoriums and even at the Indian School of Mines. After her marriage, Sonali didn’t let her Guitar rest. Her own passion and also the support of her in-laws and husband, saw her perform at Gyaan Manch, Calcutta in 1988. This performance was highly appreciated in the magazine “Desh”. In 1989, Sonali and Supriyo went to Farakka Barrage Township due to the posting of the latter. She started to perform indifferent places of both the Murshidabad and Malda districts of Bengal and started gaining popularity there.
After the birth of her son, Abhishek, Sonali fulfilled her dream of training under Sunil Gangulyji. It was a dream come true but also was full of difficulties. Sunil Gangulyji was at Calcutta, while she was at Farakka. She, along with her husband and child had to travel nearly 300 kms to attend the training sessions. Within a year Sunil Gangulyji was overwhelmed with the sincerity and potential of Sonali.
Gangulyji had a unique way of teaching Sonali as he would ask her to come to the class at 9 am of a Sunday, when he would start teaching other students, but then would teach her at the end of the class at around 1 pm or maybe even later. Sonali before coming to train under Gangulyji was performing as a full-fledged Guitarist in Bengal, playing modern Hindi and Bengali songs bycopying him as much as possible from his cassettes and CDs. He could understood from her playing that she copies him and one day he asked her not to perform or play anything that he would not instruct her to and also not to copy him.
‘Emotions of no two persons are similar in this world and emotions cannot be copied. One should try to interpret the cry of a song with one’s own feeling rather than imitating that by copying others.’ was his saying that changed the course of musical thoughts of Sonali. She thus began her journey of first un-learning the art of copying anyone, even her Guru. Gangulyji led her to the wonder world of developing her own style of playing, of putting her own emotions to the music but of course within the roof of the Sunil GangulyGharana. Such severe was his intensity of imparting training in ensuring accuracy that he would sometimes take 6 months to perfect a single song. Sonali did that with a smile and years later now she understands the value of his actions and words. He would always address Sonali as “Maa” and would consider Supriyo as his “BadoChhele” (Eldest Son). Truly, he was the Musical-Father of Sonali. In 1996, Sonali came to Calcutta thanks to her husband’s posting. Gangulyji too was overjoyed and it was due to his insistence Sonali and Supriyo bought an apartment at Garia to stay close to him. By the time, when Gangulyji left for his heavenly abode on the sad afternoon of 12th June, 1999, Sonali had been silently transformed from a disciple to a daughter.