A man known for his mean skills on the six strings
300 rupees and a reluctant kiss from a model – that’s all it took for Kalyan Baruah to aggressively embark on his now very successful professional career. Currently based in Mumbai where he is known for his mean skills on the six strings, Kalyan has lived an eventful life developing from being a lonely shy boy to a rebellious youth, to an aspiring artist and finally to a well known guitarist, music producer, and sound designer. One swift glance over his discography will tell you of his brimming talent and extensive experience in an industry where the professional shelf life of an artist is only as long as his audience’s aesthetic memory.
Born in the small town of Dibrugarh in Assam, factors like his father’s government job in the Forest department, his frequent transfers as well as the secluded locations of the remote transfer areas contributed to the lonesome nature of his childhood. However, Kalyan was not an unhappy child as creative spirits rarely are. He kept himself entertained with painting, sketching, listening to the jungle sounds and whatever else that captured the attention of a growing child’s fascination. After the demise of his mother, he was looked after by his sisters and brother-in-law who were all artists in their own right with heavy involvement in theatre. Taking up residence in different parts of Assam and listening to his sisters singing exposed Kalyan to a variety of musical styles and cultures.
He was gifted his first guitar soon after he realized that learning to play the tabla or even the bass guitar for that matter didn’t seem to excite him enough and he had more to express creatively. After moving to Guwahati to pursue his higher studies at Cotton College, his relationship with music grew stronger as he began to play for college functions and music competitions. This of course came with its own perks. After all, don’t all girls love the brooding artist type? He soon became part of a rock band and the unavoidable change in his appearance (long hair, torn jeans) added to his already growing appeal. Although he did take up white collar jobs with Wrangler Jeans and Network India Ltd, the musician in him remained deeply entrenched. Playing with the band ‘Moonwind’, he continued to be influenced by the likes of Deep Purple, Allman Brothers as well as other genres like the blues and jazz. It was with this band that he entered a competition in Mumbai and won the title of the ‘Best Guitarist’, prize money and the previously mentioned kiss from a model that he didn’t end up collecting out of embarrassment.
At around the same time that he was working for Wrangler Jeans, the music scene in Guwahati was proliferating which allowed him to play for a lot of Assamese records and maestros like Bhupen Hazarika and Zubeen Garg. It is true that one must lose the fear of falling before taking a jump for greater things in life. This is exactly what Kalyan did – multiple times in fact. He left his office job and later moved to the daunting roller-coaster ride everyone knows as ‘Mumbai City’ on the invitation of Jitul Sonowal who wanted Kalyan to play for a bilingual movie in the works. Luck favored the brave and he met music director Salim of the Salim-Sulaiman duo who after listening to Kalyan play, encouraged him to defy the challenges that an artist faces in Mumbai. The trouble with living the life of an artist is that you wake up every morning basically unemployed. One must be constantly engaged in an active search for jobs and Kalyan bagged quite a few jingles and TV commercial projects in this search. Soon his talent acquired the kind of respect that we now know it deserves and he branched out to play for live shows and go on world tours for popular singers like KK, Adnan Sami, Lucky Ali and so on. His dedication only helped to snowball the effect of his undeniable talent and he was soon working with the likes of Anu Malik, Taufiq Qureshi, Pritam to name a few. Today, most of the well known songs that stay embedded in the memory of Indian movie-goers have Kalyan’s contribution in them- either in the form of a music producer or as a guitarist. He has played for most of the films in the Yash Raj Productions, romantic blockbusters from Kaho Na Pyaar Hai to Love Aaj Kal, thrillers like Dhoom and Shor in the City, and collaborated for performances with a number of respected artists for Coke Studio@MTV like Farhan Akhtar and Papon. At present, he lives a very busy but content life as a renowned musician in Mumbai where he is perpetually engaged in upgrading his home studio, co-producing his music album ‘Aks’ and spending time with his family.
To see a list of his profuse creative works, please refer to his broad discography