Listen: The Crown of March by Mainak Nag Chowdhury

The coronavirus outbreak changed life as we knew it and thereby, presented a creative outlet for musicians to ponder over its implications. Some wrote about the havoc it caused, while others wrote hopeful songs about the light at the end of the tunnel. But Kolkata-based bassist and composer Mainak Nag Chowdhury was struck by the enormity of it all and went on to write a song about it, titled ‘The Crown of March’.

“It’s a hopeful song, keeping in mind the grave circumstances,” says Chowdhury, who composed it in April last year after India was put under lockdown. He envisioned a breakdown of social barriers and borders as people were coming together to help everyone survive.

However, the intensely played percussion instruments – dubki and cajonito – bring about the fact that he was also bogged down by the chaos of the entire situation. The song, otherwise, has a lilting melody riding on trebly bass chords and a piano, played by US-based Anil Veeraraja, that cheekily tries to replicate it.

The song starts on a tanpura drone, which is given a rhythm by konnakols sung by percussionists Ratul Shankar Ghosh and Gaurab Chatterjee. The dubki introduces broodiness which is present as an unpleasant undercurrent throughout the song.

The relief comes through the clarinet played by Australian saxophonist Matt Keegan. It rises out of the murk and rides towards the light, where the baton is taken by the saxophone which seems like it is playing in the sun.

‘The Crown of March’ is a true product of the lockdown which saw cross-border collaborations – Chowdhury wrote, played it and then sent it to the others, who added their parts in their own homes. Besides mixing and mastering it, he also created the artwork.

The finest quality about this 3-minute track is that it grows on you. The emotions become stronger with every listen. And what lingers on is the undeniable truth: ‘The Crown of March/ Sits heavy on our heads’.