Text and photos by Alok Chowdhury
Considered a musical prodigy by New York’s Bangladeshi community, Paromita Mumu Das excels in both classical Indian music and Tagore songs (named for Rabindranath Tagore, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913).
Born in Bangladesh into a musical family, Das received her first music lessons from her maternal grandfather, Pandit Ramkanai Das, a classical and folk maestro. Her mother, Kaberi Das, a renowned singer in Bangladesh, runs a music school in New York City.
“I first came into music because my family is connected with music,” says Das. “I grew up in music; it runs through my blood.”
As a child in Bangladesh, Das’s passion was for instruments. She learned tabla, a percussion instrument, from her uncle. In Bangladesh, Das was ranked first at a district-level competition in 1995, when she was 6 years old. She also took classes in sitar, guitar, violin and piano.
Her musical career further bloomed after her family migrated to the United States. “I found most of my inspiration from my mother,” Das said. “She always used to tell me ‘practice, practice,’ not because she wanted me to be a great performer, but to stay in touch with music. That’s how she inspires me a lot.”
Last year she did a rigorous yearlong residency in Kolkata in classical music. Her practice schedule there ran more than 16 hours a day, six days a week. “After that level of an intensive and rigorous residency, you want to take a break,” says Das, with a smile.
Das, who recently graduated from Hunter College with a bachelor’s degree in history and early-childhood education, spends most of her time at home in Jackson Heights, enjoying her family, reading books, cooking and playing with her sister, Shruti.