The Sounds Of Silence

Have you every faced complete mind block? Cabin claustrophobia? Renowned composer Shantanu Moitra shares how a journey into the mountains helped him overcome this phase of life.

It was mid-2016 when composer Shantanu Moitra, of the film 3 Idiots fame, felt a complete creative block. Finding himself claustrophobic and lacking in inspiration in a mega polis he decided to head to the Himalayas in search of himself.

Shantanu set on this journey with award winning nature photographer Dhritiman Mukherjee. Inspired by The Motorcycle Diaries he knew this journey was going to be iconic for him.

Shantanu Moitra

All Photographs: Dhritiman Mukherjee

In the words of the musician, “I was convinced that sometimes you just need to take the leap and head on a journey – that’s all you need to rediscover yourself. We need to move out of the comfort café that we have created for ourselves”.

They set for the journey on February 2016 starting from Ladakh. His travels took him to some of the most stunningly beautiful spaces like Singalila National Park covering Sandakphu to the Mayali Pass leading to Kedarnath… they also went to Himachal touching Lahual and Spiti and heading to Nepal, Bhutan and Sikkim.  Now only the last leg of the travel is left, and Shantanu is itching to go back and travel through Arunachal Pradesh, to complete what he started.

Shantanu, after returning back to civilization completed three compositions. “The tunes came gushing to me, I could barely hold myself once I got back! The songs that are sung above 12,500 ft are insane. The mountain shepherds sing in high frequency so that their herds can hear them. There is not just mere entertainment, it’s a way of their life.”

The music from the Himalayas have a pentatonic structure (five notes music) – that’s what bind them to its isolation.  Due to limited exposure, for generations, people have adhered to this five note structure. Thus the number of notes in hill music is always limited, he shares.

Moitra, who didn’t carry any recorder on this journey felt that visuals created magical tunes in his mind. His evenings up there were spend creating tunes from scratch, humming in his tent. His ukulele (a guitar-like instrument)  was his companion in this musical journey. “The hills are vast and organic, and I love the stillness that’s there in the hills. Back here in my studio, I recreated something like that…the sounds of silence.”

Upon his return in October 2016, inspired by his travels to regions 17,000 feet above sea level, Shantanu Moitra composed a concert, ‘Song Of The Himalayas’, for the seventh edition of One World Many Musics: Celebrating Artistic Plurality, which was held in Mumbai.


With sparse instrumentation, stillness all around, time to connect with his inner self, Shantanu is ready to make some wonderful music. The physical journey has led to a deeper inner journey and he vouches that this is the perfect remedy for anyone facing the same ailment as he was!