Sarnia’s Preetam Sengupta says he danced in his kitchen the first time he managed to write a song following brain surgery.
“I celebrated that I was a songwriter again,” he said. “I’ve danced in my kitchen a lot since then.”
Writing that song was a milestone in his recovery from surgery in 2015 when Sengupta jokingly says he “had to get a new head.”
Doctors had found a benign growth that was removed, then replaced with a 3-D printed prosthesis.
Prior to surgery, Sengupta was a successful songwriter and performer with one album released and another on the way.
The operation impacted his motor skills and his memory.
“I needed to get my brain and my hand talking again to be able to chord,” he explained. “I was lucky my songs were on YouTube so I could watch me play and relearn my own songs.”
Sengupta, 40, didn’t doubt he’d fully recover. But he knew it would take patience and hard work. He initially didn’t want to speak publicly about his health or recovery.
“I wanted my music to define me,” he said. “I didn’t want to be the brain surgery guy. No pity love.”
But a year ago, a journalist who had survived cancer interviewed him and their conversation convinced him he could make a difference in the lives of others if he talked about his recovery.
“I realized, as an artist I have a voice and I’m lucky enough to have a platform,” he said.
He began accepting public speaking engagements at brain injury events where he talks about resilience and the road back.
“If I am able to help someone through a tough time, if I can help them get through the day and see their way to the next one, I’m willing to do that.”
A show in Sarnia featuring Sengupta 11 months after the surgery proved significant. He and some musical friends, including Emm Gryner from Forest, planned an “It’s Great to Be Home” show during the holiday season.
“It was a way for me to get back on the stage,” he said. “It was home and my friends and family were around.”
That first year, Sengupta played only a couple of songs. “I had to be realistic about my abilities,” he said.
But the success of that performance gave him confidence to resume stage work. For Sengupta, being on stage is once again the most comfortable place in the world.
“It’s a dream for me. I love connecting with audiences,” he said, noting he mixes his brand of folk music with lots of stage banter and storytelling.
Sengupta finished writing his second album called Patience, which won him a 2017 Folk Music Ontario Award.
His career is back on track and this year has seen him touring with Patience and collaborating with other songwriters.
“Great to Be Home” has continued each year and on Dec. 15, Gryner and Sengupta will present the fourth annual. These days, Sengupta is hosting the evening and performing a full set.
Gryner is bringing a number of guests including Stratford guitarist and singer Brad Canning. Her mom Linda and friends are bringing a bit of traditional Christmas music.
And Ashlyn Price of Bright’s Grove is also performing. She was a finalist in the Hit Like A Girl drumming contest.
If You Go:
What: Preetam Sengupta’s annual holiday concert returns, with Emm Gryner and guests.
Where: Sarnia Library Theatre
When: Dec. 15, 8 p.m.
Details: Tickets, $20, are available at the Cheeky Monkey downtown, Personal Touch Eatery and Catering (cash sales) and online at www.preetam.ca/EmmGryner.
The Arts Journal reflects Sarnia’s vibrant cultural life. Send your ideas to [email protected].