Unboxed Vol. 43: Indian Bass Prodigy Mohini Dey Explains How She Linked Up With Willow Smith

Mentored by her musical parents and known for her work with legends like Steve Vai and A.R. Rahman, she shares insights on her unique style, creative synergy with Smith, and her passions for fashion and craftsmanship.

Anyone who watched Willow Smith’s fantastic NPR Tiny Desk performance would have noticed the phenomenal bass-playing of Bengali Indian virtuoso Mohini Dey. Mentored by Dey’s fusion bass player father, Sujoy Dey, and Hindustani singing mother, Romia Dey, she was already known nationally in the country as a superstar bassist well into her teens. By the time Dey reached her twenties, she was known for blending kinetic music with slab bass while collaborating with Steve Vai, A.R. Rahman, and dozens of other legendary musicians. 

“It’s been about 17 and a half years that I’ve been professionally working in the music business in India,” explained Dey. “I have done pretty much everything. I’ve played with everybody there. I’ve done production work there. I’ve played in various movies and background music and advertisements.”

Though she lived in Los Angeles for a while during the pandemic, Dey moved back to India until her father died in 2023. Ready to move somewhere more peaceful and quiet, she moved to Nashville, where her stateside exposure began to magnify. Apart from gaining notoriety by touring with her global band,  Dey released her well-received self-titled album in August. 

“When I released my album, people like Willow Smith, Hannibal Buress, and others heard my album and they were amazed,” said Dey. “My album probably made Willow go ‘hey, I want her in my band.’ I got a follow on Instagram from Willow and her team hit me up. I asked her why me personally and she said ‘believe it or not, your name goes around a lot in the Kirton music community out here in the U.S.” 

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Because of her heavy progressive fusion rock background that saw her growing up listening to Tower of Power, The Brothers Johnson, Earth Wind & Fire, Toto, and more, alongside various forms of traditional and contemporary Indian music, Dey saw the opportunity as a creative challenge to stretch an already wide music palette. 

“I think like a drummer more than a bass player,” explained Dey. “ So growing up, one of my favorite drummers were Carter Beauford and then of course Dennis Chambers and Michael Walden who produced so many Whitney Houston records. I also love Stevie Wonder, Micheal Jackon, Prince and all of that.”

It also helps that both spent their childhood years in the spotlight before transitioning into adults, allowing them to share that common ground. After a week of rehearsals for both NPR Tiny Desk and “The Tonight Show Jimmy Fallon” performances, Dey was more impressed with Willow's creative capabilities.

“Another great thing about Willow is that not only is she extremely talented and produces her own music but she is such a strong personality when it comes to trying something different,” said Dey. “All of the performances you saw so far with the band were all live. Nothing is playing from anywhere like playbacks or click tracks. That is a bold move for an artist like who just released a whole brand new album that’s so different from what she’s released in the past.” 

Dey is also passionate about fashion design. She creates all of her stage outfits for performances and tours because she finds the process therapeutic. Beyond music, she is also deeply engaged with social media marketing, content creation, video production, and various forms of craftsmanship, from interior design to painting. However, Dey’s love of music is rooted in her love of bass. 

“Without bass, there’s no booty,” explained Dey. “How are you going to feel that in every part of your body? I think every bass player is going to be like without bass, there’s no groove.   I think it's one of the most important components in the band. It makes people dance, it makes people groove, it really makes people fit in that pocket. If you are in the pocket, you're going to get people in your pocket.”

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