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Kuwoli Hazarika and Gaurav Verma
Date of Publish: 2017-06-24

A musical journey less talked about in Assam

 

Music has been imperative in the Assamese subsistence. And what stands as the pillars in music are the instruments and the musicians who create the soulful melody. Many a time people overlook the role that the musicians play.

Photo courtesy - Anjana Gogoi

Historians claim that a distinctive conglomeration of songs, musical instruments and dance was observed in Assam during the 2nd century. Since then, lot of transitions have taken place, be it in the songs or in the usage of instruments. Changes are inevitable but the love for music remains constant. It is this love for music that keeps the musicians going despite the hurdles and struggle they face in this field. Youngsters are highly attracted towards music. Assam is a land full of talents. From soulful voices to brilliant hands at the instruments , Assamese youth are very versatile. While some take it up as a profession, others continue playing the instruments as a hobby.

 

“Either engineering or medical-a typical Indian family demands, maybe this is the reason why I could not choose music as a career. If this wouldn’t have happened, then music was an obvious choice,” expressed 23- year old Mandip Kalita who has recently completed his engineering studies. Mandip started playing the guitar when he was in class 9. A western music lover Mandip got his inspiration from Johan Myung, the bass guitarist of the band ‘Dream Theater’.

Indulging completely into music has never been easy for many. Kushal Kalita who hails from Mirza is a senior keyboardist now. He has been accompanying famous singers from Assam since 1996. “Few years before I got into this profession, my father was really worried about me. Today there is a lot of scope being a musician because the music industry has grown over time , the demand is more now but during my time, the scope was comparatively low. One couldn’t depend fully on music for their earnings. I remember my father telling me once to join a typewriting course rather than learning the keyboard. He said it would at least get me a decent job ”,he mentions. Kalita continued working on his passion and today he is not just accompanying artists in the functions all over Assam but also teaches students in his music school “Sanskritika”.

Deep Rajbongshi , a well established guitarist feels that music is all about dedication and passion. One cannot expect to earn much from this profession. “Many of us stepped into this industry together, some could stick on to it, while some others left and took up some other job, because we do have frustration at times. We may not have a regular income. One day we might have two shows and the next day none. There is no certainty. It entirely depends upon us how we manage with that” , he says. Rajbongshi started off with playing Mandolin and then took up guitar as a profession in 1990. He is now working multi-dimensionally as a musician, music arranger, music director and a teacher. He teaches guitar to his students at Shruti Sangeet Ashram. There are several such music institutes across the states one of them being Institute of Musical Keyboard, Rajgarh. Alakesh Baruah started off as a student of that institute but later on found his love growing towards guitar. He is now practicing guitar under the guidance of guitarist Shantanu Baruah. Alakesh mentions that he and his friends have recently started a band and is thinking of taking this band to a new level professionally.

Photo courtesy - Angaraag Phookan

While some youngsters go for formal training, many others take Internet as their teacher. Angaraag Phookan who has been drumming for six years now says that Youtube was and still is his constant source of knowledge. Currently studying drums and music production at True School of Music, Angaraag is an active member of ‘ Shades of Retribution’ and ‘Maximal’ and is already making electronic music as ‘Skye’.

While male musicians are more in field as musicians, females are not much behind either. Anjana Gogoi is a name in the industry. She has been playing the tabla professionally since 1999. She is seen on stage with noted senior artistes including Sudakshina Sharma, she performs in TV shows, Radio programs and most importantly she is a teacher to many young tabla aspirants. In the year 2005, she represented Assam at Hyderabad and Lucknow Youth fest. On being asked what made her choose this instrument over others, she said, “ It is the sound of the table that inspired me. During my childhood days I would see Atul Hatiboruah sir giving tabla lessons to my brother. And after sir left, I would quietly sneak into the room and start exploring the instrument myself. Sir got to know about it one day and he decided to train me for free. That is how I got into playing the table.” Anjana Gogoi now runs an organization called “ Swaralipi ” where she organizes different types of workshops from time to time and also provide free training to few underprivileged children. Maybe that is why it has been said that musicians are very kind at heart.

This is the aura of music. It cannot be kept confined. It has to be passed on. In the era when many youngsters are attracted towards western instrument , very few engage themselves with traditional ones like Baahi or flute. A Student of Tezpur University, Churamoni Dutta has earned accolades in and for the University in the field of music. Born into a musical family, young Churamoni got attracted towards the flute when he was in his sixth standard. Without any formal training, he established himself well in this field and has recently launched his music video ‘Rhythm of Brahmaputra- unheard voice of Majuli’ which got selected at Caribbean Film Festival & Market 2017.

Assam has a big market for Instruments. Several shops and stores that deal with musical instruments are spread across different parts of the state, especially Guwahati. Rajgarh area in Guwahati has the best shops in the city. Most of the Indian classical instruments are made in Goalpara, and Dhubri , the leather instruments usually come from Moran, Sivasagar and Golaghat whereas the western instruments are manufactured in Kolkata and then brought to Guwahati. But with online shopping sites gaining popularity, the local market has gone down. Mr. Ganesh Sarkar, owner of Galaxy Music Mart in Ganeshguri, says in this regard, “ The online shopping sites offer instruments at lower prices compared to us. Our instruments are prepared by skilled workers and we guarantee quality and good finishing which is why our costs are slightly higher but even though the online products do not guarantee the quality, they are sold out more just because of lower price rates.

Usually we have an annual sale of Rupees 4-5 lakhs in a year. And most importantly, this is a one- time investment. An instrument once bought, gives service for a long time- sometimes 20 to 30 years. Hence it is not something which will be sold very often. But our income comes from the repairing that needs to be done from time to time for the instrument to work efficiently.”

 

World Music Day comes once in a year (June 21) but music rules in the people’s heart every moment. Music is the outcome of combined efforts of singers, musicians, producers, lyricists and directors and the efforts of every single person deserves to be appreciated and honored.

Photo courtesy- Alakesh Baruah

Music lovers say “ good music brings motivation, music is inspiration, Music is an emotion.”

 

Kuwoli Hazarika and Gaurav Verma

( Kuwoli Hazarika and Gaurav Verma are students of M.A. ( Second Semester) at the Department of Mass Communication and Journalism, Tezpur University. This feature has been produced as part of their Summer Internship at NEZINE. )

Photographs used in this feature were taken by Kuwoli Hazarika and Gaurav Verma

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