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Mridusmita Deka
Date of Publish: 2016-09-08

Ethnic Influence in the Songs of Bhupen Hazarika


"O mighty-armed Brahmaputra
pilgrimange of a union greater
connoting harmony forever"


There have been few people in Assam like Dr Bhupen Hazarika having such understanding of the motherland as to introduce it to the world solely through his artistic oeuvre. There have been few or no subject and situation on which he had not composed a song. More than the social, political and the nationalist, it is ethnic interest that found quintessential place in his songs.

The maestro earnestly attempted to ingrain brotherhood among the ethnic communities of not only Assam but of the entire North East India. Dr Hazarika called himself a 'nomad'. He travelled across the world. He swam in the confluence of oceans, from Volga through Ganges to Mississippi, nothing was left out. Sometimes rains drenched him with one Monalisa of the Shillong peak, at other times the nights of Disangmukh inflamed him with passion.

The sheer simplicity of lifestyle of people in the North East, its tradition and culture captivated his soul. He dreamt of unity among diversity galore. Assam is enamored with the unique beauty of many languages and dialects.

"Our languages are lively
for the symmetry of the
Bodos, Rabhas, Misings
Why don't you read them all
Pamegam Bisnu Rabha..."

Dr Dilip Kumar Dutta had it that "Dr Hazarika knew very well that Assam will be devoid of its serene beauty and future if there is no unity left between the hills and the plains."

Assam and the entire North East remains enriched with the myriad culture of the many tribes and communities. An artist that he was, he found an expression through his songs to show his deep love and respect to all. The artist had envisioned that expanse of the Assamese would remain tremendously large.

"Many castes and tribes
Cultures of many hues
Our motherland was born
in its embrace..."

The Mishings are one of the local tribes to live on the soil of Assam. Living earlier on the hills the community now resides in parts of Upper Assam. At Disangmukh, having listened to the tune of pipe by a Mishing young he sang (1963):

"O Mising brother
blowing your pipe as you did
You've decorated the night of
Disangmukh with melodies
Why have you worn
that mibugaluk shirt
and pererumbong chadar.."

The use of Mishing words in the song is spectacular. The use of the ethnic words in the pure Assamese language made it even more lucidly melodious. The description of the tribe found place for the first time in Rajanikanta Bardoloi's novel "Miri Jiyori". The love saga of Jhanki and Paanei was rendered into his enticing music:

"Paanei of today hardly dies
nor does cry Jhanki
Society of the Mishings
O Khanki Paanei..."

A young man from the plains was Gadadhar. As told by his wife Jaymati he hid himself in the Naga hills and his falling in love with Dalimi found expression in his song. In the meeting of the two, unity is born. The song had the most aesthetic depiction of the colorful hilly festivals:

"Of that Jekhama village of childhood
Of dancing in rhythm in those festivals
Putting the wings on
Like the butterflies red and blue...
I am a brother-in-law of Tuwensang
We two are living embodiment
of unity of East India."

The foggy evenings of Shillong were close to his heart. To him, it was an impeccable relation with the dream town and the distant Khasi village. He likened the beauty of the Khasi woman Monalisa to that of the immortal creation of Leonardo. He sang thus:

"Monalisa Lynhdoh of Shillong
Play on the hilibili music
In the guitar in your hands"

An important song by Dr Hazarika is "Siyangore Galong". He composed it in 1961 at Along of Arunachal. The song is all about the unity among the tribes like Apatani and Monpa:

"Galong of Siang
Khamti of Luit
Wansu of Tirap
Why have they called me...
I embraced the Apatani sister
With love she took me with her...
I embraced the Monpa brother
In exchange he gifted me a Budha's idol"

The discussion on ethnic communities will be incomplete sans the tea tribe. During the British rule the laborers were brought from various corners. Gradually they became an essential part of the greater Assamese community. Dr Hazarika composed:

"I'm a girl from the gardens of Assam
Not Champa, Chameli is my name"

They introduce themselves to be from the lands of Assam

The mesmerising culture of the Goalpara region was also not left out from his artistic observation. He draws a vivid picture of the youth from Upper Assam who had come down to Gouripur to catch elephants and how his mind was spellbound by the beauty of a young woman of Goalpara:

"I went to catch elephants
But saw a woman of Gouripur
I did catch the elephants, and mesmerised her too
Swimming across the Gadadhar."

Besides these songs there is socio cultural reflection of the Bodos, Rabhas, Karbis, Khasis, Jayantias, Adi Galongs in majority of his songs. His acute observation of the communities remains utterly prominent. The difference in tradition is beautifully mingled with an overwhelming sense of brotherhood. The artist is no more with us. He was a king bereft of the need of a crown, so will he continue to be so, his songs will live on forever, for eternity.


 Mridusmita Deka

( Mridusmita Deka is a student of Guwahati College.  She is pursuing her  B.Sc in Botany, 1st semester. She can be reached at- mridusmita1996@gmail.com ) 

Translated from Assamese-

Daisy Barman

(A doctoral fellow at the Department of Folklore, Gauhati University, Daisy Barman is a scribbler and translator. She can be reached at- maa.daisy@gmail.com )



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