Daddies of Rock
It’s time now for the grand old daddies of rock of not only Assam, but the entire north eastern region. They are none other than Friends, the pioneering bards who shaped the music scene of the state through their musical prowess and courage to follow their dreams. And as the name itself suggests, these versifiers choose to play soulful music as a group, which is but, just an extension of their friendship.
The line-up of Friends has seen quite a few changes since its inception but three members have remained steadfast in their decision to play their heart’s rendition. They are founder member and guitarist-singer Dhruva Sarma, his talented brother and drummer Nomoni and ace guitarist Annirudha Barua. A household name in the western music crazy states of the region, Dhruva and his group of talented musicians had been making their presence felt all over the country, including the earlier Mecca of music, Bombay before an unfortunate break-up created a huge void. After seven long years, the group has got together once again and it’s great to note that the members are still going strong musically. The rock music fans of Guwahati have got reason good enough to cheer and Dhruva looks back at the earlier days and says, “It’s been quite a break and it feels good to be back once again”.
Friends has an inclination towards 70s style music which is evident from their own compositions as well as the covers which they like to play. They are never into heavy stuff nor loud sounds and Dhruva likes to classify their songs as ‘soft rock’, while they also lay a lot of emphasis on Rhythms and Blues. The band was formed when four music crazy friends got together to practise music and create their own compositions. Guitarist Umesh Boro, Bassist Dadul, Guitarist cum singer Dhruva and his brother Nomoni were the earliest members of Friends, formed in 1988. They were soon joined by another pioneering guitarist Aniruddha Barua. The band’s line-up has seen numerous changes since then and some of the members have gone to become top musicians of the country. Musicians who have played with Friends include the likes of Kalyan Barua, Rakesh Barua, Rajiv Barua, Liton, Rajiv Hazarika, Rintu Phukan and Rafeal. The present line-up is a mixture of experienced maturity and youthful exuberance in the form of Dhruva Sarma (vocals, guitars), Annirudha (Lead guitar), Nomoni (Drums), Partha (Guitar), Monu (Keyboard). At times, the group is joined by vocalists, Garisha and Pritisha, to accompany Dhruva. The group is soon going to be joined by Mainak from Diphu and Warimeki from Shillong.
The group has been shelling out superbly crafted originals right from its inception. They are all classics in their own way, be it their earlier composition Harder Way or the favourite Any Day Now. Any Day Now is one of the earlier recordings and it is based on the universal phenomenon of teenage crush and its associated heartbreaks. Frontman Dhruva, who is a pioneer of rock music and one of the most popular musicians of the country, writes the lyrics and composes the songs.
So what has been the secret behind the immense fan following and incessant popularity of this band? Dhruva likes to base it on the chemistry among the group members and regrets the break-up, “Initially, the chemistry was great. We played for a long time together and we enjoyed the time”. He adds, “We were all students and we did not know anything other than school and practise. We used to come home and practise everyday. We never used to hang around and devoted ourselves whole-heartedly to practise. However, after we left our studies, we had to start thinking of a living and slowly other things began to take precedence. The very spirit, which was the hallmark of our band earlier, began to fade and the members began to take music more easily. As such, a void was inevitable”.
Now that they are back and still roaring i.e. if their last couple of shows are anything to go by, they have a couple of plans up their sleeve. Their foremost aim is to create their own identity which Dhruva feels is of utmost importance for a music band to shine in this era of competition. Dhruva adds, “We have to do a lot of live shows so for the next few months, we plan to play covers. After that, we want to stick to creating our own stuff and then one we settle down, we want to change the whole musical agenda and priorities”.
These veteran rockers have faced all kind of audiences for two decades now; from toddlers in classrooms to the bold and beautiful of the tea clubs of upper Assam; to gun-waving, leather clad youngsters at Churachandpur in Manipur to the MTV hit generation of Shillong and Guwahati. We can just wish that Friends keeps on playing its hearts rendition so that the era of friendship which they gave life to, can start afresh, once again. Play on Friends!