Monthly Archives: March 2010

I always wanted to be different

“I always wanted to be different”, the crusader said. And looking at his impressive career and his long list of bouquets, I realised that he had long fulfilled his dream and had become a master in the truest sense of the term. Yes, I’ am talking about Padmashree Pt. Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, the man who charmed the world and who indianised western music with his pioneering creations, the Mohan Veena and the Vishwa Veena.

Pt. Vishwa Mohan Bhatt is a name which needs no introduction in the world of music. At a time, when the world was in dire need of master guitarists, Pandit Vishwa Mohan not only mastered the guitar but also successfully indianised the western Hawaiian guitar with perfect assimilation of Sitar, Sarod & Veena techniques to create the unique Mohan Veena. Mesmerising audiences throughout the world with his blinding speed and faultless legato, Bhatt is undoubtedly one of the most expressive, versatile and greatest slide players in the world. The world charmer Vishwa Mohan Bhatt (Vishwa means world, Mohan means Charm), with his sheer virtuosity and limitless supply of melodies had brought laurels to the country by winning the world’s highest recognition, the Grammy award in 1994 for the World Music Album, ‘A Meeting by the River’ with Ry Cooder. A Sangeet Natak Akademi awardee, he was bestowed with the Padmashree in 2002.

Padmashree Pt. Vishwa Mohan Bhatt and the ‘Mohan Veena’ have both become synonymous over the years. The recipient of numerous awards by various premier institutions in India and abroad, the legendary musician will be performing today evening in Shilpgram on the occasion of World Music Day. The Sentinel had caught up with him for an exclusive interview as he passed through the city a few days back. Following are excerpts from the interview.

AD: Born in a family with a strong classical music background, why did you choose to play a western instrument like the guitar and what prompted you to develop such a hybrid instrument?

VB: I had always wanted to be different; do something new. I always wanted to create a new sound, new sensibilities and a new instrument that was capable of bringing out the finest nuances of Indian classical music – the finest blend of the Gayaki (vocal) and Tantrakari (instrumental) ang.

AD: Born in a family with a strong classical music background, did you family protest your decision to learn a western instrument? How difficult was it to find a teacher?

VB: People don’t expect classical music from the guitar and my family was naturally a bit worried with my choice. They opined the guitar cannot reach the same levels as the Sitar or Sarod. They warned me but I was confident with my decision. I knew I had made the right choice for I wanted to rule the world. It was very difficult to find a teacher but music was in my blood. I had seen Hawaiian guitar playing so I knew how the instrument was held and the rest I mostly did myself. I’ am self taught and even after becoming a disciple of Pt. Ravi Shankar, I learnt only the intricacies of ragas from him and not the instruments.
AD: Even though you have been playing Indian classical music for a long time, you received international acclaim with your debut fusion album. Which is more closer to your heart – classical music or fusion?

VB: Classical music was and will always remain my first love. I have always wanted to take Indian music to a global audience and did a lot of new things. Fusion is just one of them though classical music will always be my first preference.

AD: At a time when there is a lot of debate between these two forms, where exactly do you stand?

VB: Those who protested against fusion earlier are doing it themselves now. I don’t take fusion music as something bad. It is important that musicians know how to exploit their talent by channelising it in a different direction. Fusion is not Indian classical music but just has its elements. Instead of fighting, we should try to make our music global. There is a huge disparity in the sale of classical music records and world music. I can state that one Meeting by the River achieved more sales than all my 39 classical albums. The onus is on popularising Indian music and we are not diluting classical music but rather enhancing it. But classical music has its own place. It is static, trends like fusion will come and go but classical music will remain though it might not be for the masses in the future.

AD: Your world music album, Meeting by the River went on to win the Grammy award. How did you meet Ry Cooder and how did the album happen?

VB: I met Ry Cooder when I was touring US in 1992. He had heard my slide guitar album and had approached me for a fusion album. I hesitated at first for I didn’t know how he played. I agreed after a lot of persuasion and we recorded the album in just one day. It was done in a very impromptu manner and we never thought that it would receive the kind of acclaim it got. There was no editing, no machines and we did everything in one go. The recording was done with the old analogue machine for we wanted the raw sound and didn’t want any limitations. We didn’t practice and composed the songs the same day. It came straight from the heart and whatever improvisation was needed, was made at that moment itself.

AD: How has been the northeast experience till now? What is the role of music in bringing peace in the region?

VB: The northeast is a place which holds a cherished position in my heart. It reminds me of Kerela and the epitaph, God’s own country, applies to this land as well. I had a lot of engagements for World Music Day but when Theja came up with the request to perform in Guwahati on that day, I could not refuse him.
Music heals the body, mind and soul and it can definitely help in making a person a better human being, who radiates lot of positive vibrations. It purifies the soul. Have you ever heard of any musician killing or harming anyone? It instils in you a Komal Hriday (soft heart) and it can play a vital role in bringing in peace. The seven noted are the only threads binding the world. This is the gift of music.

AD: Do you have any plans to work on regional folk music?

VB: I would love to do that. In fact, I’ am planning to use the Naga choir in my next composition. Hopefully I will incorporate Naga music in my compositions very soon.

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“How long can passion last?”

It is said that music is the greatest tools of unification; it brings in peace, strengthens the bond of brotherhood, it transcends boundaries. Used as a means to remove discrimination, what would it be like if music itself was discriminated upon? Sad? Horrific? Unfortunately, that is just what is happening in Northeast India, as musician Hridoyjit Goswami would like us to believe. His views reaffirm my belief that the western music scene of the region needs a total makeover. I recently sat down with the flamboyant musician in his Silpukhuri residence where we talked about the music scene of the State.

A musician who confesses to have been influenced by a host of musicians, Hridoy has been part of some of the most illustrious bands of the region – Dorian Platonic, Month’s Mind, Chakra to name a few.

At a time when the region is being regarded as the music capital of this corner of the planet, this prolific musician feels that all is not well with the music scene of the region, especially in Asom. “Here, music bands are being formed just because the members are driven together by passion. How long can that passion last?” But does one explain the short life span of the local bands; the fact that bands here are formed only to split after a short while? Hridoy explains, “There is no dearth of talent in our region? But why is that very few bands, if not none, from the State have made it big in the national level? Why are they not able to survive? Quality alone doesn’t help as one also needs strong production and managerial backing”.

In fact, Hridoy is planning to do just that – open a production house to promote local bands and other art forms of Asom. He says, “I plan to start a production house to promote the musicians and bands of the State, besides other fields of arts” and adds, “Other genres of music have all got proper channels for their practitioners but I can’t say the same about western music. People complain that bands here don’t stick for long. Over here, western music is, more or less, a sort of hobby and its practitioners are friends driven together by the passion. But how can you expect people to only play music when it is a fact that they cannot make a living out of it?

So how can a production house change that equation? He explains, “Artist management is a different ballgame altogether. It is important that the compositions of our musicians are packaged, marketed and promoted all over the region as well as the country, that our musicians earn a decent living out of their passion. Over here, there is no one to show that one can make a career out of music. That is important if bands are to stick together for longer periods of time”.
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But will financial security alone help? “The environment is also a determining factor for artists.” He says, “Sometime back, I had a discussion with an official from a national level recording studio and he told me that western music comprises about 15 per cent of the market of the country. But since the majority belongs to different genres, they tend to overlook this major niche. Contrary to prevalent beliefs, the crowd for western music is always there, especially so in the Northeast. The moot thing is that the compositions be marketed properly”. He adds, “Instead of playing originals in gigs that are very rarely held, it would be more beneficial if the same compositions are properly packaged and made available in the national market. That way, even the bands will be able to sustain themselves and make a career out of music”.

Hridoy’s musical acumen is not limited just to the ‘Rock and Roll’ as he has extensively dribbled in folk music and traditions, especially Goalpariya folk traditions. As he rightly says, “Although I have a background of rock and blues, we are surrounded by so much folk music that it is difficult to evade its charm”.

However, as he likes us to believe, all is not well with the western music scene here. “Environment is a major determining factor for any art form. For any form of art to flourish, there needs to be positive support and participation of the Government. And to support the art form, it is important that they understand the potential of music first. Take Shillong, Dimapur and Aizwal for instance. The western music scene is flourishing there because the State Governments of those States understand its potential”.

He further states, “It is the best medium to strike a chord with the youth. For instance, take the Ministry of Consumer Affair’s Jago Grahak Jago campaign, which used four prominent western bands of the region to spread messages among the youngsters. Why did they choose western music? Why did the organisers feel that western music is the strongest medium to communicate with the youth? If the Government seeks to understand the potentialities, it can help in so many ways — it can give a boost to tourism for instance”.

A staunch supporter of covers, Hridoy’s statements are hard-hitting but nonetheless important for the holistic development of the music scene. “The most important thing of music is the soul of music. Whether musicians are playing covers or originals is secondary”. He finishes off with panache, “You see, it ain’t got nothing if it ain’t got the soul”.

XTC – Giving ‘Music’ a ‘Chance’

It is said that songs reflect the consciousness of the particular generation during that period of time in history. One of the greatest points of discussion among the musical fraternity of the region is whether the regional musicians, and their music, are even relevant in the context of the modern world. Meet XTC, a four-piece outfit from Nagaland whose original compositions reflect the ongoing chaos in the strife-torn land proving that creating an identity is a mere matter of choice.

XTC comprises of Naga Idol 2006 winner Moa as the vocalist, veteran Naga musician Akum Jamir handling the Bass, Sosang with the Guitars and Akum Jings on the Drums. Formed in 2003, the band likes to call their music ‘melodic rock’, which is heavily based on Classics. Since its inception, the band has collaborated with a host of musicians from Nagaland. Moa elaborates, “We are all musicians from a young age. As we matured as musicians, it felt great to interact with stalwarts. I always wanted to play with Akum, ever since I was a child. We named our band, XTC, as we wanted the joy we found in music to last for ever”.

Though the band started off by playing covers, it has been only three years that they have started playing originals. “In the beginning, we were influenced by bands like Dream Theatre, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Bryan Adams and System of a Down. Right now, we try not to be influenced by anyone”, Akum says. He adds, “When we talk about influence, we play different genres. We discuss the situation first and decide the music depending on the lyrics. Sometimes, it’s the music first and at times, it’s the lyrics that take precedence”.

Mostly based on issues in contemporary society, their songs’ focuses on human relationships. As lyricist Moa says, “We want to find out the real nature of mankind – man’s relationship with his environment, conflict between men”. This feature can be gauged from the ongoing fractional violence in Nagaland, which they have aptly captured in their songs. Moa adds, “Sometimes, we try and direct our consciousness towards politicians”. While most of their songs are on human relationships and while a few are based on contemporary issues, they also work on motivational songs.

An example of their motivational song’s, is their composition, On Love after Death. Akum says, “It was a transcendental experience to work on this composition”. Moa elaborates, “As human beings, we all need some kind of motivation or the other. If we do not have motivation, we will cease to be live. In the face of the ongoing difficulty all over the world and not just Nagaland, our songs are a source of motivation for others to keep going”.

XTC feels that a lot has changed in the music scenario of Nagaland over the last decade. “In the 80’s and 90’s, a lot of substances were involved in the music scene of Nagaland. However, that has changed. Youngsters are getting responsible and are learning the basic concept of music,” says Sosang. Akum adds, “In short, drugs in music is outdated and pure music is the in thing. Playing music makes me a better man. For me, I’ am working when I play music. It is not just a futile exercise. Thankfully, this attitude has sunk in the mentality of today’s youngsters”.

One of the greatest achievements of the band was the Peace concert, which they organised on the streets of Dimapur during the clash between the NSCN factions on May 7. The show, organised in the heart of the city amid widespread devastation, was participated by groups like Illusions, Higher Ground, Eximious, Tia Tribe, Project Rattle n Hum, besides XTC themselves. The show evoked mass participation from the local people of Dimpaur and their endeavour was commended by one and all.

The 1st runners-up of the Hornbill festival 2007, the members are planning to launch their own album in the coming few days. Here’s wishing luck to the talented bards and hoping that their spirit of creativity passes over to other aspiring musicians and bands as well.

Mother-daughter duo weave magic

One is a symbol of experienced maturity while the other portrays youthful exuberance. And when these two join hands together, the result is bound to captivate anyone in the immediate vicinity. And so it happened when pioneer Assamese violinist Minoti Khaund and daughter Sunita Khaund took the stage at Rabindra Bhavan recently in a show held to pay tribute to Minoti Khaund as she completes 50 years of her tryst with the violin.

Minoti, a disciple of Late Pandit V.G. jog has been the foremost violinist of Assam for the last five decades. Her story has been a single-minded pursuit of music despite being thoroughly entrenched in traditional family life. A gold medallist from Prayag Sangeet Samiti, Allahabad with a Master’s degree in Music, Minoti has been playing the violin in prestigious concerts and festivals in India and abroad. Minoti went through a traditional ‘guru-sishya parampara’ with Pandit Jog and has carried on the tradition by grooming her daughter into a fine fiddler, who absorbed the finer nuances of the violin literally at her mother’s knee. Sunita, on the other hand, is a recipient of the Indira Gandhi Priyadarshini Award for excellence in music, besides a Masters’ degree in music. She likes to experiment with light classical and folk fusion to reach out to a diverse spectrum of audiences.

The show began with ‘Guru-e-Namah’ by Minoti’s disciples, who had gathered at Rabindra Bhavan to offer her the customary guru-dakshina. Pranati Khaund then kicked off the musical proceedings with a ‘Devi Bhajan’. She was accompanied by Dibyajyoti Changmai on the Tabla, Nitul Bhagabati and Pankaj Sarma with the guitar. The Bhajan was followed by a violin recital of Swar Sadhana by Minoti’s younger disciples.

Anjumala and Sanjana Phukan then put the evening’s proceedings in fourth gear by a beautiful rendition of ‘Shyam tumi nokoriba hridoy horon’. They, along with Mitra Phukan, gave the audience a glimpse of what to expect later in the evening, with their beautiful performances. A popular writer and a very professional vocalist, Mitra Phukan gave a perfect rendition of Raag Khamaj, based on the Dadra taal, along with the Assamese Raag Pradhan. Known more for her prolific writings, Phukan showed the audience that she excels in music, as well as she does with her writings.

The highlight of the evening, however, was a jugalbandi by the mother and daughter duo of Minoti and Sunita Khaund. It was sheer pleasure watching both of them on stage, complimenting each other and at the same time, keeping the audience spellbound. The duo performed the Raag-e-Bandish based on the Rupak taal. What brought the audience to its feet, however, was their performance of ‘Bharat Darshan’. Bharat Darshan was composed by their guru Pt. V.G. Jog on the 40th anniversary of the country’s independence; it is special for it assimilates all the regional and folk tunes of the country. Minoti and Sunita played with special emphasis on our very own Bihu that evening which brought rounds of applause from the audience. They were accompanied by tablist, Dibyajyoti Changmai who added to the mesmerising effect with his playing and on-stage presence.

Minoti and Sunita Khaund have carved a niche for themselves in the field of classical music in India. The duo’s performance was notable for their performing with uninhibited mannerisms and utmost truthfulness. The recital was marked for the total involvement of their musical insight and the profound handling of their instruments. However, I got the impression that the whole show was more of a family affair than a classical music show which calls for a certain degree of sobriety and decorum. And as I said before as well, Minoti Khaund is a frontrunner of the violin in Assam and her daughter too, is an accomplished musician. As such, it is very sad to note that none of these pioneering violinists have tried and experimented with our rich regional musical heritage, something which would have put them in an entirely different league altogether.

All in all, a great show which showed that the state has quite a few talented upcoming musicians. Special mention must be made of Mitra Phukan and Dibyojyoti Changmai who added life to the evening. Minoti Khaund has ensured that her legacy is left in safe hands in the state.

Pragyan Barua

Pragyan Barua is a Indian Classical Vocalist based in Guwahati. Barua qualified as Sangeet Visharad through Kanakali Sangeet Mahavidyalaya, Guwahati under Bhatkhande University in the year 1984. Disciple of the Mewati Gharana, Barua received his musical talim from Pandit Jasraj and presently provides talim to new aspirants.

Barua is a disciple of (Late) Sangeet Jyoti Birendra Kumar Phukan and Sri Puspa Ranjan Dey of Guwahati. Son of Retd. Prof. Prafulla Chandra Barua and Mrs. Renu Barua, Pragyan Barua is a graded artist for ‘Kheyal’ of All India Radio (AIR) and Doordarshan.

Barua is one of the frontrunners in as a vocalist of Hindustani classical music. He has participated in a host of national functions and musical conclaves on invitation like the ‘Sangeet Sankalp’ (an all India organisation with headquarters in New Delhi) samaroh at Ahmedabad in 2001. Apart from performing at various places in the north eastern region and in other Indian cities like Kolkata, Allahabad, Ghaziabad, Chandigarh and Ahmedabad, Barua also plays the piano, guitar, percussions, borgeet, modern songs and light music.

Winner of the gold medal and running shield of Prayag Sangeet Vishwa Vidyalaya, Allahabad in their Hirak Jayanti Samaroh Senior group competition in 1998, Barua has also composed and directed music for a documentary production on Lt. Hiteshwar Saikia, Television serials and audio cassettes.

Baruah’s musical acumen has been duly recognised and he is a recipient of a junior fellowship from the Human Resource Development ministry of the central government for two consecutive years from 1997. He has received the Sangeet Prabha award for 2002-03 from the North East Foundation for Cultural and Socio-economic Development besides awards from various institutions including the cultural affairs ministry of the Assam government.

A faculty member of the Centre for Cultural Resource and Training (2005), the vocalist is a member of leading cultural organisations like Sankalp, Arohan, Brothers, Gandhar Gosthi and Ashadeep besides being associated with Vivekananda Kendra.

Courage to fight the odds!

Meet Professor Minoti Borthakur, a survivor who has not only proved her courage to fight the odds but is encouraging disheartened people to start dreaming and hoping once again. There is good news for people of the northeast now. Minoti’s highly acclaimed book, Mur akhukhor ak bosor (One year of my ailment) has now been translated for the benefit of thousands of cancer survivors in Northeast India. Cancer has a high rate of incidence in the north-eastern periphery of the country, primarily due to the extensive use of tobacco and other oral stimulants.

Minoti’s story is one of courage and determination as she dared to fight a cunning and baffling disease like cancer, even when all doctors had given up hope, and emerge victorious. And in the process, she has set an example for others with her immense courage and faith in the Higher power. Her fight did not end with her conquering the disease for she has been encouraging people to live life positively besides providing support to cancer patients and depressed people. And to aid her in this direction, she penned her experiences while fighting the disease in the form of a book three years back.

The English translation of the book A Cancer survivor’s struggle and success was released recently at Guwahati by noted litterateur and Gyanpith award winner Dr. Mamoni Roisom Goswami, in the presence of veteran writer Dr. Hiren Gohain. Hailing Minoti’s efforts in providing support to hundreds’ of people afflicted by the dreaded disease, Dr. Gohain said, “Cancer patients have to undergo huge mental trauma and in most cases, the patient loses mental strength to carry on. Minoti’s book will encourage them to fight the disease and she will be source of inspiration for generations to come”.

A person who fought against the disease for more than a year, Minoti has been an epitome of strength for those around her. In fact, she had started meditation classes in her college when she encountered cases of depression, mental fatigue and low self-esteem among her students. She did not lose hope even after doctors of the famed Tata memorial Hospital gave up all hope of her recovery and instead, she implemented a strict regimen of meditation, yoga and a highly nutritional diet with ample doses of spirituality. She says, “In most cases, the patients and their families are unaware of the nutritional needs and cancer care needs of the patients. I have tried to include all these aspects in detail in the book”.

Stressing on the need for more support for cancer patients in the region, Minoti, who has been working with other cancer patients in the northeast, said, “Following its release in 2005 and the tremendous response of the people, a lot of patients from other States who come to the B. Barooah Cancer Institute for treatment have been asking for its English version. I hope the book would not only encourage the patients but also the family members and equip them with the necessary tools and mental strength to fight the disease”.

Authorities of the sole cancer research hospital of the region – the B. Barooah Cancer Institute – have hailed Minoti’s dedication towards the welfare of the cancer affected people of the region. BBCI Director AC Kakoti said, “Borthakur is a living example that nothing is impossible if one has the grit and will to achieve. She is closely associated with the cancer patients and we hope this book would immensely benefit patients from other North-eastern states”.

Minoti Bothakur retired as the head of the department of philosophy, Cotton College. She now runs a honorary counselling centre – “Minoti’s counselling centre” – where she imparts training in yoga, meditation besides imparting counselling to increase the mental strength of her clients.

A mouthful too much?

I have been stressing on the need for individual identities of our western music outfits for a long time now. Identity is of immense importance if a band wants to improve themselves and make it big in the national league. In one of my earlier write-ups in this very column, I had written about a promising western music band from Guwahati city. The band – Eclipse – has been shelling out superbly crafted originals right from its inception and their debut album, A mouthful of moonlight lives up to their promise.

Eclipse is a five member Guwahati-based band which was formed in the middle part of 2004. The band comprises of Sumit on the lead and rhythm guitars, Rajun on the keyboard, Kundal on the vocals and guitars, Rahul on the bass with Twinkle on the drums. And as I said before, Eclipse’s creations are significant in its own way. Throughout its existence, Eclipse has been playing Classic Metal, a breed of music which can be best defined by their originals. It would be immature to classify their musical creations as thrash metal or screaming heavy metal; neither is it outrageously neo-classical. Theirs is a blend of progression between these different fields of musical styles.

As their name suggests, their latest album is indeed a mouthful of moonlight. Why I say this is not hard to discern as this album is a collection of different genres. As vocalist Kundal says, “It includes two riffy metal numbers, a rock ballad, glam and a little bit of whatever blues we know”. Revealing the reasons behind the nomenclature of their album, the band members say, “Everybody has their own ground of thought and reasoning. So basically in the album everyone can taste their own likings. In the best terms, the album is a mouthful of whatever music the person believes in”.

The album begins on a stale note though with the first track Virgins of Heaven and Hell, a metal track which even made me have second thoughts about the entire endeavour. Now don’t get me wrong. The song is very well done but it’s just that I don’t prefer too much of metal. From what I know of this band since the time I met them and their preference for Classic Metal, I surely had expected something different from these guys.

However on introspection, this is what the band members of this promising band have been saying about their album all throughout – it reflects their journey as a band and all that they have gone through. I would like to reproduce the words of vocalist and front-man of the band Kundal, who told me, “In the beginning, with our then guitarist Mihir Phukan, we used to play a lot of metal and took a lot of influence from heavy metal bands like Iron Maiden, Kiss, Black Sabbath, Dio and the likes. And when Rajun joined us, we started exploring a bit of neo-classical music too. However, it was only after Sumit joined us that we realised the kind of music we wanted to play as a band. Accordingly, we started to play more of classics. The first and the last tracks were composed even before Sumit had joined us and we would like to be judged only by the rest of the compositions”.

As the album progressed, the talent of these guys is too evident to dismiss. The band excels in the blues number Dry Rose, which also has a bit of glam rock, and I would like to see the band playing more of blues. Both Dry Rose and Street Side Blues have an upbeat feel to it and these two compositions reaffirm my belief that Eclipse is one of the most promising western music outfits to come up from the entire region in a long time. Bassist Rahul Kaushik has penned the lyrics of Dry Rose, while Street Child Blues has been written by Manas.

Though some of the compositions are definitely fresh, the only criticism I would like to make is that the entire effort is exactly what it is named – a mouthful of too many genres. There are too many genres inside the entire album which gives it a somewhat cluttered look. As a debut effort, this is a very promising venture but it would be great if the band focuses more on a single genre in their future compositions, which I’ am sure they have already started doing. This is important if the band wishes to create their own singular identity as a western music outfit amidst a plethora of bands.

The album cover has been designed by bassist Rahul Kaushik and it has helped in giving a professional touch to the entire album. Front man Kundal is full of appreciation for the other band members and in fact, this sense of unity is exactly what I like about Eclipse. In our region where bands do not stick long enough, this is the kind of rapport which can ensure a longer shelf life. The band members say, “The release of our album has definitely strengthened the feeling of unity which has bound us together us a band. Every member of the band has been there for each other and we have learnt a lot from each other”.

I’ am sure that Eclipse is going to woo many more music lovers into their fan list. The emotional maturity which reflects itself in their haunting lyrics coupled with their catchy melodies is surely the main factor behind the band’s success. However, I should make special mention of guitarist Sumit Baruah who has provided the USP of this album. The effort of the other band members towards the promotion of their debut album too deserves appreciation. Here’s wishing all the very best to Eclipse!

Taking Borgeet to a wider audience

Mitali Dey is a highly talented musician of the state who belongs to the young brigade of classical musicians, with hope and fire in their eyes to do something worthwhile in their musical pursuits. Born in Jorhat, the seeds of a musical career were sown in her infancy as her parents Mahim Bhatacharjee and Mrs. Monimola Bhatacharjee strived to maintain a music loving environment in their house which she found even with her in-laws. Her sister Maitri Adhyapok is also a trained musician and has supported Mitali in all her musical endeavours.

Mitali received her institutional training in Hindustani vocal in the Bishnu Jyoti Sangeet Mahavidyalaya, Jorhat and completed her Sangeet-Visarad under the guidance of Smt. Minu Baruah of Jorhat and Sangeet-Nipun under the guidance of Shri Bidyut Mishra. Mitali continues to receive advanced learning in Hindustani vocal under the guidance of eminent vocalist, Smt. Mandira Lahiri while she has further honed her style by learning Gayaki from Smt. Ashwini Deshpande. After ensuring that her classical base is strong enough, Mitali had dared to venture into the field of regional traditional music which is almost nearing defunct. She recently gave a mesmerising performance of Borgeet in the Young Classical Musicians Conference held in Siliguri on December 30, 2007.

Talking about her Siliguri trip, Mitali says, “The Ragas and Talas used in Borgeet and Ankiya Geet are not akin either to the Hindustani or Carnatic music of India from the point of performance pattern. I had a hard time convincing the organisers to include Borgeet in a separate genre. The forty five minute performance received a lot of applause and a lot of people came forward wanting to know more about our traditional forms of music”. Mitali is a person who takes pride in her Asomiya heritage and traditions which can be gauged as she says, “I sing Borgeets because it is my duty as a Asomiya”.

Mitali received her training of Borgeet under Shri Murari M. Sarma and along with her Guru, has taken our traditional music to a larger audience, the latest being the Siliguri conference. Talking about experiences learning under her Guru, Mitali says, “Like Sankar-Madhab, ours too, is a Monikonchan-Xonjog. He is like my father and he has not just taught me Borgeeet but has taught me to love music. It is the sheer grace of God that I have found a Guru like him”.

A trained Satriya dancer, two of Mitali’s songs has been preserved in the archive of Shrimanta Shankardeva Kalakshetra, which speaks volumes about her musical prowess. The two songs had been composed by Murari Sarma and Bhaskarjyoti Ojha respectively. She is also a B-high approved radio and television artist in the categories of Bhajan, Borgeet and modern songs. Mitali released her first Borgeet album, Gokulo Sando in 2001, the music for which had been arranged by her Guru, Murari M Sarma. Two years later, she released her album of Raag Pradhan songs, under the inspiration of Mandira Lahiri. She says, “Six of the songs in the CD were recorded in Kolkata and people started taking the CD seriously, despite Raag Pradhan being on a downward slide”. Apart from that, she has lent her voice in numerous albums and recordings with other artists.

The artist has many successful concert performances across the country to her credit, including the ‘Brhaddesi Sangeet Mahotsav’, organised by Sangeet Natak Akademi, New Delhi, Mitali has also accompanied Satriya dance performances in various festivals. She plans to take out another CD of Raag Pradhan in the future besides helping her sister Maitri Adhyapok, in their musical school, Saptak. It should be mentioned here that two major musical workshops on classical and folk music are held in the school every year in the month of July, which are graced by distinguished faculty members from across the country. Mitali balances her love for music as a home-maker for photographer husband, Prabhakar De and sons, Sajeev and Sattwik.

Exploring human relationships

A solo exhibition of the Drawing and Graphic prints of Indrani Deka was recently staged at the Stage Art Gallery. Indrani is a young artist of the state who likes to work extensively on human relationships and through her works, attempt to portray everyday scenes of contemporary society. Despite having participated in a lot of group exhibitions before, this was the first time that she held her own solo exhibition.

Unlike a lot of other young artists who get highly influenced by working in group exhibitions, Indrani’s themes are simple and she does not have any tiresome theories for the viewer to comprehend. Focusing a lot on women in contemporary society, her works speak about relationships and day to day struggles in the life of man. “My paintings are basically enumerations of how I have faced life. My paintings are just my state of mind at that time”, says the artist. Despite being very target oriented, her paintings have very strong yet simple thematic concerns and the treatment of her works is appreciable.

Indrani’s brush with the easel and the canvas occurred right from her infancy and as she says, “I have been drawing and painting since I was in the first standard in school”. She has received inspiration and guidance from stalwarts like Dilip Tamuly and Jebin Ghosh Dastidar. Indrani had earlier won the silver medal at the sixth edition of the National Art Competition, Varanika 2007, held at Manav Sanket Academy, Ujjain besides being commended in the North East States Exhibition of Art 2007 at Shrimanta Shankardev Kalakshetra.

Though her works are bound to get more matured with time, her conception and treatment of her themes needs commendation. A student of the Government College of Art and Craft, Guwahati, she is the daughter of Haranath Deka and Anima Deka. Here’s wishing Indrani all the best in her artistic pursuits.

Music from the Holy Hills

Meet ‘Wandering Soul’, a five-piece rock outfit of Guwahati. The band line-up consists of Jyotirmoy (vocals and guitar), Bhobojeet (Bass guitar and backing vocal), Bikash (lead guitar) and Pankaj (drums).

Forming a band had always been a dream for childhood friends Bhobojeet and Jyotirmoy, both of whom wanted to take their musical skills to its optimum levels. However forming the rest of the line-up proved to be a problem. After repeated changes, the duo discovered drummer Pankaj, who perfectly matched their search for a quality drummer. Afterwards, Bikash too joined the band as a lead guitarist. All the band members hail from the holy Nilachal hills — the abode of Shakti. In its present metamorphosis, the band was formed on February 2, 2005.

A heavy metal band, their songs are an amalgamation of influences from Iron Maiden, Metallica, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and the like. Bassist Bhobojeet says, “For some people, Rock music might be just a fad. We are different for we believe in the healing power of music.” He further said that they want to make a world of their own which is free from politics, corruption and terrorism. As he says, “A land where people can breathe without any fear, a place where everything is based on rhythm.”