Young brigade rocks Assam Convention 2010


The brave young face of Assam recently rocked the US, literally if you were thinking just in case, and that too with a bang!

Sunita, Papon and Abhishruti being felicitated

Abhishruti

I am talking about the Assam Convention held at Nashville, Tennessee last month where three representatives of the State’s cultural brigade – Angarag ‘Papon’ Mahanta, Abhishruti Bezboruah and Sunita Khaund – gave the attending Non-Resident Assamese (NRA) and their guests and second-generation children a taste of Assam’s youth power, besides overwhelming them with glittering presentations of Assamese and Indian culture alongside American folk culture.

I have always been amazed by the amount of influence roots have in our lives. While for long I have searched for the most appropriate definition for the same, I realised in the end that a person is simply incomplete without it. After all, how else would you define something that makes people go all out to preserve his or her heritage, even after moving far away from his native place to a land where this is no trace of his ancestry? Weird, if we come to think about it but a glaring truth nonetheless. And the Assam Convention celebrated in the US where people of Assamese origin gather together with their friends and well-wishers to celebrate the spirit of Assam is one of the best examples.

The first Assam Convention was held in Houston, Texas in 1980. It was a humble beginning and although there were not many participants, it was the first representation of a united Assamese Diaspora from various regions. The 31st Assam Convention 2010 – sponsored by the Assam Association of North America (AANA), the Assam Foundation of North America Inc (AFNA), and the Assam Sahitya Sabha’s North America chapter (ASSNA) – was hosted by the Assam origin residents of the lower mid-West of the US living in the states of Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Alabama with the help and support of some of the residents of the neighbouring States. The venue of the celebration was the Marriott Hotel and Resort at America’s Civil war heritage city, Franklin, Tennessee in the suburb of Nashville, the nucleus of America’s folk culture.

Talking about the convention, Assam convention 2010 host committee cultural secretary Ajanta Phookan tells me, “The theme for this year’s convention was ‘Bridging the Assamese Generations’. The focus was on encouraging talents of the Assamese diaspora across all age groups, and to promote events and activities that will facilitate in bridging the Generation Gap.”

Mukoli Bihu

The exhibition


The convention, which kicked off with the performance of the national anthems of both India and the US, had impressive cultural items lined up throughout. If Assam was represented by three of its brightest stars, the West too was represented by three celebrities. Nashville singing sensation Jennie Williamson performed the US anthem to mark the beginning of the convention, while Nashville Opryland celebrity duo, Becca Hadzor and Michael Krejci, performed an enthralling session of country music for almost an hour. The opening number of the inaugural day’s performance, however, was the rendition of a traditional Borgeet by Ranjana Dutta, which was followed by a Xatriya dance recital by Lalita Kalita of Illinois.

And if you thought, the remaining of the event was devoted to plain rhetoric you better think again. In the words of host committee chairman Atul Sharma, “The hotel and the resort was transformed into a hub of Assamese culture and performances with abundance of authentic Assamese food and the famed Asomiya hospitality for the participants from Canada, the US, UK, a few from India and Assam, and the ever-curious American guests. Credit goes to the food committee, led by Anee Deka, Eva Sarma and Gina Barua, which coordinated and mobilized the entire host committee and neighboring families to pitch in with a variety of Assamese pithas and snacks that could not be finished even after the convention. The sumptuous dinners, the décor, the presentation with a very personal touch will be remembered for a long time to come.”

Not only the guest artistes and Assamese cuisine, the first and second generation artistic talents of Assamese origin also added the flavour and colour of Assamese culture to the remaining sessions that were divided into three sections – adult, youth and children programmes. “Canadian resident Mitali Sarma, US residents Ranjana Datta, Krishanu Kaushik, Chitralehka Deka, Shrilekha Deka and many others provided breaks to Papon, Abhishruti and Sunita’s entertainment. Tablist Babul Borah and young guitarist Chiranjit Bordoloi accompanied most of the artists tirelessly at all times. Rekha Kalita, Sneha Hazarika, Swapnalee Sarma, Babita Baruwati and Piyalee Das-Sarma presented various traditional Assamese and Indian classical dances. Parvez Hussain and his daughter Neeshan from Minnesota thrilled the gathering with their fusion dance, whereas American youth, Wes Newell, aroused the crowd with his bollywood dancing,” said host committee vice-chairman Ranjan Deka. He further added, “The highlights of the dancing segment would have to be the flawless presentations of two second generation sisters who have been born, brought up and trained in the US. While Megha and Devika Kataki performed Bharatyam, Elina and Raina Sarmah’s fusion of Indian classical dances were enchanting memories of the convention.

The children cultural program under the leadership of Joyee Dutta and the glittering fashion show encouraging three generation participation were other popular events that were attended by
all. The cultural program for children, held under the leadership of Joyee Dutta, and the glittering fashion show coordinated by Sneha Dutta also encouraged wide participation, says Phookan.

Atul Sarma said, “Every night there were ‘Assamese National’ events, Bihu singing and massive community dancing. The Michigan group won the ‘Annual Anima Bhattacharjya-Chakravarty Memorial Trophy’ for chorus competition of the year. The leadership for the cultural show was borne by Ajanta Phookan with enduring support from Khira Barua, who organized the thrilling events for two colourful evenings.” An exhibition on the Assamese way of life was another added attraction of the convention. Coordinated by Lalita D Kalita, Bandana Sharma and Sharmistha Bhattacharya, the exhibition saw original paintings, photographs, tea gift baskets, crafts work of various communities being displayed. The exhibits also included a hundred-year old kingkhapor mekhela, brass utensils, old Assamese books, etc.

But it was event – ‘Bridging of the Assamese generations’ that brought the entire convention to its feet. As Atul Sarma says, “Our young guest artistes from Assam are giving a new aura to Assamese music by building on the foundation laid by our maestros. The age-old Assamese culture is truly dynamic and the same finds representation in the music of Abhishruti, Sunita and Papon. From tenor and tune to the vocabulary and composition, the evolving jingle was mesmerizing – keeping all, young and adult alike, spellbound. Like the musicians, the Assamese DJ Samantha too kept everyone – the young and old alike – hesitant to move away from the dance floors.” Reminiscing about the event, Abhishruti says, “My experience in the Assam Convention was simply fabulous. The people were extremely warm, encouraging and more importantly, participative. Since they had invited me for the second time, I felt I had to live up to their expectations and I hope I was able to fulfil that. I thoroughly enjoyed performing amongst the Assamese people of America.”

Ajanta Phookan adds, “The children, teens and the young adults were all excited and energized. For them it was great fun and they did not want to leave the auditorium till the wee hours of the morning. They loved hanging out with the DJ and our overseas artists. For the first time they could connect with artistes from Assam! Likewise, the older folks were also excited. ‘We like the new age music, we love the new face of ASSAM,’ was the view many heard. It is now clear that there is an unbroken tie of continuity exists between the different generations. We are rest assured that our next generation will keep our dreams alive.”

Moving away from the cultural arena, the ASSNA published its annual publication‘Luitor pora Mississippi’, during its routine annual meeting. This issue of the magazine was edited by Mrs Gayatri Siddhanta Sharma and Dr Chandra Sekhar Sharma. AANA and AFNA also paid rich tributes to illustrious economist and reputed community leader Dr. Jitendra Gopal Borpujari who passed away last year in Washington DC. In addition, the gathering recalled and mourned the recent demise of two members of the community, Madhab Deka of Texas and Indrajit Goswami of Vancouver, Canada.

At the end of it all, the message was loud and clear. The 31st Assam convention was one of the finest ever, as can be gauged from the comments of most of the participants. And also the fact that Assam’s cultural legacy is safe in the hands of its young brigade!

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Posted on August 5, 2010, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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