Monthly Archives: August 2011

Evoking Freedom in the truest sense

The third edition of Freedom Jam was held in the city last Monday and judging from the number of participants as well as the enthusiastic manner in which they were received, all I can say is that this jamming session has grown. Quite exponentially at that. From its humble origins in 2009 when a few of us music lovers and musicians had gathered in front of Commerce College to celebrate Independence Day, it is indeed heartening to see many more faces joining the attempt since then.

A number of veterans and seasoned sessions joined the upcoming musicians of the city this time to evoke country love. Seasoned harmonica player Bala Bhadra Hagjer and guitarists Amlandeep Das and David Baker were among the first who joined the upcoming musicians in the jam session last Monday. The list of other musicians included Rishav, Gaurav, Debarun, Robin, Jitu, Rupom and others.

For the uninitiated, Freedom Jam is celebrated by musicians of the city in front of Commerce College every year in a bid to evoke country love and to remind the youth of the significance of the day. Led by musicians and music lovers of the city, the jamming sessions are a huge success as lots of passers-by join the impromptu session and light candles by the roadside. If nothing else, these jams are testimony to the immense healing and binding power of music.

In a city where August 15 has become just another holiday, this initiative of the musicians deserve praise. Although widespread jubilations mark Independence Day in other parts of the country, the very essence of the same has got lost amongst the people of our State with the people choosing to refrain from coming out of their homes, irrespective of the fact whether there is a bandh call or not.

Rupam Bora, one of the main initiators of the session, said that the main reason behind organizing Freedom Jam was to remind the young generation of the day’s significance. “We do not have high-sounding objectives or ideas. There are no big names or stars involved in this session and everyone is free to join. We don’t have any backdrop or logos and the only motive behind organizing this session is to celebrate the day through music, so that today’s generation are at least reminded of the significance of being able to live in a free, sovereign country.”

The first jam in 2009 was more of an impromptu session with musicians like Deepak, Rabiul, Joshua and others jamming on the streets. The number of participating musicians, however, have been increasing every year. “This year, quite a few respected professionals and musicians joined the celebration and it gives us a lot of pleasure to see the fest growing in such proportions,” says Bora.

A musical portrayal of village life

A dance drama based on the songs of Rudra Barua was recently held at Rabindra Bhavan. Organized by Mitali Kala Kendra, the play Ekhon Gaor Chobi was a soothing musical journey exploring the various facets of day-to-day life in villages. The play was directed by noted Assamese danseuse Gorima Hazarika.

The plot of the dance drama was based on the increasing western influences in the villages of Assam and the resistance of the villagers towards these foreign cultural forms. Ekhon Gaor Chobi depicts how the villagers try hard to keep intact their rich traditions and culture. Though at times the villagers are prone to succumb to the effects of these new cultures, as shown by how a group of youngsters manage to lure the nature-loving village folks to alcohol and drugs, the play depicts how they ultimately realise their mistake and bound back by resisting the temptations.

If dance stole the show, the music was no less. Complimented by the use of a range of traditional music instruments, the audience at Rabindra Bhavan managed to live forty minutes of village life to the full. The music director of the drama Anupam Chowdhury had done extensive research and chosen songs from Rudra Baruah’s collection that supports the drama while maintaining the integrity of Baruah’s work. “Rudra Baruah’s songs are mostly about nature. I have used folk instruments like nagara (traditional drums mainly used in temples), doba (a type of traditional drums ), bhur taal , (a folk instrument) and others. Besides Bihu songs, there were also elements of folk songs like naam, borgeet and others,” said Choudhury.

The play kicked off with a rendition of Rudra Barua’s famous song ‘Barixare akaxote meghe guru gajile, haluwa-xajuwa gaat deudhani lagile ’. Supported by the matka, dhak, dagar and other musical instruments, the number provided the perfect portrayal of the joy and happiness of the villagers at the outbreak of the first burst of rains. The second number helped maintain the feel-good factor. With a beautiful medley of both the traditional and western drums, this dance had elements of the different folk dances of the region. “We have used various folk dance forms like Tiwa, Boro, Karbi, Bihu and others in the entire dance drama,” said dancer Tanmanna Choudhury.

The director weaves a beautiful tapestry of village life through music, chronicling the day-to-day life as the villagers wait for the rains, their joy at the first burst, their hopes as they move about their fields planting saplings and the manner in which they rejoice. And when we are talking about representing the various tribes and communities of the State, can a play like this be compliment without Bihu – the epitome of all fertility rituals of the various communities of the Northeast?

Talking about the play, the director Garima Hazarika says, “I have built the concept of the drama on village life that we find in Rudra Baruah’s songs. The message behind the drama is not to succumb to western culture but keep intact the integrity of our own culture. The songs of Baruah bring to our mind the image of a beautiful village life and I am trying to bring that on stage through this drama.” The director had also managed to weave in a bit of naam praxanga in the entire play.

Meanwhile, Roja – another dance drama directed by Gorima Hazarika – was also staged at Rabindra Bhavan the same day. A children’s drama, Roja had around twenty children of various age groups playing the part of different animals like rabbits, lions, peacocks, monkeys and others. Based on the theme ‘united we stand, divided we fall’, Roja was enjoyed by the young and the young at heart alike.

Photography appreciation forum conceived in Northeast

Photography as a subject, including its various specialisations like wildlife photography, cultural photography, etc, has failed to take off in the Northeast with no holistic effort ever being made or even attempted in this regard. Despite having a lot of talents, the lack of proper guidance and appreciation are seen as the usual deterrents to aspiring photographers who end up giving their passion out of frustration. This deplorable scenario, however, is all set to take a turn for the better, thanks to the initiative of two photographers who have founded one of the first photography appreciation forums in the Northeast.

The story behind Frameworks, as the initiative is called, is interesting. Ujjal Bora and Nabarun Bhattacharya, the driving force and the brains behind it, had had to grapple with it all before embarking upon this endeavour. In fifteen years of backbreaking work behind the view finder they have felt the pinch and weathered the personal frustrations, and have vowed that the same should not happen to any other emerging photographer who wishes to make a career out of the wonderful box that captures light.

With a host of plans like photography workshops, cultural workshops and the like under its belt, Frameworkz covers the entire gamut of elements that goes into the making of a world-class photographer. “Right from imparting training to budding talents with in depth sharing of trade secrets, to conducting field workshops and finally and most importantly providing a platform for artists to showcase and market their talent, Frameworkz does it all,” says Bora, a graduate in zoology who found his real love in the camera much later in life.

And as part of their first project, the duo has already started off with the first avian survey in the Northeast. The Frameworks Bird Project, as they have named the survey, will be headed by renowned ornithologist Anwaruddin Choudhury while wildlife enthusiast and filmmaker Gautam Saikia will also be part of the same.

A first-of-its-kind initiative, the project will involve a multi-disciplinary study of birds through still photography, filming and video documentation of all avian species found in the jungles of the region. The results will be published in the form of a book with both online and hard copy versions and the same will be complimented with dazzling photographs and write-ups. A documentary film will also be made as a supplementary outcome of the project.

In a region where wildlife photography has got very few takers, and even lesser buyers, the Frameworks team hopes that the published material will serve as an excellent reference guide for the future generations to come. The team will visit all the wildlife sanctuaries and national parks over the next three years in a bid to capture the birds on their cameras.

The Northeast, particularly Assam, is known as home to about 750 species of birds. Various surveys conducted by ornithologists, scholars and bird watchers indicate that there are about 479 species of birds in Kaziranga National Park, 380 in Manas National Park, 440 in Dibru Saikhowa National Park and 347 varieties in Nameri alone.

Ujjal says, “If you suffer from the same creative impulses, are as mesmerised by the machinations of the camera, and have it in you to slog it out in a leech infested jungle or for that matter can toil for hours under the sun in a village fair only to immortalise that fleeting moment of life which shall never come again, come be a part of this wonderful journey with us.”

Flowing music, lingering melodies

ARTIST WATCH

Late Pandit Vivekananda Bhattacharya is a name that hardly needs an introduction in Assam. A table maestro belonging to the Lucknow gharana, he had earned laurels in his lifetime as a singer, composer and music director of Assam. Late Bhattacharya’s musical genius has been carried forth by his daughter Ragini Chakravarty, a Hindustani classical vocalist of the Kirana Gharana. Based in Mumbai, Ragini has been enthralling music lovers all over the country with her soulful voice for quite some time now.

A disciple of Padmabhshan Dr Prabha Atre, Ragini belongs to the new generation of Hindustani classical vocalist of the Kirana gharana. Gifted with a mellifluous voice and enriched with a refreshingly feminine style of singing, Ragini has adapted perfectly to the Kirana Gayaki which puts emphasis on melody and sweet intonation of words. Her singing takes one slowly and steadily into the beautiful inner world of a particular raga with elaborate meditative alaap and lilting sargams and them climaxing with intricate tans and fast compositions. “For me, music is like an endless stream with numerous twists, turns, turbulences and variations but always flowing and never stopping on its track,” says the artiste.

Trained in the gurukul tradition, Raginin has graduated in music from Bhatkhande Sangeet Vidyapith, Lucknow. Her formal training in music started under the tutelage of late BK Phukan. Performing in stages all over the country, Ragini has also been a regular performer of Doordarshan and All India Radio in different forms of vocal music. Thanks to the adaptability of her voice, she has excelled in the lighter forms of music too, including bhajans, folk songs, modern songs and also ad jingles.

Though based in Mumbai, Ragini has ensured that she keeps her touch with her State intact. She regularly organizes musical workshops and seminars in various nooks and crannies of the State at regular intervals. Through her organization Shrutinaad, she has been focusing on preservation and propagation of the immortal songs of Bauli Kavi Kamalananda Bhattacharyya and the musical contribution of Sangeet Jyoti Bibekananda Bhattacharyya. Since 2009, she has been organizing our classical music show ‘Prashanti’ in fond memory of Sangeet Jyoti Bibekananda Bhattacharyya and an All Assam Kamalananda Songs Competition annually in Guwahati. Very recently last month, the artiste organized three musical workshops in Guwahati and Nagaon.

Another important aspect of Ragini’s work is her attempt towards the fusion of Indian classical ragas with the folk music of the various communities of the Northeast. One of her initiatives in this regard include performances in Mumbai for Kalabharata – the arts circle of the Karnataka sangha. Says Ragini, “Unlike other morning recitals, this programme of mine has a theme. It shows the journey of the melody from folk to the classical form. Folk songs are sungs in various occasions. They are functional in nature. My attempt is to juxtapose them with the classical tradition.”

The artiste displays a great command over the accents of different genres. Though hailing from Assam, she is equally at ease with folk music and other genres and has blended beautifully into the national music circuit. Her voice and presentation whenever she does a seemingly effortless rendition of a raag in slow-tempo khayal always has the requisite degree of maturity and smoothness.

She has released two music albums till date.

Entries called for Auxesis 2011

Preparations are on for Auxesis 2011 – the annual techno-cultural management fest of Institute of Engineering and Technology, Dibrugarh University. With all the members promising a more thrilling and exciting version of the fest, the rock competition Ransack is being eagerly looked forward to in the musical circles here.

The theme song for Auxesis 2011 has been sung by Upper Assam-based band Ninaad. The organizers are now calling entries from participating bands, the prelims of which will be held on September 16, informed organizing committee member Bulon Hazarika. For further details, pls log on to http://www.auxesis.duiet.org .

Ethnic fashion show held

An ethnic fashion saw was held in the Abiogenesis Cultural Hall in Dimapur where more than 30 models dressed in ethnic attire walked the ramp last Thursday. The models dressed creations based on the beautiful and vibrant motifs and patters of ethnic wear. The show was organized by Abiogenesis Cultural Society in association with the Indian Council for Cultural Relations.

Prabal Sharma’s concert

Hindustani vocalist Prabal Sharma performing during a classical music function organized by the North East Zone Cultural Centre and Indian Council for Cultural Relations at Shilpgram in July 2011

Bhupen Hazarika sings for Gandhi to Hitler

Assam’s living legend and one of the country’s very few surviving balladeers might presently be moving in and out of hospitals in Mumbai on account of his deteriorating health but his passion towards music remains steadfast. The audio track of the to-be-released ‘Gandhi to Hitler’ where he has lent his voice despite his sickness was released in a simple ceremony in Guwahati recently. Bhupen Hazarika’s songs were recorded a couple of months back for the film, the music directors of the which, includes among others, Assamese musician Lyton.

Based on the differing ideologies of two historical figures – Mahatma Gandhi and Adolf Hitler, ‘Gandhi to Hitler’ is set in the backdrop of World War II. The film is directed by Rakesh Ranjan Kumar and produced by Dr Anil Kumar Sharma for Amrapali Media Vision, a Delhi-based production house.

The Assam Ratna awardee Hazarika has lent his magical voice to the film through one of Mahatma Gandhi’s favourite bhajans. The bhajan “Vaishnav jan to tene kahiye…” has been translated into Hindi by debutante lyricist Dr Pallavi Mishra and sung in two different tracks by Bhupen Hazarika and Pinaz Masani. Dr. Pallavi Mishra is also the lyricist of all the songs of the film. Though the male version of the song is not part of the film, it has been included in the audio cd.

Four music directors have scored the music for the film. Talented Assamese musician Lyton, who has scored the music for several Assamese films including the likes of Dhan Kuberor Dhan, is also one of the four directors. The 1972-born Lyton has also associated with Pritam in hit films like Dhoom-II, Bhaagan-Bhaag, Khatte-Mithe, Tum Miley, Aakrosh, Action Replay etc.

The other music directors of the film apart from Arvind-Lyton are Aman-Benson and Sanjoy Chowdhury. Jagjit Singh, Daler Mehendi, Shaan, Priya Bhattacharya, Rana Mazumdar, Bensen Baby, Aman Pant, Vasundhara V and Shoureen are the other singers who have lent their voice to the film.

‘Gandhi to Hitler’ is a story of clash of ideology between the two most talked-about persons of that era – Mahatma Gandhi and Adolf Hitler. Connecting them is Azad Hind Fauz, the Indians, who, under the leadership of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, are fighting with Hitler, inside Germany, a source in Amrapali Media Vision said.

“Gandhi to Hitler” presents to the audience what happened within Adolf Hitler who was inside a bunker in the last stage of the World War II. As the enemy comes closer and closer, many of Hitler’s close associates and officers advise him to escape from Berlin to a safer place from where he can command his forces better. But Hitler refuses, and instead is joined in his bunker by his girlfriend Eva Braun, whom he ironically marries the day before they kill themselves. Meanwhile, in India, Mahatma Gandhi decides to fight India’s independence through non-violence. Since Hitler was also fighting the British, it was natural for Gandhi to align with him. But Gandhi decides to oppose both Hitler as well as the British. India was alone in the World War and had taken a very unique and idealistic stand, the source revealed.

The film finally establishes the superiority of Gandhism and non-violence over Nazism, thereby giving the message of world peace, a message still relevant in today’s context where the world continues to grapple with the dark clouds of terrorism.

The producer of ‘Gandhi to Hitler’ Dr Anil Kumar Sharma is a civil engineer and reputed structural engineer, who is also CMD of Amrapali Group that has specialized in Infrastructure Development, Project Management, Strategic Planning and Resource Planning. Winner of several awards as a technocrat, Dr Sharma and his Amrapali Group has now ventured into the world of films with “Gandhi to Hitler” being his first step.