Guwahati / Mumbai, Aug 3: Children’s Film Society, India (CFSI)’s newest production “Ishu” is a feature film that will instantly take the viewer to a world of a kid whose innocent and happy-go-lucky world turns topsy turvy thanks to the superstitious society of adults around him.
Set in a remote tribal Rabha village in Lower Assam area bordering Meghalaya’s Garo Hills, this Assamese feature film is based on renowned Assamese writer Manikuntala Bhattacharjya’s popular novel “Ishu”, and marks the feature film debut of National Award-winning film critic and acclaimed documentary director Utpal Borpujari.
The film takes a look at the inhuman practice of ‘witch hunting’ that is prevalent in parts of Assam as well as some other parts of India, through they eyes of an innocent child whose favourite aunt is branded as a ‘witch’ by the evil village “Bej” (quack) who conspires with another aunt to do so.
Treated like a fairy tale albeit set in today’s times, “Ishu” is a sensitive take on how such incidents impact a child psychologically, with the narrative taking the viewer along protagonist Ishu’s quest to find his aunt who goes missing after being assaulted by the villagers at the instigation of the villainous quack.
The social evil of ‘witch hunting’ has been a recurring problem in Assam, so much so that the state Assembly unanimously passed the Assam Witch Hunting (Prohibition, Prevention and Protection) Bill 2015, following years of sustained campaign by civil society organisations and an intervention by the Gauhati High Court. The Bill, however, is still awaiting the President’s assent to become a law.
Several incidents of witch hunting has been reported in Assam during this year too, while according to data placed in the state Assembly, 93 cases of witch-hunting were reported and 77 persons, including 35 women, were killed during 2010 to 2015.
“However, despite its sensitive and serious backdrop, my film treats to subject in a way that it is suitable for viewing by children. In fact, the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has given it a U certification without any cuts,” says Borpujari, who believes that children’s films can affectively take up social issues if handled sensitively.
CFSI Chairman MukeshKhanna said this movie will give a clear message to the people that social evils are bad and must be eradicated from the society. “Children are the future of our country and should always be motivated. By practicing social evils like ‘witch hunting’, we are making circumstances worse for children and disturb their psychology. This will have an adverse effect on the children and will not help them in their career and overall development.”
“Movies like ‘Ishu’ bring awakening in the society about the ill-effects of social evils and educate people about their harmful aspects on the society. CFSI will continue to make and promote such films whose themes are aimed at bringing about transformation in the society for the benefit of mankind, particularly children,” he says.
According to Dr Shravan Kumar, CEO of CFSI, “This is a highly sensitive film in which exploitation of people due to social evils such as ‘witch hunting’ is highlighted. The movie is informative, educative and throws light on the harmful effects of social evils practiced by people in the society. The movie tells the audience that such evils harm children and have an adverse effect on their psychology. Our attempt at CFSI has always been to focus on issues concerning children and their welfare.”
“I am happy to note that in Assam, a Bill to prevent social evils like “witch hunting” has been passed by the State Legislative Assembly, and is awaiting President’s assent. Let us hope that it would become a law soon.”
“This is the first feature film made by well-known film critic and documentary film maker Utpal Borpujari and we hope that children as well as elders will like it,” he says.
Incidentally, the script of “Ishu” was chosen as the only Asian entry into the 2012 Junior Co-Production Market of Cinekid International Film Festival, Amsterdam.
In the film, the lead role is played by 10-year-old Kapil Garo, who hails from Sonapur area near Guwahati. Kapil, who has given a performance with a maturity much beyond his tender age, was selected for the role after the director and his team interacted with nearly 300 kids across Assam. “Kapil has the required innocence and charm that I had visualized in Ishu, and being from a village himself, he blended naturally with the character,” says Borpujari.
The film also stars two-time National Award (Special Jury Mention)-winning actor Bishnu Kharghoria and National Award-winning Manipuri actress TonthoingambiLeishangthem Devi, along with veterans like Chetana Das and Pratibha Choudhury and talented younger actors like MonujBorkotoky, DipikaDeka and NibeditaBharali. Others in the cast include Mahendra Das, Rajesh Bhuyan, Naba Kumar Baruah, MonujGogoi, etc.
Along with KapilGaro, other child actors in the film include MahendraRabha, SrabantaRabha and UdayRabha.
The film’s dialogue, with emphasis on how the Rabha people living near Goalpara area speak Assamese with a particular accent, has been written by Borpujari in collaboration with award-winning theatre director SukracharjyaRabha of the famed Badungduppa Kala Kendra of Rampur, Agia.
Several actors from the Badungduppagroup, including Dhananjay Rabha and Basanta Rabha, have acted in pivotal roles in the film, which has been shot in pristine locations of several Rabha tribal vilages near Agia in Goalpara, located on the south bank of the mighty Brahmaputra.
It may be mentioned that NSD graduate and actress Pranami Bora conducted an 8-day workshop for the actors of the film at Badungduppa Kala Kendra premises, and MadanRabha and BasantaRabha were in charge of imparting accent training for the actors so that all of them could deliver their dialogues in the local accent.
The film has been edited by the legendary A Sreekar Prasad, while its sound design is by Amrit Pritam Dutta and music is by Anurag Saikia, all National Award winners. The cinematographer is Sumon Dowerah, a veteran of many award-winning and mainstream films in Assamese, while other prominent crew members are JItendra Mishra (executive producer), Hengul Medhi (final sound mixing), Monjul Baruah (associate director), Homen Borah (production manager), Golok Saha (art director), Rani Dutta Baruah (costumes) and Achitabh (Shanku) Baruah (make up). The assistant directors of the film were GhanshyamKalita, Ronal Hussain and MonujBorkotoky.
An M.Tech in Applied Geology from IIT-Roorkee, Utpal Borpujari won the Swarna Kamal for Best Film Critic at the 50th National Film Awards of India in 2003. As a professional journalist, apart from cinema, he has written extensively on politics, society, culture, literature, etc., while working with some of India’s top media houses. Since 2010, when he decided to turn a filmmaker, he has made several acclaimed documentary films that have been screened across the world in various film festivals. Among them are “Mayong: Myth/Reality” (2012), “Songs of the Blue Hills” (2013), “Soccer Queens of Rani” (2014) and “Memories of a Forgotten War” (2016). Borpujari has also served in international film juries as an erstwhile member of the International Federation of Film Critics, apart from having served on juries for National Film Awards and Indian Panorama. He has also curated films as well as served as a consultant for the Northeastern sections in the International Film Festival of India as well as various other film festivals. “Ishu” is his debut fiction feature. He is currently developing scripts for a Hindi and an Assamese film.
Whenever we talk about culture and traditions of Northeast India, especially related to music and dance, one of the first names that comes to our mind is none other than Dr. Prashanna Gogoi – an ethnomusicologist who had earned world-wide acclaim with his numerous research studies, spell-binding performances, choreographer of prestigious national and international festivals with his constant hallmark being innovation. The recipient of numerous awards and distinctions from across the world, and one of the youngest members of the prestigious Sangeet Natak Akademi, Dr. Gogoi has spent an entire lifetime, trying to understand the nuances of our diverse folk traditions and practices, taking them in front of the global audience and being in a constant bid to experiment and innovate, while keeping the basic rules in mind. To talk about his latest achievement, he has been entrusted with the music production of the entire SAARC games – an event which brought immense fame to Assam.
While very little needs to be said about him, for the uninitiated, Dr. Prasanna Gogoi is the illustrious son of late Bhuban Chandra Gogoi and Srimati Kiran Gogoi. Although his family hailed from Konwar Gaon of North Lakhimpur, Dr. Gogoi was born and brought up in Ziro of Arunachal Pradesh on account of his late father’s posting and where he did his initial schooling. A multi-faceted personality who excelled in numerous streams, Dr. Gogoi passed out from Ziro HS in 1st division. A keen sportsman with a passion for medicine, he later on joined the Assam Agricultural University to pursue his B.V.Sc and A.H. degree.
Although the recipient of numerous fellowships from the Indian Government, like the ‘Junior Fellowship from Ministry of Culture, Govt. of India in Sept. 2005 for the Research Project-An Echo of Assamese Folk music with special reference to Scientific and Acoustic improvisation of the traditional ”Bin” and recognizing it as one of the major assisting instrument in Tokari Geet, Deh-bichar Geet, Borgeet and Satriya Dance of Assam’, ‘Senior Fellowship from Ministry of Culture, Govt.of India in 2014 for the Research Project-Semantics & Semiotics of Bihu Dance of Assam with reference to music & musical notations’, Dr. Gogoi shot to international acclaim when he won the bronze medal in Double Reed Traditional Wind Instrument (juria pepa) and the prestigious Delphic Laural Award in Traditional One or Two Stringed Instrument (bin), representing India, in the III Delphic Games – 2009, held at Jeju, South Korea.
Having performed and conducted seminars and workshops and felicitated in more than 25 countries, he was nominated as a Guru for Bihu dance by the Union Ministry of Tourism & Culture, Govt. of India, in the year 2003, under the “Guru Shishya Parampara” scheme. Earlier last year, he received another major honour when he was appointed as a member of the Advisory Committee of the Sangeet Natak Akademi, New Delhi, for Folk & Tribal Arts – one of the youngest cultural personalities to be bestowed with the honour.
A regular artist of AIR, Doordarshan and an artist who has performed in countless programmes across the country, some of his most memorable achievements are personal Bihu performances in Delhi for the President of India Group of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, composing the music sequence of Bihu dance for the Republic Day tableau parade in 2005, performances in the closing ceremony of Commonwealth Games-2010, organized by Zonal Cultural Centres Ministry of Culture, Govt of India, on 13th October, 2010, besides countless others.
In the international arena, some of his notable performances include performances of folk music and dance of Assam in Mauritius and Reunion Island, France in November’ 2001, presentation of folk music & dances of Assam as a solo performer and with troupe in Mauritius, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, Botswana, South Africa & Dubai in November’ 2007, performance during during Incredible India’s @ 60 Festival – depicting a panorama of rich Indian Culture, besides many others.
While Dr. Gogoi’s expert as a performer and musicologist is well known, he is all a choreographer of repute, having choreographed prestigious shows on Dance & Music of India during the ”Festival of India Celebration” under the sponsorship of Ministry of Culture, Govt of India, at Bushan & Seoul, South Korea and Naminara Island Republic in 2009. Besides composing and directing the music sequence for the Republic Day Tableau for Assam in 2005, some notable choreographic shows include choreography of a cultural programme on musical ensemble of Manipur, Tripura and Assam with folk dances in honour of Her Excellency Smt. Pratibha Devi Patil, President of the Republic of India and Her Excellency Dr Michelle Bachelet, President of the Republic of Chile at the Rashtrapati Bhavan Auditorium, New Delhi on March’ 16, 2009 to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations between India and Chile.
A north-easterner at heart, he was also the choreographer and Music Director of – ”Unity Dance” & “Drums of the Hills” in the opening ceremony of Hornbill Festival-2013 during the visit of President of India on 50 Years of Statehood Day in Kisama, Nagaland.
As mentioned earlier, innovation is the hallmark of Dr. Gogoi’s career and he personally manufactures his own musical instruments. The same have been widely appreciated and he has been invited on numerous occasions to teach and showcase his instruments. Some of his visits on those lines include a musical training tour to Reunion Island (France) on the eve of “ Dipawali Celebration” there in October, 2011, invitation to demonstrate the crafting of folk musical instruments of Assam and teaching folk music & dance to the students of University of Valladolid, Spain, amongst others.
As a researcher and master craftsman on traditional / folk musical instruments of Northeast, his sole efforts are aimed at their revival for the upcoming new generations. Amongst his innovations, he is the inventor of ‘Hansa-Bin’ – a chordophone (fiddle-string instrument) of Assam, which he developed under the research project – An Echo of Assamese folk music with special reference to Scientific and Acoustic improvisation of the traditional ”Bin” and recognizing it as one of the major assisting instrument in Tokari Geet, Deh-bichar Geet, Borgeet and Satriya Dance of Assam, in September, 2007. He is the inventor of Cane Drums for a 50- member Nagaland State Cultural Delegation in 2013 to take part in the Royal Edinburg Military Tattoo Show in Scotland and for Hornbill Festival 2014, at Kisama Heritage Village, Nagaland. Not just craftsmanship, he is presently working as a research person for the documentation of all traditions of Bihu of various communities of Assam, for archives under Sangeet Natak Akademi (SNA), New Delhi.
In the field of academics, he has been teaching traditional/folk dance, music and musical instrument crafting to various interested students and individuals by organizing workshops in different places since 1997 till date. Regularly invited to demonstrate the art of musical crafts making across the country and globe, his list of achievements are simply endless and not possible to recount here.
In recognition of his immense contributions to the field of culture and innovation, he has been bestowed with a plethora of awards, which includes the ‘Asom Shrestha Pepa Badak ” ( best buffalo horn pipe player of Assam ) award consecutively for three years since 1993, 1994 and 1995 in Guwahati Bihu Sanmilani, Latasil ; in 2002 & 2003 again the same title in different places of Assam, the ‘Asom Bihuwa 2002 award’ at Chandmari, Guwahati in April, 2002, ’Shrestha Asom Bihuwa’ (best Bihu all-rounder of Assam ) in 2003 and the much prestigious ‘BOR BIHUA’ title in the year 2011.
Dr. Gogoi lives in Guwahati with his wife Mousumi Saikia Gogoi, a Bihu Samragyee herself, a son, Chao Boncheng Gogoi, who has already started performances on stage and in films and a young daughter, Nang Chenxun.
I recently got in touch with him for a candid conversation. Although the conversation stretched on for quite many hours, following are excerpts:
Aiyushman: Thank you for taking out time.
Dr. P. Gogoi: It is a privilege on my part.
Aiyushman: You were born and brought up in Ziro. How did you develop a fascination for Bihu?
Dr. P. Gogoi: Well, you are right. But during the winter months, we always used to come down to our native place. And we had a very strong influence of tradition and culture at home. So Bihu was something which came naturally to us.
Aiyushman: You studied medical sciences. So there were no initial plans to be part of Bihu project as such?
Dr. P. Gogoi: Bihu has always been there in our lives. My aim ambition was to join the Army which was followed by medicine. So even while I joined AAU, not many people that I was really keen abour horseriding. In fact, I had represented the NCC for two years in the horse squad of NCC during the Republic Day celebrations.
Aiyushman: So how did Bihu happen?
Dr. P. Gogoi: You can call it accidental. We were performing our cultural activities simulataneously.We always used to perform Bihu songs as per their original structure. When I was performing, Mukul Bora noticed me and approached me to be a part of their troupe. My first public performance as such was at Rangapuriya Silpi Samaj in Ganeshguri. While everyone was playing modern versions, I stuck to the original Bihu traditions. I received the first prize then. And from 2005 onwards, I started getting invited for shows abroad.
Aiyushman: As a performer and ethnomusicologist of repute, what are your views on the current spate of Bihu in Assam?
Dr. P. Gogoi: Well, I always tend to get in the midst of controversies but I need to speak what is in my mind. Bihu today is no longer what it used to be in the ancient days. Most of the people of Assam are merely acting like parrots, totally avoiding any adaptation. One should understand that Bihu was never meant for stage. The moment it came to stage, it lost its basic essence. We have to adapt to changing times. Most of our performers play by learning. But I play with staff notation. You can call it like a classical form of music. There was a big controversy about it because people did not want to accept it. But at the end of the day, folk is also like classical music. We also have our own matras, just like classical music.
To put it simply, Bihu was earlier performed in the Rajdarbars while table used to be performed in kothas. But table today enjoys classical status while we don’t. Even Sattriya dance would have, in all probability, remained a folk dance if it was not the efforts of late Dr. Bhupen Hazarika.
So basically, I feel that the mindset of the people should change and they should be more receptive to adaptations and change. Things are getting modernised. We have to adapt to changes. That is why research plays an important part here so that we can bring in new influences while retaining our traditional influences.
Aiyushman: How would you define tradition and culture?
Dr. P. Gogoi: Very interesting question. See, culture is not just about music and dance. It is about our way of life. Of Course, music and dance is there but in today’s age, cultural practitioners have been relegated to mere entertainers. One one hand you talk about retaining tradition, and on the other you have a traditional cultural performance before any event, be it a political event or sports ceremony. The mindset needs to change.
Aiyushman: What are your views on the current trend of Bihu workshops and Bihu shows being aired on channels?
Dr. P. Gogoi: To be honest, it is a good sign. Parents want to teach their children about the basic of their culture. But at the same time, people should know as to who the experts or teachers are. Who are conducting the workshops? Do they have sufficient knowledge about it? For instance, the kind of Bihu performances that are being aired during Magh Bihu are not performed at this time. While the exposure is definitely good, we should not teach wrong things.
Aiyushman: How did your interest in developing your instruments start?
Dr. P. Gogoi: It all happened by chance. When I was in the Veterinary College, we had to go to the 9th Mile area to collect parasites. While there, I saw a lot of buffalo horns which were thrown away. I started collecting them and tried experimenting with the tone and scale of the sound. That is how I developed my own pepas – all of which have their own scale. The research continued further on.
Aiyushman: How do you feel with the immense recognition that you have attained?
Dr. P. Gogoi: I definitely feel good. But it gives me more pleasure to know that I have taken our own instruments to the world outside and see people appreciating the same. It has been a tremendous exciting and learning experience for me as well, which I believe will continue to go on.
(First published in The Sentinel)
A folk rock band, Eastern Soul Players (ESP) recently released a folk song based on Lokogeet. The song ‘Jotadhari’ is available at http://www.reverbnation.com/easternsoulplayersesp.
EASTERN SOUL PLAYERS (ESP), a folk rock band from Jorhat, Assam started its journey in 2010. But even before the band was formed, the band members were performing in different genres and were often spending time together chatting and discussing various aspects of folk music of north east India parallel the other genres of the west.
The first performance of the band dates back to January 2010 with limited number of composition but an inspiring feedback from the viewers. Till then, the bands have been trying to work on folks like dehbisaror geet, tukari geet, lokogeet, and the like and have been composing jazz and reggae. Since birth, the band have spend years in knowing folk rock and by this time experiments with several compositions were completed successfully.
The lyrics usually deals with mythology, philosophy and spiritualism. By 2013, the band came out with full might and started performing live. With the expected support from the viewers and wellwishers, the band started recording their assets that they had created so far. ‘Jotadhari’, ‘Axutuxo’, ‘Kuji Baai’, ‘Vobo Boitoroni’, ‘Pita Putro’, etc are some of the compositions of EASTERN SOUL PLAYERS (ESP).
The song ‘Jotadhari’ is based on the tune of folk-songs or Lokogeet. The band does not claim it as a Loko geet, but in respect of the lyrics and tune, the song which deals with a myth tends to approach what is called Loko geet. Jotadhari, being all about Lord Shiva, creates an imaginary scene of Kailash in listeners mind and provides a sense of spiritualism.
The characters mentioned in the song are Lord Shiva, his followers Nandi and Bhingi, His wife Mother Parvati and his sons Karttik and Ganesh.
6th edition aspires to narrate Assamese history through classical dance
The 6th edition of Pragjyoti International Dance Festival (PIDF), organized by Kalpa, starts tomorrow. Conceptualized to exhibit the wide range of India’s classical dance forms together on one platform to sing in unison and to celebrate the rich heritage of Assam, the six-day classical dance extravaganza will be held in Guwahati, Kaziranga and Sivasagar from 15th-20th February, 2014.
The event is an annual feature by Kalpa society held in association with the Sivasagar District Administration, Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR), Ministry of External Affairs, Govt of India, Assam Tourism Development Corporation Limited (ATDC), Directorate of Cultural Affairs (Govt of Assam) and Sub-Divisional Office- Bokakhat. The festival is powered by ERD Foundation.
The 6th edition of Pragjyoti International Dance Festival will offer a tribute to the contribution of the 600-year-old Ahom rule towards society and culture of Assam and will be hosted in the cultural site of Siva Dol, Sivasagar sculpted and spaced by the aesthetic vision of the Ahoms. Through the dance movements and unique expression of a dancer’s language of the mind perceiving the world and its cosmos, the PIDF will communicate the gloried past of the Assam and the Ahom dynasty and momentous contribution of the kingdom towards Indian History.
With this, Kalpa also attempts to introduce PIDF as the “Dance Festival” exploring the heritage sites of Assam, inviting renowned young exponents from Poland, Russia, Italy and various parts of India representing various classical dance forms like Kuchipudi, Kathak, Mohiniattam, Manipuri, Bharatanatyam, Odissi and Sattriya.
Also addressing to the need of the hour, the festival will speak up for the conservation of nature and preservation of rhinos, making the masses aware and rethink about the pertinent issues of the land and its natural resources by dedicating the evening of dance for the conservation of its pristine glory.
Sattriya danseuse Anwesa Mahanta, Joint Secretary of Kalpa & Festival Director of PIDF says, “Since the past six years, PIDF has been striving towards building an interest for classical dance in the hearts of the youngsters of this region. This year, we want to address two issues that have been on the minds of many people of the region, and yet, were unable to express them for lack of a proper platform. PIDF is a festival of the people, carried forward over the years with their continued support and participation, and designed for highlighting the aspects of our vibrant culture and heritage. We want to use this platform as an opportunity to express our concern towards these issues”.
Sankar Prasad Kakoti Bora, the Regional Director of Indian Council of Cultural Relations, Guwahati, said, “Kalpa, has been organizing the Pragjyoti International Dance Festival in association with the Indian Council of Cultural Relations of the Ministry of External Affairs, Govt of India, since 2009. Kalpa, under the leadership of Professor Pradip Jyoti Mahanta and Anwesa Mahanta, has been endeavouring to provide a platform for the promotion of young dance talent and also a space for social and cultural convergence.”
Besides the dance performances, Kalpa has also organized a series of interactive sessions, namely ‘Voices’, in three educational institutions in the city on the days of the festival. Through these sessions, the students will get an opportunity to learn and interact with the various classical dancers performing at the festival. These interactive sessions aim at creating awareness about the various classical dance forms of the country and to encourage more and more youngsters to take up these dance forms. The ‘Voices’ sessions will be held at Delhi Public School, Don Bosco Institute of Management and Regional Institute of Science and Technology on 15th, 16th, 17th February respectively.
“Our dance festival is an attempt to promote the intangible heritage of classical arts among the younger generation. Dance is an interdisciplinary area that requires a holistic appraisal of literature, philosophy, history, science, music, painting, sculpture, yoga, spirituality, religion, art and so on. Pragjyoti International Dance Festival, now in its sixth year, is one such attempt to showcase Indian classical dance with its holistic understanding of time, space and sound and the interpretations of human mind and body to the context of Assamese heritage, history and its nature”, says Anwesa.
While one of the greatest achievements of PIDF has been to develop interest about classical art traditions and its relevance in contemporary period amidst the young generations it has also maintained high standards by garnering the support and accolades of exponents of Indian dance at this annual dance fest.
Appreciating the efforts of Kalpa, Anurag Singh (Managing Director – Assam Tourism Development Corporation Ltd.) comments, “Pragjyoti International Dance Festival is a vibrant festival with international renowned artists performing in Assam. It gives us an opportunity to promote our diverse culture and tourism. It’s a season’s gift of dance and tradition to the people”.
The Pragjyoti International Dance Festival will be organized in Guwahati, Kaziranga and Sivsagar (in Assam) from 15th- 20th February, 2014. The festival has been divided into three stages:
15th, 16th February, 2014 (Saturday and Sunday) at Rabindra Bhawan, Guwahati
18th February, 2014 (Tuesday) at Kaziranga National Park, Convention Hall
19th, 20th February, 2014 (Wednesday and Thursday) at Siva Dol, Sivasagar
Gayan Bayan: Bhogpur Sattra, Majuli
Odissi: Sanatani Rombola (Italy) and Elena Knyazeva (Russia)
Bharatanatyam: Renjith Babu and Vijna Vasudevan, Chennai
Kathak: Disciples of Ms. Marami Medhi, Guwahati
Mohiniattam: Swapna Raju, Bangalore
Kuchipudi: Sreelaksmy Govardhan, Kerala
Sattriya: Lima Das, Guwahati
Bharatanatyam: Aleksandra Michalska (Poland)
Manipuri: Bibhul Kt. Sinha and his Group, Guwahati
Gayan Bayan: Bogiai Elengi Sattra, Titabor
Odissi: Sanatani Rombola (Italy) and Elena Knyazeva (Russia)
Bharatanatyam: Renjith Babu and Vijna Vasudevan, Chennai
Kathak: Disciples of Ms. Marami Medhi
Mohiniattam: Swapna Raju
Kuchipudi: Shreelaksmy Govardhan, Kerala
Manipuri: Bibhul Sinha and his Group, Guwahati
Bharatanatyam: Aleksandra Michalska (Poland)
Sattriya: Dimpi Sonowal and Rimpi Sonowal, Guwahati
Published in The Sentinel on February 15, 2014
Band members perform in Shillong, interact with local youths and civil society leaders for empowerment of women and girls
For alternative and pop music lovers of the city, there is reason to cheer. Popular all-woman, all-attitude alternative pop music trio from New York City, Betty, will be arriving in the city to perform at Alcheringa – the biggest event of IIT Guwahati’s annual calendar. The performance of the pop group has been facilitated and sponsored by the office of the U.S. Consulate in Kolkata.
Unstoppable activists, the women of BETTY use their music for humanitarian outreach: working for equal rights, peace, and the empowerment of girls and women. The band had performed in the neighbouring hill station of Shillong yesterday.
Talking about the performance in Shillong, a US Consulate communiqué said, “American all-female pop rock band BETTY had a great time in Shillong yesterday! They enjoyed performing for local youth leaders, social activists and government officials and getting the chance to talk with them about the empowerment of women and girls. This inspirational band and their “RISE” program demands violence prevention and emphasizes the need for public attention to end gender based violence.”
The band also performed at Alcheringa, the annual cultuarl festival of IIT- Guwahati.
Prior to their performance in Guwahati on Sunday, the band had an exclusive interview scheduled for mediapersons at the Guwahati Press Club today. The Deputy Director of the American Center Kolkata, Rachel Sunden will moderate the press conference.
BETTY is a pop rock band fronted by Elizabeth Ziff, Alyson Palmer and Amy Ziff. The band’s unique sound is a blend of tight harmonies layered over rocking guitars and a solid rhythm section. Since 1986, BETTY has performed their memorable live show – full of exciting, hook-laden songs, clever word play and manic energy – in clubs, theatres and public arenas all over the world.
The band has toured in the U.S., Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Russia, across Western Europe, Scandinavia and Argentina. Fierce Elizabeth (vocals, guitar), funky Alyson (vocals, bass) and funny Amy (vocals, cello) are the songwriters.
BETTY’s last release “Rise” is a hit featuring the song the band wrote in 2013 for Eve Ensler’s global campaign to end violence against women and girls, One Billion Rising. Unstoppable activists, the women of BETTY use their music for humanitarian outreach: working for equal rights, peace, and the empowerment of girls and women. It is powerful music, and you can dance to it!
With music bearing the message of peace and empowerment BETTY, has been harmonizing arts and activism for almost three decades. Since 2012, the trio has brought their unique blend of music and social issues to local communities across the world via U.S. State Department programs. As U.S. Arts Envoy, BETTY’s music with a message seeks to spread equality, tolerance, and anti-bullying in an effort to fight gender-based violence and homophobia.
While in Guwahati, BETTY also met with representatives from the civil society, non-profit organizations, government officials and local youth leaders via a U.S. Consulate Kolkata outreach program in association with YI (Young Indians of CII).
BETTY’s engagements in Guwahati are part of the trio’s January 29 – February 9, 2014 India Tour that has the band travelling to Shillong, Kolkata and Hyderabad.
Guwahati-based cultural organization Nrityanjali Academy is upbeat after the success of their international art exhibition, The Bridge, held at Thimpu last year. The exhibition, held at Nehru Wangchuk Cultural Centre at the embassy of India in Thimphu, was organized in collaboration with the Nehru Wangchuk Cultural Centre, Embassy of India Bhutan and paid homage to noted Assamese artist Sobha Brahma on his 84th birth anniversary. This was informed by Aditi Chakravorty, member of Nrityanjali.
Kama Wangdi, senior contemporary artist of Bhutan had inaugurated the four-day exhibition that showcased paintings of Sobha Brahma and 31 other Indian artists. The inaugural function was graced by Lyonpo C. Dorji, Chairman, Royal Privy Council, Dasho Dorjee Tshering, DG Department of Culture, MOHCA, RGOB, Mrs. Bharti Mohan Babu and other contemporary artists from Thimphu.
Eminent artist Ravindra Verma has highlighted the life and works of Sobha Brahma to the present audience. In his address, he invited the Bhutanese artists also to visit India to display their works. He hoped that this cross border interaction would act as a bridge between the two nations. A total of 57 works, which included abstract, realistic, figurative and other forms of paintings, were on display, Aditi informed.
‘Sobha Brahma-The Immaculate Visionary’, a documentary by Sibanan Barua, was also screened in the inaugural evening. The movie as it were brought back Late Brahma to life. During the exhibition period, a group of participating artists visited the Vast Gallery, Thimphu, Bhutan on invitation from Founder of the gallery Mr. Kama Wangdi. The group witnessed a grand installation work being put up by a team of artists under the guidance of Mr. Wangdi on the bank of the Thimphu, a spot of tourist attraction.
Manika Devi, Aditi Chakravarty and Prabin Kumar Nath, the main members of the organizing team, informed that Vijaya Brahma, wife of late Brahma and his two daughters also attended the inaugural function. The participating artists were from Assam, Tripura, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and New Delhi. They were: Neel Pawan Barua(Assam), Ravindra Verma( New Delhi), Noni Borpuzari( New Delhi), Vilas Shinde (Mumbai), Ajit Seal ( Shantiniketan), Champak Borbora (Assam), Atul Chandra Baruah (Assam), Meena Baya( Rajasthan), Munindra Narayan Bhattacharya (Assam), Lutfa Akhtar (Assam), Madhusudan Das (Assam), Suresh Kumar (New Delhi), Asurvedh (New Delhi), Simanta Jyoti Baruah (Assam), Prabin Kumar Nath (Assam), Subhakar Laskar (Assam) Ashwani Kumar Prithviwasi(New Delhi), Maneswar Brahma (Assam), Vijaya Ved (New Delhi), Sansita Gogoi. C (Assam), Khil Bahadur Chhetri (Assam), Jyoti Kumar Kalita (Assam), Manika Devi( Assam), Niva Devi (Assam), Gautam Kumar Goswami (Assam), Parikshit Baruah (Assam), Aditi Chakravarty (Assam), Siva Prasad Marar (Assam), Promud Boruah (Assam), Joydeep Bhattacharjee (Tripura), Jayanta Bhattacharya( Tripura).
Hornbill International Music Festival puts Nagaland on global music map
Curtains fell down on India’s biggest rock competition in Kohima on December 10 as Kolkata-based rockers ‘Underground Authority’ were adjudged the winners of the Hornbill International Rock competition. The alternative rap rockers from Kolkata outshone the best of the best of 150 bands that entered the competition to walk home with the winners prize bouquet of Rs 1 million – the largest prize money for any rock competition in India – and a host of other gifts and packages.
The spectacular finale of the rock competition at the Solitary Park in Kohima saw the Nagaland Government’s Music Task Force – organizers of the competition – dole out prize money totalling up to a whooping Rs. 17.2 lakhs besides other gift items. ‘We The Giants’ from Nagaland and ‘The F16s’ from Chennai were placed first and second runners up. Both bands went home Rs.3.5 lakhs and Rs.2.5 lakhs richer respectively.
The Hornbill rock competition, an integral part of the annual Hornbill festival, had evolved from a local beat contest about ten years back to a national level contest from 2008. This year the festival was launched globally under the title of Hornbill International Music Festival. Bands from USA, UK, UAE and other countries had taken part in the music festival this year. Herein it is imperative to state that Nagaland is the only State in the country to have a special government cell, Music Task Force, for promotion of music.
The rock competition is part of the Music Task Force’s Hornbill International music festival which continues for the entire duration of the Hornbill festival. “Besides the completion, other events in the music festival included a special performance of Biuret Band, Republic of Korea to commemorate the achieving musicians of Nagaland, performance by Semper Souls (USA), a country and blues concert besides a choral music competition. The Hornbill music festival also saw the staging of the Queen musical play, ‘We will rock you’, directed by Ate Kevichusa,” Gugs Chishi, Director of Music Task Force, Nagaland Government informed.
The Hornbill International rock competition marked the conclusion of the 10-day Hornbill cultural extravaganza. According to Nagaland Chief Minister Nephiu Rio, the State witnessed an inflow of more than 1.6 lakhs tourists during the ten-day carnival. The rock competition also saw prizes being awarded in the individual category. While S. Serivasagar (Underground Authority) won the Best Vocalist, the Best Bass Guitarist award went to Aren Longkumer (Infuse, Nagaland). Best Bassist went to Soumyadeep Batthacharya (Underground Authority), Best Drummer prize was awarded to Sourish Kumar (Underground Authority) and Best Keyboardist was awarded to Harshan Radhakhrishnan (F16s). All the individual winners were awarded Rs.30,000 each. Besides the prize money, sponsored gifts were also given to the winners. True School of Music, Mumbai also sponsored various special category prizes worth Rs. 30 lakhs.
Popular Naga band and winners of MTV Rock On, Divine Connection, made a special appearance at the show on Tuesday. The Hornbill International Rock contest was divided into two segments: the first part involved submission of compositions by rock outfits of the country. The second segment saw the selected bands battling it out for three days of competition at the venue. As many as 150 bands had applied for the competition and after gruelling rounds of auditions, nine bands were selected for the grand finale.
Making the entire State of Assam and Northeast proud, Mumbai-based Assamese singer Chitralee Goswami recently gave a scintillating Sufi performance during the prestigious India International Trade Fair which concluded last week. The concert, held at Lal Chowk Theatre in Pragati Maidan, left the audience spellbound and also marked the emergence of a new Sufi sensation.
On the 24th of last month, the Lal Chowk open theatre gallery was jam packed from afternoon itself to listen to new sensation from Assamese who has managed to carve a place among the very few Sufi singers of the country.
Chitralee’s 3-hour long performance, which received an overwhelming response from the audience, included a number of original Sufi compositions of her Guru Pandit Rakesh Sharma of Dill Gosain Gharana. Chitralee in her renditions included lyrics of Baba Farid and Bulle Shah besides, her own composition “Dum Ali Dum-Uski Khudai” and Amir Khusro’s compositions.
Earlier in an interview, Chitralee mentioned that besides pursuing traditional and contemporary Sufi music prevalent in various part of the country, she also took inspiration from Assam’s traditional music Jikir, Jari and Tokari Geet from her childhood which have a Sufi element both in lyrics, renditions & philosophy.
Chitralee Goswami, over the last couple of years, has made her mark as a Sufi singer. Apart from eastern, western and northern parts of the country, she is invited on a regular basis for live concerts in places like, Mysore, Bangalore, Chennai, Srirangapattan, Vijaywada. Her performance in Kerala has met with appreciate reviews in the Southern press and media.
A leading female vocalist of the country, Chitralee is an acclaimed stage performer and a vocalist of the National Radio and Television. At the initiative of her late parents, Prabhat Narayan Goswami and Biva Goswami, she was exposed at a very young age to lot of folk music (lokgeets), bhajans, Ravindra Sangeet as well as borgeets which she started performing right from the tender age of 8. She received talim for advanced khayal & ghazal gayaki from internationally renowned music director and Commonwealth award winner Guru Pandit Rakesh Kumar Sharma of New Delhi.
A trained classical performing artist, she later veered into semi-classical and light forms of Hindustani as well as Karnatic music. Besides music, she has also achieved a number of milestones in her professional life. “I live music,” says Chitralee who is a Cost Accountant, Post Graduate in Finance, Batchelor of Law, Master of Music and a Doctoral Scholar in Economics. She has served some of the premier Institutions of the country in responsible positions such as Deputy Registrar and Head – Finance, Head-Internal Audit & Head-Academic Affairs of Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati (IIT Guwahati), Head- Corporate Communication, North East for ONGC, Finance Controller of AMTRON, Deputy General Manager, Finance at Mangalore Refinery & Petrochemicals Ltd & Visiting Faculty to Guru Goving Singh Indra Prastha University, New Delhi.
A perfectionist in all her endeavours, she is presently serving ONGC’s Western Offshore Basin at Mumbai.
(Published in The Sentinel (Symphony) on December 7, 2013)
Well-know economist and writer Gautam Prasad Baroowah recently released his new book, Be a Millionaire, at the Guwahati Press Club. The press meet was attended by a number of well-known writers, officials, bankers and corporate personalities.
Be a Millionaire is a book on empowerment for planning personal finance, especially for Indian middle class with a stress on the investors from North East, the publishers informed.
“Nobody can live decently without making provisions for food, shelter, and cloth. For human beings to provide for above provisions, wealth creation is necessary. Even monks need money for sustenance. The great prophet like Swami Vivekananda once said that no proper worship would be possible with empty stomach. People nowadays enjoy a much longer life than before,” the website for the book states.
According to Baroowah, this necessitated the emergence of Personal Finance for security of family members, for continued better health, and for better livelihood.
“This book attempts to make our young citizens much more investment savvy. It is not an effort for spoon-feeding. This would ultimately inspire one to be a millionaire. This is not just a copy book or handbook of notes that would make investors a millionaire automatically,” he said.
The essays of the book would only empower the mind and inspire one to take his/her decisions honestly and truthfully.
Gautam Prasad Baroowah is a business economist and a human resource management expert. Baroowah was the corporate vice president of Williamson Magor and Banking Ombudsman of RBI besides being in board of many companies.
An award-winning writer, he now writes regular columns and author’s books.
(Published in The Sentinel (Symphony) on December 7, 2013)
Forum of e-Creative practitioners seeks new global cultural connections in NE
The 3rd flexhibition of the 2013 series which is hung at The Research & Innovation Ashram (The RIA), in Rukmini Nagar, Guwahati, displays a composited single visual artwork by young Diya Sarker, a multimedia artist based in Mumbai, where she lives with her two cats. Her flexhibition began on October 23 last and will continue for two weeks.
Flexhibition is a totally new and unique concept that was started in the RIA from this year. Flexhibition typically displays a single artist’s work as a single large flex-print facing a public road for about two weeks at a time.
Diya Sarker herself hails from an army family that has seen her live in different parts of India, and travel extensively around the country, through her childhood and adolescence. Her work spans illustration, design, photography, and video, usually using her cats, friends, and localities as subjects. She last presented her independent art work at The 8th annual Carnival of e-Creativity (2013), in Uttarakhand, and, otherwise consults as an Art Director at a major advertising agency in Mumbai.
The unique concept for bringing arts into direct contact with the general public has been variously received by the people of Guwahati thus far, with many people in the immediate neighbourhood of The RIA still completely mystified by it all, says RIA Managing Trustee Shankar Barua. He adds, “Though people are mostly surprised, At the same time, there have been positive responses from many citizens, including some sections of the local visual arts community, which means, one may therefore hope to soon see the works of local artists appearing as future flexhibitions. Traditional visual media will also soon make an appearance, with a flexhibition of charcoal-drawings by a Delhi artist expected to go up soon.”
The RIA is a part of the Academy of Electronic Arts (AeA) of which Barua is the Managing Trustee. The Academy of Electronic Arts is a learning, sharing, mentoring, networking, benchmarking and empowering institution that evolves continuously to inclusively address *all* e-Creative Practices & Practitioners, whether already existing or as yet inconceivable, whether professional or not, and whether formally recognized as Art forms and Artists or not so, on a public-benefit basis into the future.
Barua says, “Our various works coalesce and deploy years of independent cutting-edge practice, networking and development of a variety of e-Creative practices, e-Creative entities, and also allied fields of human endeavour globally, in the bodies of our Advisory Council, our Board of Trustees, our pirmary associates, and also the innumerable other e-Creative Practitioners and associated individuals and organizations whom we continually engage with on individual projects, and also on ongoing relationship bases, all over the world.”
Earlier in the year, the AeA had sought to open up a parallel track of cultural diplomacy between North East India and South Korea, by programming a small but very significant delegation from that country through an exploratory 10-day working-visit to Guwahati (capital of Assam), and Shillong (capital of Meghalaya). The event was programmed through the RIA.
The delegation was led by Ms. Nathalie Boseul Shin, who is counted amongst the top arts & culture curators of her country today. Mr. Hojun Song, whose latest well-known ‘artwork’ eventually added up to his recently becoming the first person to send a Personal Satellite into orbit, represented the contemporary cutting-edge of South Korean media arts. Mr. Boseong Lee, assistant-curator with Total Museum of Contemporary Arts, Seoul, contributed additional inputs and also rounded off the delegation as rapporteur.
The AeA itself was represented by Shankar Barua (Managing Trustee), and Shazeb Shaikh (Executive Trustee).
Working to a tight schedule, the delegation spent time meeting individuals, institutions, and government, in both Guwahati and Shillong, looking to discover, and to hopefully also open up, new avenues for a deeper cultural engagement between South Korea and North East India, into the future.
Barua says, “The visit will hopefully be just the first of many international cultural connections that the The AeA ill bring to the NE, into the future, from the wonderful global network we have built up over the years, out of our bases in Delhi and Uttarakhand. And, as such, it will hopefully also mark just the beginning of our now being based in the NE too, with our new Research & Innovation Ashram in Guwahati.”