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More than 200 artists, 6 countries – GIMF2 pitches Northeast on global music circuit

Prince of percussion Bickram Ghosh performing live in GIMF2

Prince of percussion Bickram Ghosh performing live in GIMF2

Bickram Ghosh, Padma Bhushan Buddhadeb Dasgupta and Mac Haque mesmerises

Scavenger Project, UDX takes GIMF to all new high

Bickram Ghosh, Ramen Baruah and Mac Haque receives EBMS Excellence in Music award

Three days of fun, frolic and non-stop music marked the second edition of the Guwahati International Music Festival. One of

padmabhushan buddhadeb dasgupta

padmabhushan buddhadeb dasgupta

the only such festivals in the eastern part of the country, more than 200 artists from as many as 6 countries took part in the mega event. The festival was organized by Eastern Beats Music Society with the support of Assam Tourism, NTPC, NEEPCO, ITC Sangeet Research Academy, The Telegraph and Aucto Creation. The event was supported by Indi Eath, international television giant Vh1, Dy 365, Bengal Watch, Red Fm, The Big M, Asom Tube, Hotel Gateway Grandeur, Hotel Landmark, Hotel Nandan, Assam Times, Life’s Purple, Cozy Tours and Travels, Friends of Assam and Seven Sisters and Miranda’s Creations.

symphony of 100 sitarss

symphony of 100 sitarss

From Jazz to Blues, Classical to Rock – Guwahatians were spoilt for choice as some of the biggest names in the music industry descended in the Northeast. For the visiting artistes too, it was an excellent opportunity to network with the virtuoso musicians of the far-flung region of the country.

Bickram Ghosh, Snehasish Mazumdar and Sound of Mandolin (SOM) from New York, virtuoso drummer Greg Ellis from USA, legendary anti-establishment Bangladeshi rockstar-philopsopher Mac Haque, Sufi prodigy Manmohan Thapaliya from Nepal, Rishiii Chowdhury from UK, Harris Khan from Holland were the visiting artists who actually networked with the folk musicians of the region, thereby initiating a wonderful round of cross-cultural exchange.

aiyushman dutta presenting a momento to harris khan of afghanistan

aiyushman dutta presenting a momento to harris khan of afghanistan

Sea of crowd that had gathered in the festival

Sea of crowd that had gathered in the festival

Veteran violinist Minoti Khaund and ATDC Director Anurag Singh with Bhaskar Boruah and aiyushman Dutta lighting the inaugural lamp

Veteran violinist Minoti Khaund and ATDC Director Anurag Singh with Bhaskar Boruah and aiyushman Dutta lighting the inaugural lamp

Manmohan, who is a visiting faculty member of the Indian Council for Cultural Research in Kathmandu, said, “When I came to Guwahati, I never expected the kind of networking that was in store for us. I have had a great time knowing and interacting with all the fantastic guitarists here. I am coming here again to experiment further with Sufi music and Northeastern folk.”

The festival kicked off on the evening of November 23 with a fascinating symphony of 100 Sitars which was conducted by eminent Sitarist Hem Hazarika. The 100-member troupe, which was dressed in traditional white Assamese attire – men in Kurtas and women in mekhela chador – performed a 15-minute recital based on a pahari tune. Needless to say, the visual array and sweet melody kept everyone glued to their chairs and provided an excellent example of what was lined up for them for the next three days.

Snehasish Mazumdar and Sound of Mandolin from New York

Snehasish Mazumdar and Sound of Mandolin from New York

Mac Haque from Bangladesh

Mac Haque from Bangladesh

Padmabhushan awardee Pt Buddhadeb Dasgupta, despite his ill health, also arrived in the city for the inaugural performance. Despite doubts about his performance capability on account of his growing age, the octogenarian, who has taken the Sarod to the entire world, kept the audience spellbound with his hour-long recital. He was accompanied by virtuoso Tablist Gopal Mishra and Mallar Rakshit.

Pt Buddhadeb Dasgupta’s performance was sponsored by ITC Sangeet Research Academy – the sole institute working for the development of classical music in the country. SRA, which has produced some of the finest musicians of the country, also took auditions for their institute from talented musicians from the region. The instituted also sponsored the performance of Pt Anniruddh Bhattacharya, who is presently blazing across the national circuit, in a bid to revive the dormant classical music scenario of the Northeast.

The highlight of the entire festival, however, was undoubtedly the performance of master percussionist Bickram Ghosh and his popular troupe Rhythmscape. For more than an hour, he kept the packed 3000-capacity Shilpgram amphitheatre on their toes as they clapped in unison to his beats. He was accompanied on the drums by Greg Ellis from the US.

Bickram Ghosh receiving the Eastern Beats Excellence in Music award from EBMS advisor Shantanu Thakur

Bickram Ghosh receiving the Eastern Beats Excellence in Music award from EBMS advisor Shantanu Thakur

Mac Haque and Aiyushman Dutta releasing an album by child artist Miranda

Mac Haque and Aiyushman Dutta releasing an album by child artist Miranda

Bickram Ghosh’s performance was preceded by the spell-binding performance of Snehasish Mazumdar and his troupe SOM. Mazumdar, who hails from Kolkata, has developed a double-necked mandolin and adapted the typical western instrument to the Hindustani style. His troupe SOM was selected as the winner in the Battle of Boroughs and performs regularly in the US.


Jeffery Williams and Rishav Bhuyan

Jeffery Williams and Rishav Bhuyan





manjira and rishiiii

Manjir Chowdhury and Rishii Chowdhury from UK

ralph jugalbandi with pragyan barua11

Ralph Kampuis (Germany) jugalbandi with Pragyan Barua and Earth Link

RJ PAHI TALKS gives bajate raho award as EBMS MEMBERS LOOK ON1

RJ PAHI TALKS gives bajate raho award as EBMS MEMBERS LOOK ON


Scavenger Project from Mizoram


EBMS secretary Subhankar Hazarika gives away an award to a band


UDX from Kazakhstan

Needless to say, GIMF gave the people of the Northeast an excellent opportunity to watch some of the most interesting musical trends of the world. As Dr. Nandan Phukan, who came to watch the event, said, “I never knew that such interesting work was being done with the Mandolin. The other performers too have been a pleasant delight to watch. I would rate this festival as one of the best in the entire country.”

A national rock competition was also held during the festival and the finals of which were held on the third day. From the 17 bands which went to the last three rounds, heavy metal Tickstock were declared the winners. The judges for the competition were Mumbai-based Guwahatian drummer Ambar Das, bassist Larry from Shillong and vibraphone player Ralph Kamphuis from Germany.

The highlight of the final day however was the performance of the guest bands – UDX from Nagaland and Scavenger Project f

Pt Anniruddha Bhattacharya

Pt Anniruddha Bhattacharya

rom Mizoram. UDX had recently performed in Kazakhstan while Scavenger Project has one of the largest fan followings in the entire country. Such was the craze of the audience that they even overthrew the barricades and made a rush to the stage for 5-odd minutes before the organizers could finally push them back.

All in all, GIMF was a major success and is sure to translate as one of the biggest festivals in the country in the years to come.


EBMS consulting secretary Peter Alex Todd trying to control the crowd which broke the barricades

EBMS consulting secretary Peter Alex Todd trying to control the crowd which broke the barricades

View of crowd

View of crowd


Greg Ellis (US) jugalbandi with Bickram Ghosh

Greg Ellis (US) jugalbandi with Bickram Ghosh


Bhaskar Borua presenting the Eastern beats Excellence in Music award to Ramen Barua

Bhaskar Borua presenting the Eastern beats Excellence in Music award to Ramen Barua



Rock competitions held during the daytime

Rock competitions held during the daytime

Harris Khan of Afghanistan

Harris Khan of Afghanistan



Northeast Beats add sheen to Goan celebrations;

Musical tribute to Anthony Gonsalves featured Northeast and Konkani artists on single platform

It was a concert in Goa with a difference. A musical tribute to the legendary Anthony Gonsalves concluded in Goa in the last week of June. The event organized to commemorate World Music Day however also sought to celebrate the musical vibrancy of Goa and Northeast – two most vibrant musical destinations of the country.

The event was organized by Music Mania Foundation of Goa in association with NEZCC, Dimapur and Eastern Beats Music Society. The three-day musical tribute to the unforgettable legend and genius, Anthony Gonsalves, who changed the scenario of the Indian Film Orchestra with his arrangements in the 1950s and 60s, included a number of artistes from various parts of the country.

The event sought to celebrate the musical diversity of the country through a slew of performances spread over three days. A special attraction was the focus laid on Northeast India and Goa – two highly vibrant regions as far as culture is concerned but markedly different from each other. “We hope this festival helps initiate better understanding about each other’s culture and traditions amongst the people of both regions,” Colin Savio Coelho of Music Mania Foundation of Goa said.

Thrice Grammy-listed experimental Naga band Abiogenesis headlined the second day of the festival, which also featured Simple Truth and Black Slade from Delhi. Abiogenesis, which has developed its own brand of Howey music, played with a repertoire of western instruments supplemented by the sound of the Bamhum – an instrument developed by its member Moa Subong. The band has earned critical acclaim for taking traditional Naga sounds and merging it with contemporary musical genres to create a beautiful medley.

The thirds day of the festival was dedicated to GOEMKAR AMI KHAS and included a Konkani musical evening with Konkani musicians and bands besides featuring Rhythm n Blues and Lulu. “Some of the highlights were performances by Fanchu Mendes (double bass) and Franky (Piano) and Salvador Pereira (violin and piano) and many more,” Colin informed.

Not just cultural dialogue, the festival also sought to uphold the spirit of World Music Day as the Music Mania foundation felicitated Goa’s famed violinist Emiliano da Cruz with a Lifetime Achievement in Music award.

Initially formed with the objective of harnessing the healing power of the arts to bring about development in strife-torn and rural areas, the Eastern Beats Music Society has been undertaking a number of initiatives towards its objectives. It organizes the Karbi Anglong Beats contest as part of the traditional Rongtheang festival of Karbi Anglong so as to strengthen the bonds of unity among people of different tribes and communities and prevent minor quarrels from erupting into ethnic clashes.

The society also seeks to initiate cross cultural dialogue between artists from the region with those from other areas. Its landmark event – Guwahati International Music Festival which was held last year – saw 35 top artists from the Northeast and countries like UK, Nepal, USA merge together on a common platform to showcase their music and exchange their diverse cultural ethos and traditions. The festival will be held again in November this year, a EBMS secretary informed.


Santanu Thakur, Secretary to Assam Govt, Dept of Cultural Affairs giving away the Eastern Beats Excellence in Music Award to Guru Rewben Mashangva

33 Top Artist share stage in two days of inter-cultural exchange; Eastern Beats Excellence in Music Award handed to Guru Rewben Mashangva

Curtains came down on the 1st Guwahati International Music Festival (GIMF) on December 2 and 3, 2011 amidst scintillating performances by top artists from various parts of the globe. The two day festival, which was participated by 33 top artistes from different parts of the country as also abroad, had been a resounding success, with a number of musicians, students and music lovers attending the various events.

Abhaya Subba and the Steam Injuns

Organized by the Eastern Beats Music Society of Guwahati in collaboration with the North East Zone Cultural Centre (NEZCC), Dimapur, the landmark event GIMF 2011 was supported by North Eastern Council (NEC), Shillong, the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), under the Ministry of External Affairs; Directorate of Art and Culture of the Government of Goa; Numaligarh Refinery Limited, The Telegraph, Suzuki Musical Instruments Co Ltd, Thomas Music, Artist Aloud, Earth Sync, Muzickonnect, CEC, Assam Times, Academy of Broadcasting Media School, Creoveant Productions, Assam Down Town University, Sound Box, ISNP, Eclectic Vibes, Radio 92.7 BIG Fm, Hotel Gateway Grandeur, Hotel Landmark, Saanz Mobile, Hit & and a host of music trade professionals and institutes from all over the world.

Portugese Corendiho

GIMF 2011 had been conceptualised to fill the need for a premier music festival in the country which can showcase the best of regional, national and international talents in the music field to the people of the region. Besides serving as a platform for interaction among musicians, music professionals, music lovers, music trade firms and music institutes, the festival was also organized to initiate cross-cultural dialogue among people and artistes of the region with those from others parts of the country and the world. The event was conceptualised, planned and implemented by Aiyushman Dutta.

GIM Creative Director Aiyushman Dutta

The festivities began on December 2 when Tangkhul Naga folk balladeer organized a unique music workshop-cum-lecture demonstration for music lovers and school students of Guwahati. Guru Rewben Mashangva, a wandering minstrel from the hills of Ukhrul in Manipur, has earned international acclaim for his pioneering work in preserving and promoting Tangkhul folk tunes amongst the youth. Having refashioned tribal music instruments to suit the western tonal scale, he has developed his own brand of Hao music.

Guru Rewben Mashangva

Students attending the workshop

Hundreds of students attended the seminar to see Guru Rewben display his traditional instruments and the need to preserve the old folk traditions. Talking about his interaction with the elders of his village and displaying his traditional instruments, he kept the audience spellbound. The event was inaugurated by Assam Chief Information Commissioner and chairman of the core committee of the festival Deepak Narayan Dutt.

Hrishi chowdhury-Samyami Sangeeta Chowdhury and Edwin Fernandes

A 13-member cultural troupe of Goa performed the Goanese Mando Mogi and the Portugese Coredinho, ensuring that the cultural quotient was kept running throughout. The performance of the Goanese troupe was facilitated by the Directorate of Art and Culture, Government of Goa.

The Guwahati International Music Festival was spread across three indoor pavilions, an open-air stage, an indoor auditorium and a food court dealing in ethnic food items of the region. While live music performances were held in the open-air venue, the auditoriums and pavilions were used for the lecture-demonstration sessions, film screening event, display kiosks for professionals and firms from the music trade industry.

Among the visiting music trade industry professionals, mention can be made of Abe Thomas. The Indian representative of Musicians Institute in Hollywood, he also represented Suzuki Music Instruments Co Ltd (Japan), music journalist Colin Savio Coelho, Sonia Mazumdar of Muzickonnect and Earth Sync, Deepika Bagaria of Artist Aloud, amongst others. Many musicians of the city were seen interacting with these veteran trade professionals and learning about the latest trends and developments in the global music industry.

the inauguration

The first evening, which was dedicated to classical music, was inaugurated by musicologists Somnath Bora Ojha, Dr Prassana Gogoi and Eastern Beats Music Society secretary Aiyushman Dutta. Mumbai-based vocalist Abhishruti Bezbaruah began the proceedings of the evening which was graced by virtuoso Sitarist Pt Manilal Nag. The mother-daughter duo of Minoti Khaund and Sunita Bhuyan, Tarun Kalita, Moitryee Goswami, Pawan Bordoloi were some of the other performers of the evening.

The second day began with an impromptu jamming session by UK based Rajarshi Siddhartha Chowdhury, Samyami Sangeeta Chowdhury with Guru Rewben Mashangva from Ukhrul, Edwin Fernandez from Delhi and Daniel Engti of Karbi Anglong. The brother and sister duo from UK mesmerised the audience with their performance of lokageet and borgeet. Rajarshi is a lawyer by profession and Samyami is a doctor but their passion for classical and Assamese folk songs brings them to their home State every year. Their jamming session was an interesting fusion of classical and Assamese folk with Blues and Jazz, Karbi folk music and Tangkhul folk music.

Later a number of films on music were screened at a film camp. The films that were screened included Songlines by Vasudha Joshi, Mystical Grass by Pritish Chakraborty and Puja Chakraborty and Songs of Mashangva by Oinam Doren, amongst others. Over hundred students, musicians and people from all walks of life attended the workshop and the film camp.

Minoti Khaund-Sunita Bhuyan

The evening performance of the second day began with a piano solo performance by Ronojit Chaliha. Playing some popular compositions by Bach and Neil Nongkynrih, young Ronojit aptly set the mood for the evening to come. As the crowd trickled in, the Kolkata-Guwahati-based fusion project Naad Brahma came on stage. This classical and Blues ensemble ensured that Guwahatians got a taste of some new innovations in the fiels of music.

Mayukh Hazarika performing offering tribute to Dr. Bhupen Hazarika

Kalpana Lajmi's tribute to late Dr Bhupen Hazarika

But it was UK-based harmonica specialist Brendan Power who took the honours. Playing a different set of scales on different harmonicas, he aptly demonstrated the immense possibilities of the Blues harp and at the same time, took the audience to an altogether different world during his hour-long performance.

Popular contemporary Assamese singers Mayukh Hazarika and Laili Dutta Hazarika were up next. In their 45-minute long performance, the duo gave a fitting tribute to their uncle – the greant unparalleled balladeer late Dr Bhupen Hazarika. Their performance was marked by a formal address by late Dr. Hazarika’s long time companion and filmmaker Kalpana Lajmi. During the ceremony, Secretary to Assam Government, Cultural Affairs department also formally handed over the Eastern Beats Excellence in Music award to Guru Rewben Mashangva. Also present was Eastern Beats Music Society secretary Aiyushman Dutta and joint secretary Peter Alex Todd.

Assam Bamboo Band

Nepal’s rock diva Abhaya Subba and the famed Steam Injuns followed up next, much to the delight of the hundred-member strong Gorkha community and rock lovers that had descended at Shilpgram. Though the slight drizzle threatened a premature end to the performance, the rockers lived up to the spirit and rocked all those present. Lucid Recess from Guwahati also performed on the occasion.

Of Bullets and Melody

Among all the art forms, music is supposed to be the greatest leveller, the healing and nurturing qualities of which never cease to amaze. The power of music is best evident in Northeast India, where lives have been torn apart by continuous violence and bloodshed brought about by insurgency and inter-communal clashes. Yet, as is the hallmark in the Northeast, despite all the violence and unrest music runs in the veins of each and every person residing here, binding them with its latent force and at the same time, healing the blistering wounds.

This immense latent quality of music came to the fore once again in Assam’s North Cachar Hills district – the worst affected among all the districts of the State in terms of insurgency, communal bloodshed and corruption. The district, which is under the purview of an autonomous council, has been occupying news headlines in the regional media for the last few years on account of the unabated killings, extortions, kidnappings, blasts and inter-communal clashes that have resulted in thousands of lives being lost, families shattered and countless houses destroyed. For the people of NC Hills, life, filled with despair and despondency, has lost its charm; with the sole thrust being on survival.

Thanks to the unifying force of music, however, attempts are now being made towards resurgence. Haflong, the sole hill station of Assam and the financial capital of NC Hills district, recently witnessed a unique music concert aimed towards bringing peace and reconciliation among the various tribes and communities residing here. It was after eight years that Haflong, one of the most beautiful and exquisite locales in the entire Northeast, was witnessing a music concert. This is despite the fact that the district has produced some of the finest musicians in the Northeast.

The aptly-termed peace concert was organized by the newly formed Haflong Music Association (HMA) – a forum of musicians and artistes seeking to revive the dying music scene in the district. The networking support to the event was provided by the Eastern Beats Music Society.

HMA secretary Jivraj Daulagupu said that the basic objective behind holding the concert was to try and bring peace in the district and to also voice out the hopes and aspirations, as well as frustrations, of the youth and artistes. “Since 2002, when the clashes between the Karbi and Dimasa communities broke out, the entire area has been thrown under a security blanket even as clashes and untoward incidents have kept occurring at regular intervals. The concert is our attempt to provide a new vision to our youth.” HMA president Father Nilesh Parmar said that it was their dream to unite the people in the ever-volatile district through music that gave birth to the HMA.

The peace concert was supposed to be held in Lal Field but the venue had to be finally shifted to the Cultural Hall in the middle of the town because of administrative inconveniences. The event, which saw Guwahati-based progressive rock band Digital Suicide sharing space with Soul Tree, Bistar, Sot Recho and Onion Trees – all local bands of Haflong – was a tremendous success, primarily because of the participation of all the tribes and communities. NC Hills is home to as many as 19 major tribes and communities, besides various sub-tribes; the Khelmas, Rongmei Nagas, Dimasas, Zeme Nagas, Karbis, Hrangkhawls, Biates, Hmars, Jaintias, Kukis and Vaipheis being the major ones.

The evening began with a choir presentation by the students of a local school before the rockers took over the stage and enlivened the crowd, which had not witnessed a live performance for almost a decade. Even though rain tried to play spoilsport, the organizers had to bow down before the enthusiasm of the crowd and shift the venue from the open field to the adjoining cultural hall; that too, within the space of just half an hour!

Father Tom Mangattuthazhe of the Diphu Diocese who was present at the venue with his team of peace activists said that the peace concert was live testimony to the power of music. “The latent quality of music, in all its forms, is truly amazing. The fact that it has managed to bring so many people, who are otherwise at loggerheads with each other, together is proof enough,” he said.

If music can indeed usher in peace and development and bring cheer to people’s lives, I would just say: Let the music play on!

Guwahati to pay tribute to the ‘Iron Man of Metal’

‘If Michael Jackson brought to the world his famous “moonwalk”, Dio will be remembered for popularizing the famous “devil’s horn” hand gesture’

The Devil's Own Hands!

He was a man who sported some of the wildest hairdos ever conceived. A man whose fearsome presence enthralled people the world over. And he was the man behind some of the heaviest music ever made in the world. But despite all this seemingly “negative” traits, he still remained a hero nonetheless. Or so it was till a few days back. Around ten days back, May 16 to be precise, heavy metal lost a bit of its heaviness when it lost its biggest hero ever. Ronnie James Dio, fondly referred to as the ‘Iron Man of Metal’, died of cancer.

A pall of gloom seems to have got cast over the entire rock fraternity worldwide ever since news about Dio’s demise passed around. For Ronnie can very well be said to be the man who shaped the growth of the metal genre. If Michael Jackson brought to the world his famous “moonwalk”, Rio will be remembered for popularizing the famous “devil’s horn” hand gesture, which went on to become an inseparable component of metal culture. A thorough gentleman to the core, the rich tenor of his baritone still continues to haunt his countless fans spread throughout the world. Ronnie James Dio was a man who, throughout his life, strove to keep aloft the metal banner, which he did with powerful and consistently excellent music marked by deep lyrical thoughts. As such, it was not surprising to see rockers of all hues in remote corners of the world, even in our seemingly far flung Northeast India, line up to pay tributes to a musician who is now being referred to as the “Michael Jackson of Metal”.

For those unacquainted with the man and his music till now, Ronnie James Dio was an American heavy metal vocalist. In a career spanning over half a century, he performed with groups, like Elf, Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Heaven & Hell, and his own band Dio. It would not be wrong to say that Dio, as he is fondly known, shaped the growth of the heavy metal genre. As a critic noted: “He developed his near-classical style of vocal production in an era when amplification was yet to be developed. Along with Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden and Rob Halford of Judas Priest, Dio pioneered the semi-operatic style of vocal production in metal, one instance among many of the genre’s classical roots.”

Ronnie James Dio

For once, musicians in the Northeast have left aside their differences and come together to hail the contributions of one of the finest musicians to have ever walked on the face of the earth. One of the first among them was Maharaja Pradyot Manikya Debburman, the King of Tripura, who remarked on his Facebook profile: ‘Rest in Peace Ronnie James Dio. We will miss you’. I think Maharaja Pradyot Manikya Debburman is the only King in our country, and probably the entire world, who has been going all out to promote our rockers, especially those in the Northeastern corner of the world. I salute his dedication and commitment towards the growth of rock in Northeast India.

Meanwhile, musicians in Guwahati will be jamming in city-based cafe ‘Blues’ next Friday on June 11 in a tribute function organized by the Eastern Beats Music Society. The pub rock fest will see performances by Dhruva Sarma – front man of Friends and one of the pioneering rockers of the State, rock sensation Lucid Recess and a host of other musicians and bands from Guwahati and Shillong.

The tribute celebrations in Guwahati have caught the notice of music lovers all over the world. Mumba-based musician Harish Ramakrishnan tells me, “The initiative to hold a pub-rock fest in the memory of Ronnie James Dio is simply brilliant. I can hardly think of anybody paying a tribute to this legend, even though he’s been such an inspiration to other vocalists. His end seems so much like the song he sang… Die Young… If only I could be there.”

It is unlikely that the music community, especially followers of the metal genre, will easily forget Ronnie James Dio. And if I were to quote a musician friend of mine, the volume of work and reputation Dio leaves behind ensure that he will always be a ‘Rainbow in the Dark’.

Rooted, yet unashamedly innovative

As part of its constant endeavour to enliven the local music and Art scene of the Northeast by promoting local talents and by providing them with a platform, the Eastern Beats Music society, formerly known as the Rockarolla Music Society, last Thursday organized an “Evening of Prose and Poetry” at the city-based Easel Art Gallery. The evening, which had a highly encouraging audience turn-out, saw two Asomiya poets who are presently based in New Delhi – Aruni Kashyap and Nitoo Das – read from their works.

The small art gallery on RG Baruah Road was packed to the brim that day with an audience that was made up of friends, writers, poets and lovers of English literature. Though the hall proved to be a bit too small for the crowd, which had to adjust themselves in various positions and poses, the presence of so many people for a reading session in the city was an encouraging and healthy sign in itself. The fact that half of the audience was made up of young people further enlivened the occasion and bolstered the spirits of all those present. The reading session, which was compeered by noted novelist and columnist Mitra Phukan, was participated by a host of noted writers, artists and musicians; notable among them being Pradip Acharya, BC Rajkumar, Satyakee D’ Com Bhuyan, Deepika Phukan, Hemanta Sarmah, Deepak Narayan Dutt, Deepa Dutt, Kishore Giri, Waheeda Ahmed and the like.

Both Nitoo and Aruni are prolific poets in their own right and both have been acknowledged as new, young voices in the articulation of the Asomiya experience in their poetry. Aruni Kashyap, who graduated from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi in 2007, is the Assistant Editor of the academic research journal Yaatrā: the Journal of Assamese Literature and Culture. His poems have appeared in a host of noteworthy publications, including Indian Literature (Sahitya Akademi), Pratilipi, Postcolonial Text, The Daily Star (Bangladesh) and Muse India, while his fiction and non-fiction passages have appeared in publications like the South Asian Review (University of Pittsburg, Johnstown), Tehelka, The Assam Tribune, Satsori, etc. In a major boost to his creative pursuits, Aruni has also been awarded the Charles Wallace India Trust Scholarship for Creative Writing 2009 to the Scottish Universities’ International Summer School, University of Edinburgh. Nitoo Das, on the other hand, teaches English at Indraprastha College for Women in New Delhi and had released her first collection of poems, Boki, last November. A doctorate holder in English literature, her PhD dealt with “constructions of the Assamese Identity under the British (1826-1920)”. Nitoo runs a blog, which she began as an experiment more than three years ago while working on a research project (with Sarai, CSDS) on poetry as hypertext. Her interests include fractals, caricatures, comic books, horror films, and studies of online communities.

So on that particular evening, under the broad umbrella of ‘an evening of prose and poetry’, which saw more of poetry and very little of prose, both poets in their poetry displayed a distinctive rootedness in their culture and their Asomiya identity; something which was taken cognizance of and appreciated by all those present. Not being much into literature, it would not be fit to offer my opinion on their literary pursuits. But as another participant remarked at the end of the session, Aruni’s poems are strongly tethered to a cultural experience derived from childhood familiarity with an Assamese landscape, and a domesticity and oral tradition that has been a defining landscape. His collection of poems have strains from various walks of life: so, while How to tell a story dwelt on a generic grandmother’s art of storytelling, his love poems based on more contemporary settings like cafes added to the eclectic nature of his collections.

Like Aruni, Nitoo’s poetry also evokes a sense of longing, though the nostalgia, in the words of both poets, is not similar to each other. While Aruni’s recollections are more celebratory in nature, Nitoo’s remembrances are more hued with the varied flavours of reality, at times of harshness; something which she ascribes to the age difference between them, Aruni being much younger than her. Someone who thinks of herself as a ventriloquist, Nitoo’s poetry is about playing around with given grammar’s words and voices, leading to comic sense of detachment between the protagonist and daily objects. She read collections from her debut novel, Boki, that day. When asked about the peculiar title, this is what she had to say: “Boki is taken from my poem Doiboki. In this poem, a woman’s name breaks up into pieces, turns into a taunt, a song. In Asomiya, ‘to bok’ means to utter meaninglessly, almost crazily. My book works with these multiple layers: poetry as naming, as pure sound, as controllable speech. Boki nearly becomes my slightly unhinged poetic muse.” Her poems are admirable because of its versatility, its ability to take on various voices while experimenting with the form of the dramatic monologue.

It was an invigorating evening for sure and I wish both poets bright days ahead.