Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Soul-stirring legacy

Interview with Bhupen Hazarika -from 2003 archive

By Jyoti Kalsi
He was 10 years old when he gave a performance over the radio for the first time. Over the last 66 years he has written, composed and sung over a thousand popular songs in Assamese, Bengali and Hindi. But his zest for music remains undiminished. His total involvement in his work, the deep sense of joy he derives from his musical talent and his childlike delight in the appreciation of the audience are a beautiful sight to behold. Such is the stuff that legends are made of - and Dr Bhupen Hazarika is indeed a legend in his native state of Assam, India.
Besides composing music for regional films and Hindi films like Rudaali, Saaz, Gajagamini, Daman and Ek Pal, Dr Hazarika has also produced tele-serials and documentaries, written books, travelogues, short stories and children's rhymes besides editing two monthly magazines. He has been on the board of numerous film-related government organisations and has served as a member of the Indian Parliament.
In addition to a number of national and international awards for his cultural, artistic and social contribution to society, he has also been awarded India's prestigious civilian honours - the Padmashree in 1977 and the Padmabhushan in 2001.
Bhupenda, as he is popularly known as, seems unaffected by the recognition and fame. On a recent trip to Dubai, he won the hearts of everyone he met not only with his music but also with his humble and friendly nature. During An Evening with Bhupen Hazarika, a concert organised by the newly-formed 'Asom Somaj', he mesmerised the audience with renditions of his lyrics imbued with a strong social message and his soul-stirring romantic numbers including the award-winning Dil Hum Hum Kare from Rudaali.
His sonorous, resonant voice has not aged. And he is not one to rest on his laurels. The septuagenarian is currently working on the music of Kalpana Lajmi's new film titled Kyun. In keeping with the film's story about youngsters and its cast of fresh new faces, the music he has composed is lively and contemporary. During a small, social gathering at the residence of Sanjana and Aswini Borkotoky, members of the Asom Somaj, Bhupenda announced the official international launch of the film's music.
While Kalpana Lajmi, the film's director, explained the situation of each song, Bhupenda listened to the music with eyes closed, hands waving in time with the music and his body swaying to the peppy tunes. Afterwards he asked for the opinion of the audience with all the enthusiasm of a child on his first adventure.
And it has to be said that though the songs sung by popular young singers Sonu Nigam, KK and rock band Silk Route are nice, the best number in the album is the title song sung by Bhupenda. Later we sat down for what was supposed to have been a short interview but went on for over an hour. Bhupenda walked down memory lane, recalling his childhood in Assam, his post-graduation in political science from Benares Hindu University, his experiences in the U.S. while studying for his doctorate in mass communication at Columbia University and his film career that he began as a child actor in 1939.
He described in vivid detail his meeting in 1949 with legendary American civil rights activist and singer Paul Robeson, who influenced the strong social consciousness in his own music. With gusto he sang Ole Man River, Robeson's song that inspired Bhupenda's own Ganga Kyun Behti Hai Tu.
Excerpts from the interview:
Jyoti Kalsi: You have won several state, national and international awards for your work. Which one do you cherish the most?
Bhupen Hazarika: I am indebted to the Indian and other governments for the laurels they have bestowed on me. Professionally and intellectually I value the Dada Saheb Phalke Award for Lifetime Contribution to Indian Cinema, which is like an Oscar.
The Lata Mangeshkar award for my contribution to music has great sentimental value because it was given to me by Lata, who sang my first Hindi film composition and encouraged and supported me in my career. But my most cherished award is the love and appreciation of people all over the world. On a trip to Hatta yesterday, I was touched when a Bangladeshi fruit seller recognised me and offered me a basket of fruits. Gestures like these make me feel that I have a friend in every corner of the world.
Which of your many artistic and social achievements do you feel is the most important?
I am happy that I have been able to use my songs as an instrument of social change and that through my work I have revived the neglected cultural heritage of North-eastern India and presented it to the rest of our country and abroad. I became a member of the legislative assembly only to achieve my dream of establishing the first-ever state-owned film studio, a national art gallery and a national theatre in Assam and consider the fulfilment of these goals to be major achievements.
What more would you like to achieve?
I want to write my autobiography. There are about 30 biographies written by others but I want to tell it my way. The other important task I want to finish is the recovery and dissemination of classic songs from the government's archives. As the chairman of the Sangeet Natak Academy, I have already begun the work and I hope that soon tapes of ghazals by Akhtaribai Faizabadi and other such lost treasures will be available to the public at reasonable prices. This is our heritage; it must be preserved and passed on to the next generation even if we have to put some pop songs on the cassettes to reach today's listeners.
Through your music you have always tried to bring Indian folk culture and music into mainstream cinema. How do you feel about the current trend of mixing folk music with western beats?
Change is inevitable, but I see a gradual erosion in our cultural heritage. Earlier, maestros like Pandit Ravi Shankar and Zakir Hussain experimented with fusion music; but they embraced western music while remaining rooted in our culture. Most of the music today sounds to me like "confusion" rather than fusion, but I do see some beautiful indigenous touches in the music of A.R. Rahman, Hariharan and Leslie Lewis.
How would you like to be remembered?
As a person who believed that songs can be instruments of social change.
Source : Gulfnews, April 08 , 2003

An Autograph by Bhupen Hazarika

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The voice that rebelled

Listening to Paul Robeson's rare recordings of two very special concerts, during a recent visit to the US, was an emotional experience for us. The first concert was at the AME Zion Church in New York on June 1, 1958. It was also his last concert in the US before his passport was restored to him, after nine years of legal struggle and official attempts to erase his singing career. The second concert was on August 10, 1958, at the Royal Albert Hall in London, his first abroad after his right to travel was restored.

The New York concert, at the church where his brother was a pastor, came at the end of a period during which concert halls across the US refused to rent their premises to Robeson, because he spoke on behalf of Black Liberation and for the cause of oppressed people everywhere. One of the remarks he made at the concert was, “I want the folks of Mother Zion to know that a [period of] hard struggle is over… this could not have happened without the strength and courage and help and the prayers of you all, not only in Mother Zion but also in many parts of America….” Because of the context in which the concert took place, the spirituals he sang on this occasion have an emotional quality. The rendition of Sometimes I feel like a motherless child, which he sang and recorded that evening, has a quality that is indeed special.
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When penance pays off

Dance historian Sunil Kothari on putting together his volume on Sattriya

Well known writers, even in this age of audio-visual technology, are often better recognised by their widely read words than by face. Sunil Kothari, though, is an exception. Among the community of dancers, dance audiences and writers, his is an easily recognised visage. With a younger author, one might have attributed this familiarity to a skill at manipulating the public relations industry. But with this septuagenarian dance historian and critic, the reason is much simpler. Over the decades, a boundless energy has propelled him to just about every dance event of significance, be it across the country or the world. Presenting a paper in Kolkata, introducing a group in Chennai, interviewing great dancers in Orissa, collecting material for his books that number over a dozen — besides editing memorable editions of Marg dedicated to various art forms — lecturing at institutions in the U.S. — a casual observation of his trajectory would make one believe the laws of time and space willingly dissolved before him.

Kothari’s career has straddled a century, right from the early days of India’s classical dance renaissance when Bharatanatyam was first prised out of its cultural isolation in the thatched cottages of devadasis and nattuvanars of South India, to the present, an era in which professionals of the dance form jet across the globe performing for eager audiences. If Bharatanatyam is no longer new on the cultural firmament, Sattriya, the umbrella term for the Vaishnavite dances associated with the monasteries (sattras) of Assam, is lesser known, and given formal recognition as a ‘classical’ dance of India by the Sangeet Natak Akademi only in 2000. Stands to reason then, that the latest book edited by this dance scholar who has been there, done that (Marg’s “Bharata Natyam”, which he edited, was first published in 1979 and has seen two editions and five prints), is “Sattriya: Classical Dance of Assam”. The book, with photographs by Avinash Pasricha, is due to be released this Sunday in New Delhi by Sangeet Natak Akademi Vice Chair Shanta Serbjeet Singh.
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Friday, June 14, 2013

One small song clip from the 1993 movie Papeeha

Directed by Sai Paranjape
Music Director Bhupen Hazarika
Cast :
Milind Gunaji
Veeni Paranjape Joglekar
Raghuvir Yadav

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Balladeer's Dreams : New Paperback & ebook on Bhupen Hazarika

Book Description :The Balladeer’s Dream is based on the controversial life and works of a musician, lyricist, singer, poet and film-maker from India. This work is a unique amalgam of eastern Indian psyche and nationalism blended with vivid word pictures that emerge from the mind of the versatile and sometimes reckless artist and romantic. The author has masterfully enacted each event, lyric or tale related to or rendered by the artist during his lifetime as episodes in dreams. After his death and at his funeral pyre, minute by minute, he experiences each episode that occurs in different worlds and events he has lived through. As these dreams progress, he redeems himself of all worldly responsibilities. Eventually, his confluence with the Luhit River, which is also his genesis, occurs - completing the cycle of life.
Author : Mr.Sujal Das
Paperback: 182 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (May 14, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1481929984
ISBN-13: 978-1481929981
Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.4 inches
More Details :