Thursday, April 2, 2015

The song that united Kyndiah and Hazarika

Source : The Shillong Times
Ol’ man river,
Dat ol’ man river
He mus’know sumpin’
But don’t say nuthin’,
He jes’keeps rollin’
He keeps on rollin’ along”.

SHILLONG: This song by Paul Robeson made the departed politician PR Kyndiah and singer Bhupen Hazarika friends in 1950s. While Kyndiah was a news reader and compere of programmes of  AIR, Shillong when it was first set up in July 1948, Hazarika joined AIR,Shillong as programme assistant in 1950s.

 The AIR, Shillong had catered to the listeners of undivided Assam.

 Later in 1977 a full- fledged station for Meghalaya was established after the hill state was formed.
Kyndiah, who passed away on March 26 had told this reporter in an interview in 2011 after Hazarika died that it was after returning from USA after his studies that Hazarika joined AIR Shillong. “We enjoyed him singing ‘Ol man river’, an African-American spiritual song made famous by Paul Robeson a great African-American singer of that time. It was Bhupen’s  favourite song and he liked folk music very much. Since then we became friendly”. Kyndiah had said.

 Kyndiah had in 2011 re called that Hazarika was no longer to sing Ol’ man river, (Old man river),the Black spiritual song to his ears.

 Kyndiah, had cherished the song  Hazarika sang for him  during their stint in  AIR, Shillong.
Hazarika  had completed his Ph.D in mass communication in 1952 from Columbia University, US.  Later, he also got a fellowship from Chicago University to study about cinema.

 Influenced by  Ol’ man river, sung by  Paul Robeson, famous singer and actor of the film, Show Boat, Hazarika made it a point to meet Robeson and get associated with him sometime between  1949 and 1955  before he left for India after the completion of  Ph.D.

 The song spoke about the struggles and sufferings of African people while the river Mississippi flowed as if it did not care for any one.  Robeson was also a civil rights activist who fought for social justice.

 Touched by the lyrics and the song besides the social activism of Robeson , Hazarika had made many Indian versions of the song.

 In place of Mississippi, it is Brahmaputra which is referred to in Assamese song  Bistirno Parore. In the Bengali and Hindi versions, Bistirno Dupare  and Ganga Behti Ho Kyon respectively, the reference is to river Ganges.  The pro-left activists had embraced the songs for long.

 While Bhupen Hazarika sang many variations of Ol man river in India , Frank Sinatra among others  in the West had also popularized the song of  Paul Robeson , Kyndiah had pointed out in 2011.

 When Hazarika died , Kyndiah wrote, “Very sad to know that my old friend is no more. A great vacuum is created in his absence in the Indian music scene. He was a uniquely talented person with many gifts rolled into one and it is a huge loss for the Northeast in particular and the country as a whole.