Thursday, October 20, 2016

Bob and Bhupen, two of a kind

If one created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition,the other did the same within the great Assamese folk tradition

As Bob Dylan has become the first singer-songwriter to win a Nobel Prize in literature, the feats of Bhupen Hazarika come to mind for the very simple reason that what one did through music for the English-speaking world the other did for Assamese and Bengali.

Bhupen Hazarika was born in 1926, and Bob in 1941, both basically singer-songwriters. If Bob Dylan created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition, Bhupen Hazarika did the same within the great Assamese folk song tradition. Both started their careers with folk music.

What sets apart both of them is not that their songs are fundamentally different from other songs. What makes them the greatest musicians they are is the fact that they transformed music into hope for humanity with their powerful lyrics and unique voice. They wrote lyrics, tuned them in accordance with the themes and sang them so much better than anyone else. In them, we can see the confluence of two autonomous territories: music and literature. Their use of language in their songs must be recognised as of central importance. Every word in the songs is precisely selected. That is why most of their songs are recognised as beautiful poetry. To make the themes of their songs come to life, they use appropriate imagery in them.

Some people may argue about the rightness of bestowing the biggest prize for literature upon Bob Dylan on the ground that his celebration does not particularly help the publishing industry. Some poets may argue that his lyrics don't have much intellectual appeal. But no one can deny the simple fact that with his powerful lyrics on the burning problems of the world, Bob single-handedly transformed music into hope for humanity in the 20th century English-speaking world. He has drawn the people of his generation into thinking whether the reality of the generation needs to be changed. He, in his chosen genre, has persistently tried to the best of his ability to wash the dust of lives off the souls of people. In the process, he has created a myth for his people to live by; he has compelled his people to feel the complexity of life in the 20th century setting so that they realise in the right perspective the path to progress. This explains why he is a household name across the globe.

At last, the Swedish Academy had to acknowledge that. The academy rightly says that he has “created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”. His songs inspire the highly intellectual class and the common people alike.............