Sunday, November 27, 2011

In search of Good Music

Music has always been so close to my heart, but I never thought the power of music could be so immense. I heard of revolutionary singers like Bob Marley, Paul Robson but this time I could witness the power of music in my own beloved state Assam. Yes, I am talking about the sad demise of Dr Bhupen Hazarika around three weeks back. When his dead body reached Guwahati, the whole city turned into an ocean of humanity, a scene which our generation has never seen in real life. My dad and his generation might have become very nostalgic about the six year old Assam Agitation in the eighties when such ocean of humanity was visible in many parts of the state, not just a city. Around five million people paid their last tribute to Dr Hazarika, no one from my state has ever got such respect and probably no one will in the next hundred years or so. Bhupen da's songs were not very popular among the kids during my days, we were more inclined towards those kind of music where fancy instruments like electric guitar, drum etc are used. But it did not take a long time till I realized the beauty of Bhupen da's heart touching composition and more importantly his lyrics. His lyrics were all about the story of the native people, the songs really appealed to the people to bring peace and harmony in an otherwise violence/insurgency hit area like Assam. Even a thousand page book will be insufficient to talk about his music, forget about a single blog post.

Just before I started writing this post, I was just wondering and worrying about "what next?". No doubt Bhupen da's music will be in our heart forever, but who will carry forward his ideologies to the next generation? who will create such beautiful music again? Are we going to lose the traditional folk music and get into the modernized commercial ones ? Who will carry the legacy of Late Ghazal maestro Jagjit Singh ? It's a matter of serious concern not just because there are not enough people who are trying to create such compositions, also because the recent trend among the youth who nowadays go to a rock concert to promote bhangra(traditional Punjabi dance) and spread hooliganism. Media in this country is already sold to the politicians and corporates, so they always keep promoting the commercial music, never let the real Indian traditional, classical and folk music a chance to come into the limelight. I have respect for all languages, castes, traditions in India, but at the same time I find it so insane to see the whole country promoting a song with crappy lyrics, written in some deformed version of English and with very ordinary music. I am not just sick of the facebook shares I see everyday, but also the newspaper articles. Whenever the song crosses n'th million views (n is a positive integer) in youtube, there comes a new article in the newspaper. If this is what shows the current trend/taste of music then undoubtedly I will not see any future Bhupen da, Jagjit Singh in my life.

Yet, some people are trying to make a difference, they haven't given up yet. For example MTV coke studio and more recently The Dewarists are trying to bring out the real Indian music to the world. It's so amazing to see such innovative shows in Indian Televisions. They are not just bringing the folk, traditional music from various parts of India, but also trying to create a fusion among them, its really amazing. I never could imagine of a fusion between Assam and Tamil Nadu in terms of music until I saw it in MTV Coke Studio. The Dewarists has some other motivations too, apart from music it is also promoting tourism, food from various parts of India. Their episode 6 of season 1 was about Rabbi Shergill from Punjab and Papon from Assam, they put these two singers together in the midst of wild, open, charismatic Kaziranga national park and assign them the job of composing a song about the God of openness (Khule da Rabb). It was so amazing, the video of the song is here ( Story of Rabbi is very inspiring as he said in his interview, it was so difficult for him to come up with something so unique and off-track stuff which probably had no chance of commercialization. But he still came up with his own version of music providing a Punjabi sufi flavor to us. Story of Papon is different though, looking at the fact that he was borne in a place where people appreciate folk music more and also in a family of very popular singer. I really liked when Rabbi said, he loves North East because people there don't easily give up their identity. I hope Rabbi's statement about North East will be a message to the entire country so as to keep our traditional music alive. Kudos to MTV Coke Studio, The Dewarists and all those who still believe in India's traditional identity and doing their best to revive it through music.