Music profile: Zubeen Garg

From nowhere to Ya Ali

Ya Ali, from Gangster – A Love Story, which has become a cult song of sorts, has made Zubeen Garg one of the most popular contemporary Bollywood playback singers. This song has made him popular on the international level too. The singer composer, who hails from Assam, is flying high.

Zubeen Garg is not new to Bollywood. He earlier lent his voice to Fiza, Mudda, Kaante and Brides Wanted – all good films but surprisingly, he was not noticed. Until Ya Ali happened in Gangster – A Love Story. The song topped the charts in India and is now becoming very popular internationally as well. For Zubeen, things could not be better. Offers have been pouring in and he is spoilt for choice. He has just made his debut as a composer with Sanjay Jha’s Strings, a film with the Kumbh Mela as its setting.

Zubeen, who is a well-known singer and musician in Assam, wanted to be a music director and has been in the music industry for 12 years. He composed music for Assamese films and delivered hit albums too. His first album, Anamika, released in 1992, was a top seller in the region. Having sung in 40 languages, Zubeen also dabbled in acting in a film called Dinabandhu and won a national award. He has been trying to carve a niche for himself in the Bollywood music for more than five years now. His big break came with Kaante but fame and fortune happened with Gangster.

He speaks animatedly about Sanjay Jha’s Strings, in which he had made his debut as music director. He says he was given the space to experiment and blend folk elements with the modern in his music. There are six songs in all and the highlight is that Zubeen has converted a 600-year-old Assami prayer into Hindi. The poem composed by Baba Nagarjun, is a satire on democracy. The response in Assam and Bengal, where the music has been released, has been positive and he hopes that his music will be appreciated in other areas of the country as well.

Currently, offers are pouring in and Zubeen is singing for PNC productions’ Pyar Ke Side Effects which has music by Pritam. He is still considering the zillions of offers that are pouring in.

Zubeen wonders why he was not noticed in his earlier films but that is hardly surprising considering how fickle Bollywood can be. Especially when one considers that Zubeen plays the guitar, mandolin, percussions and the keyboard as well. He need not wonder any more, though. Bollywood has finally given him his due.

Awards & Recognition

He received many awards for his contribution to the field of music. Some of his achievements include –

The Best Music Award in 2005 for Bengali film ‘Shudhu Tumi’,
Global Indian Film Awards (GIFA) in 2006 for the song ‘Ya Ali’ in the film ‘Gangster’,

Max Stardust Awards (2007) for being the new Musical Sensation.
He was also nominated for the Film Fare award for the category of best playback singer.

Zubeen believes that he has just started and there is a lot more for him to contribute to the industry. He wants to reach for the sky with his dedication towards his work.


The Song of Bhupen Hazarika’s Life

Bhupen Hazarika

Bhupen Hazarika

His voice speaks a language which communicates melody without the crutch of words. This Padma Bhushan recipient is as complex in the interpretation of his messages as he is simple in the spontaneity of his feelings.

For this singer, composer and poet, life is resonant with the rhythm of recognition. Yet, he has also suffered the jarring notes of destiny. Sanghita Singh unplugs the philosophy of a man who is as much a moving force for music as music is a moving force for him.

I was born into a family of teachers: I was born in 1926 in Sadiya, a village in Assam. We were six brothers and four sisters. My grandfather established the Bankshidhar Hazarakia School at Sibsagar. My father, Neelkantha Hazarika, taught at this school and, later, at Cotton College in Guwahati. I grew up in a family of teachers and was always inclined towards journalism. I was the first child of my parents and my grandmother’s favourite. I attended Tejpur Government High School.

My brother’s death still pains me: Whenever Gandhiji and Pandit Nehru came to Assam, they would request my father to send me and my brother brother, Jayanta, to sing for them. Jayanta succumbed to cancer. His death was a shock and I took a long time to overcome my grief. Even today, I feel his absence.

Tribal music made a singer of me: As a child, I grew up listening to tribal music — its rhythm saw me developing an inclination towards singing. Perhaps, I inherited my singing skills from my mother, who sang lullabies to me. In fact, I have used one of my mother’s lullabies in Rudali. As a singer, I have also been influenced by Vaishnav thinker and Assam’s most famous reformer, Sankardev, who is known for his devotional songs. I learnt music from Bishnu Prasad Rabha, who trained me in the Bhatkhande school of music. But I could not continue my lessons for long.

I became a revolutionary: Between 1936-40, I accompanied Assamese poet and film-maker Jyoti Prasad Agarwala on his trips to Calcutta. He introduced me to the works of George Bernard Shaw. After school, I secured a degree in political science from BHU, where former PM Chandra Shekhar was my junior. We attended meetings at the Sangeet Bhawan in Benaras. Somewhere down the line, the revolutionary in me was born. My music and, later, my film scripts portray the ethnic anger I suffer from.

I was too timid to pursue my love: I fell in love with a girl in Assam — she was 16 and I was 21. She sang so well that it struck a chord in my heart. Both of us worked at the local radio station and, on many occasions, we communicated through songs. But when our love blossomed, her parents had already found a suitable match for her. I blame myself for being a coward — I could and should have fought for her hand.

I wanted to see the world: In 1949, I secured admission to the mass communications course at the University of Columbia. Wanting to see other places on the way, I didn’t take a direct flight. I first went to Colombo, from where I sailed to Marseilles aboard the Champolean. I became friendly with a French traveller called Andre, who was depressed. One night, Andre jumped off the ship. I was both shocked and saddened.

I met Picasso: Once in France, I had a strong desire to meet Picasso. An elderly guard informed me that if I managed to get up at 4 am, I might catch Picasso taking a walk with his friends. I did what I was told and, to my surprise, I actually saw Picasso. I went up to him and said, ‘Sir, this is the best day of my life.’ His reply was rather jocular: ‘Hazarika is going to America after gathering information about me!’ Picasso wanted to test my knowledge and asked me which of his paintings was my favourite. I told him I liked his works from the Blue period. He was pleased and blessed me.

I felt humiliated in America: In America, I was taken to an island where a banner reading ‘For war prisoners’ had been put up. The officers there asked me why I wanted to study journalism in America when I had already been to Leeds. Questions such as ‘How will you solve the problem of poverty in your country?’ were thrust upon me. After interrogation, I was brought back to New York. Initially, America was a shock. The positive side was that I interacted with students from other countries and this gave me a global perspective.

I found my soulmate in Priyamvada: At Columbia, I became friends with Priyamvada, who was pursuing an MA degree in political science. She belongs to a well-known Patel family and is of the same stock as Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel. We fell in love, but my parents opposed the match. So, before we returned to India, we got married in America.

But we were not meant to be together: Priyamvada’s father, MM Patel, worked in Uganda but was subsequently removed from office. The family was in a precarious position and drifted from the UK to America. Meanwhile, we had returned to Assam and although I managed to sustain Priyamvada on my salary as a teacher, I did not deem it right to stop her from accepting a job in Canada. We had been married for 13 years when we separated. But we parted on good terms and still meet once a year.

I regret neglecting my son: I still regret the fact that I never spent enough time with our son Tej Bhupen Hazarika when he was a child. I am sure he regrets this as well. Today, we have come to know each other better as father and son. Tej has adopted Buddhism and stays in the US with his American wife. I try to meet my son and daughter-in-law as often as possible.

I became an MLA for a cause: After returning to Assam from America, I joined the Indian People’s Theatre Association and was involved with music as a movement. I sang ‘Ganga Behti Hai Kyun’ for Indira Gandhi. The song conveyed a message — of silent rebellion against the system. In 1967, someone suggested that I could make a difference by joining politics. I wanted a national theatre and a national art gallery for Assam. I believed that by helping set up a government-sponsored studio for films in the North-East, both tribals and non-tribals would feel they were in power. I contested the elections and became an MLA.

Kalpana, my secretary, is my adopted son: Since I never really nurtured my own son, Kalpana Lajmi, my secretary, has come to be my son. I met her for the first time through her uncle, Guru Dutt. In my 40-year-long association with her, she has been like a shadow. She has become my secretary and never lets me bother about my programme schedules.

MF Husain has given me my best compliment: MF Husain called me up from England and requested me to compose music for Gajagamini. I was surprised that he preferred me to music veterans such as Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan. He said, ‘Bhupen, you paint when you sing. Your music paints, but my brush can’t sing.’ I think this is the ultimate way to describe my music.

Music is my life: Music elevates me to an indescribable feeling — a time when I feel weighty, yet modest. I am grateful to God for whatever I have attained. I only hope that music and the lyrical aspect of my life grows further.

Source from Times Of India

Romen Barua – Assamese Singer

In the keenly-competitive world of Assamese cinema, ensuring a conspicuous position as a film- maker, an actor or even as a musician is a pretty tough job. For, there are a fairly good number of talented people in almost every sphere of performing arts in the industry. But Romen Barua has succeeded in achieving that status which some of his contemporaries in the same line have failed to achieve. That is, assuring a durable place as a musician in the regional cinema. After all, he has the talent of immaculately composing and directing music and appropriately tuning it with the spirit of the situation. The result of which is some heart-rending and entertaining music.

Latest Assamese Songs

Romen Barua started off his film career, as a play back singer, and did play back singing for several Assamese feature films — Smritir Paras, Lokhimi, Mak Aru Morom, Lachit Barphukan and Amar Ghar — under the music direction of his elder brother, noted film-maker cum actor, Late Brojen Barua. But today he is more popular and better known as a music director than as a singer. For, ever since he had taken over the independent charge of music-direction from his elder brother in 1968, he concentrated more on this aspect of creative art than on doing any more play back singing.

Till date, he has been creating music for countless Assamese films, including two Bengali ones (Monima, 1974-75 and Dadu Nati Ebong Hati, 1978-79). Of which Antony Mur Nam directed by Nip Barua, in 1987, had earned him laurels for his brilliant music-composition. Unfortunately, despite his forte he has not been approached by any producer to give music for any other film.

Nevertheless, Barua’s popularity rose among the cine-goers as an accomplished music director with Brojen Barua’s much-hyped and highly-acclaimed film Dr Bezbarua, released in 1968-69, featuring a host of prominent artistes including Meghali Devi, Prathiva Thakur, Nipon Goswami and the Brojen Barua himself, in the lead role. Laced with gripping suspense and thrill it was deemed to be the first-ever thriller in Assamese filmdom, albeit in black and white, one of the major reasons of its becoming a commercially super-hit film was Romen Barua’s highly impressive and heart-rending as well as entertaining music. The musical numbers of the film such as Ki Nam di Matim, Tomar Padum Chokuti…, hogged the popularity charts owing to the marvellous orchestration of the songs to the exigencies of the sequences. These numbers still continue to touch our hearts with their lilting rendition.

After the success of Dr Bezbarua, in which he had made his debut as a musician, Romen Barua got a break at music-direction and from then on he independently directed the music of many a film including Baruar Sangsar (1969-70), Mukuta (1970), Ajali Nabau (1980), Kaka Deuta Nati Aru Hati (1983) and Antony Mur Nam (1987). In most of these films, he scored excellent music equalling the out and out success of Dr Bezbarua. However, the one thing that stood him out in the cluster of musicians was his style of music which was very different and unique.

But despite his tremendous creative potentiality and the release of Antony Mur Nam starring among others Biju Phukan, Purabi Sarma and late Durgeswar Barthakur, Romen Barua did not get any offer or invitation from any producer for music-orchestration for other films. But he continued to score music for TV serials and dramas.

When asked the reason behind his low profile during the past 13 years, since the release of the hit-film Antony Mur Nam, except for just two TV serials, Pratishabi and Lady Inspector, a palpably dejected Barua answered, “These days most producers do not attach much importance to music. Naturally, all those who have a minimum concept or knowledge of Indian and Western music are approached and asked to take up the assignments.”

Born in the early 1940s, Romen Barua had a rich cultural lineage. He hails from the famous Barua family, most members of which happen to be the prominent figures in Assamese cinema: Brojen Barua, Nip Barua and Dibon Barua, all of them being his elder brothers. Though his father, late Chandra Nath Barua, was an Engineer, he encouraged a regular evening function in his house in which Brojen Barua would play the guitar and the harmonium, Nip would play the flute and Dibon the tabla while Romen was the one who did the singing. It would be proper to mention here that his mother, Jonprabha Barua herself, was a very good singer who used to sing traditional folk songs. During his college days, Romen Barua had learnt many nuances of music from late Rudra Barua, a noted singer and lyricist Purusottam Das as well as Khogen Das, both classical singers. This in turn, instilled and boosted a much-needed confidence in him which later helped him as a playback singer which was well mirrored in Smritir Paras in which he had made his maiden appearance as a lead playback singer.

Approved composer of AIR, Guwahati, Romen was also one of the core members of the Audition Board of AIR for a prolonged stint. In 1979, on the occasion of the silver jubilee celebration of New Art Players’ — a leading Guwahati-based socio-cultural organisation, of which he was one of the founders, a LP record on Jyoti Sangeet was produced under his direction at Calcutta. His latest releases a cluster of five audio-cassettes containing some selected hit songs of some box-office hit films of yesteryears, such as Ki Nam Di Matim sung by his younger brother, the noted playback singer, Dipen Barua, has evoked spontaneous responses from the people, which is evident in the sale of about 50,000 albums.

Romen Barua who has the reputation of infusing life in an otherwise dull and boring theme by creating melodious music for it, is of the view that the Indian pop music, whether it be jazz, rock-an-role, all is a blend of both western and Indian music. He thinks that there is no harm in replicating the Western music if any good music can be created out of it after gathering something precious from it just as a bee does from different flowers. Or else, he feels it will sound discordant or distorted. The major snag, he adds, in Indian pop music with its heavy orchestration and the excessive use of the electronic instruments, reduces the beauty and melody as well as the feelings that are expressed in it.

Three-Year-Old Assamese Girl Makes Music History

At an age when most just about manage to lisp “Twinkle twinkle, little star”, Aasthajitananda Bordoloi already has a solo music CD to her name.

All of three, Aasthajitananda is the youngest singer ever to have been signed by HMV.

And why not? If Bhupen Hazarika thinks she is a “wonder girl”, the Assamese music industry should have little reason to doubt her credentials.

Aasthajitananda is the new “big” prodigy on the block and looks ready to set the Assamese music stage ablaze.

In fact, her solo audio-video CD, Tumar Ganor Kulat, containing eight evergreen numbers of Bhupen Hazarika was released at a function today.

“The sweetness in her voice, that too at such a young age, compelled us to sign a three-year contract with her,” a senior official of Sa Re Ga Ma India Ltd, Calcutta, S.F. Karim, said at the function this afternoon.

Anandji, who released the disc, called Aasthajitananda “God-gifted”.

“I wonder how a child without any background in music can sing so beautifully and with correct notes,” he said.

The singing sensation today enthralled those present at the function with the Bhupen Hazarika classic, Bistirna parore. What amazed the audience was how those little lips pronounced each word to perfection.

When she was just a year old, Aasthajitananda’s parents noticed how she could hum tunes even before she could utter the words.

At two, the wonder-child had already made her debut on stage with the popular Assamese song Asomire Chutalate.. at Nagaon.

“Keeping in mind her interest in music, we began sending her to a music school, Sur Sangam Sangeet Mahavidyalaya, last year. She is now being guided by Nanda Banerjee,” Aasthajitananda’s father, Maramti Bordoloi said.

On March 16 this year, Aasthajitananda recorded two famous Assamese songs — Asomire Chutalote and Bistirna Parore — at studio Lucky Strings.

Aasthajitananda has made a mark with Hindi numbers too. She enthralled the audience at Srimanta Sankaradeva Kalashetra with Tera mujh se hai naata koi on the 68th birth anniversary of R.D. Barman. “She will go a long way. She is simply amazing,” said music director Romen Choudhury.