Kalpana Patowary is a hugely popular film playback and folk Singer from Sorbhog, Barpeta, Assam. She is a disciple of the great Ustad Gulam Mustafa Khan and much-influenced by the bard of Brahmaputra, Bhupen Hazarika. Kalpana is the first-ever Indian female singer to sing and record the Chhapriya vocal style of Purvi folk music, till then a preserve of closed male dominated circles. She sings in 30 different languages but interestingly, Bhojpuri music is her forte, where she is undisputedly the best-selling artiste of the Bhojpuri cinema.
A musical prodigy she trained in Kamrupiya and Goalporiya Assamese Folk Music under her loving father Sri Bipin Patowary - a distinguished Folk Singer himself, honing her incredible 5-octave voice and mastering various forms of Bhojpuri Traditional and Folk, ranging from Purvi, Pachra, Kajri, Sohar, Vivaah, Geet, Chaitra, Nautanki, etc.
Kalpana is a graduate in English Literature from Cotton College, Assam and Visharad in Indian Classical Music from Bhatkhande Music Institute University, Lucknow. She started performing at the age of four holding on to her father’s hand. Since then she has been a regular feature at the Doordarshan Kendra in Guwahati, Assam, as well as a regular artist on All India Radio (AIR) Yuba Bani in Guwahati, Assam from 1992.
She came to Mumbai in 2001, initially singing jingles and remixes. In 2003 she cut an album for T-Series, Gawanwa Leja Rajaji, which went on to become the biggest selling album of the year. The 2005 super-hit Bhojpuri film, Sasura Bada Paisawala, helped Kalpana to establish herself in the Bhojpuri film industry and she has not looked backed since then. In 2008, her participation in the reality show, Junoon - Kuchh Kar Dikhaane Ka, on NDTV Imagine, brought her into the national limelight.
Besides delivering hit Bhojpuri songs, Kalpana, with her raw-powerful voice she has also been carving a niche for herself in Bollywood, having rendered her voice in Hindi in a number of Bollywood films including Welcome, Billu, Begum Jaan and R. Rajkumar.
In 2012 Kalpana Potawary was signed by EMI/Virgin, UK, to record her album, The Legacy Of Bhikhari Thakur, which pays tribute to Bhikhari Thakur, the legendary Indian Playwright, Lyricist, Actor, Folk Dancer, Folk Singer and Social Activist, also known as The Shakespeare Of Bhojpuri. The album is based on the theme of migration and separation of families due to male family members leaving home to earn a living, a recurrent theme in Bhojpuri music. There’s a large Diaspora of migrants from Bihar and UP not only within India but also around the world. To her credit the album was nominated for the ‘Best Folk Album’ in the non-film music category at the Global Indian Music Academy (GIMA) awards during 2013.
Kalpana has peformed at the MTV Coke Studio during 2014–2015 demonstrating the age-old traditions of Khadi Birha, besides various stages in India and abroad promoting Folk and Bhojpuri music on international platforms. In May Kalpana performed for the Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the inauguration of the Dhola-Sadiya bridge, India’s longest, which was named after legendary Assamese singer Bhupen Hazarika. She has won numerous State and film awards and performed across the world including Europe, the Caribbean Islands, UK, US and South America.
Following are excerpts from an exclusive interview with Kalpana Patowary, in which the acclaimed singer speaks to Pradeep Joseph, about her Bhojpuri connect, folk music and her musical journey:
How do you like being called the Bhojpuri Queen?
Actually in the very first place “I am not a Bihari from Bihar” but the most-interesting thing is that, “the people of Bihar are in my heart and I am in their heart”…“Bihar ke log mere Kalpana ke prem mein hai and Kalpana bhi Bihar ke prem mein hai”,
But the physical thing and the geographically thing is not there…the Culture of Bihar from the yester-year Patika, Ambika, Maithali are the existing forms. Maithli is the Spiritual (Pavitra) form, I gained all experience as I continued working with the Bhopuri world. I wanted to sing for the Purvanchal gayaki – but - I am from Assam from Uttar Purvanchal.
When I commenced working on Bhopuri music, it neither happened in Bihar nor in Uttar Pradesh but in Mumbai…I started doing shows I started interacting with the actual Bihar and Biharis - they approached me as Rani Rani Rani so I wondered what they meant by Rani?
In the village on one hand it was so very good musicians and singers who were singing Bhajans and Kirtans and on the other hand the others who delivered the hard-core Femininity in them rendering their Feminine sexual (erotic) desires…I do not know what Rani I fit into now.
I have sung in say 30 languages. I sang in Kannada. I do sing in all styles – Dakshin, Uttar, Purab, Paschim,
I rendered the Lok Sangeet like what I am going to sing now in Bhojpuri wherein Assamiya Kalpana Bihariyon ko represent kar rahe hai…I was seen in my Dakshin Bharatiya film Lankesh Patrika based on the ….. I think I present and represent that unity and diversity…So, I think I am that Rani who addresses Rani in her renditions.
Assamiya Kalpana Bihar mein represent kiya gaya hai.
No MUSIC festivals but the year dedicated to Women?
With any Woman the story is the same and all one, from a girl to a daughter to a bride…I was part of Vogage, a folk fusion band, and even now I am a part of it…I remember meeting Atul Churamani at that point of time…
Bhojpuri is still innocent, it has not got its language hold, Assam has over 8 to 10 languages like I have Nari Shakti, I wish with Bhojpuri I will deliver, so I composed a song-track called Sohar for Paddy Fields…Sohar is sung when a new child is born, but my Sohar theme is a mother and pregnant mother expecting and carrying a child, speaks to her child she is carrying.
Paddy Fields is taking a very big risk by diverting from commercial music to regional forms, Bhikhari Thakur is like a “Shakespeare of Bhojpuri”, with no TRP content…I need a lot of funds (in terms of investment) and support – so – I think I’m taking a big risk at this point of time.
Your views on Women Empowerment.
I wish today my Music delivers a message through my renditions by entertainment. Sorry to say we say we are modern but it’s not so cause even today a Woman has no say… if you look at the emotional turmoil…Shakti Manifest is the name of the society…I go to interior regions and tell all daughters and mothers most-especially…I tell them I am a Bhojpuri Singer and I have my own studio and my own place in Bombay - so - do come over and sing out your talent…Women Empowerment is all what I believe in.
Any songs on Women Empowerment?
Janam se le ke marang , Islam mein, Kabir ek Banarasi has a folk form,
Female body (dead body) aurat ka dulhan ka roop uska atma and parmatma
line …… qui tori sakhi……
chandan ka tak
banal aka tolana
Kaban from Assam in Mongolian touch I have recorded
Ganga Behti Hai Koun
Yeh ek Milan hai
The three best women-oriented songs?
Kauno Tagva na lootal ho
Ganaga Behti Hoon Kyon
Bhikari Thakurji ka Behti Becchu, a song from those olden times.
Are you a women’s activist?
When I came to Mumbai in 2001, my age was different and my point of view of looking at things were different but now its much-deep-rooted, I am known as an Item Queen…I sang when I was just 4 years old along with my Father – a Folk Singer – I used to hold my Father’s hand and sing…I sung a lot many songs I remember.
When I look a Bhupen Hazarika I feel the training does exist somewhere…Activist is a strong word, Yes but I can say Kranti that’s what I want to do…so I sang Pichkari…
I’m sorry to say I am not a Bihari but I worked on Bhojpuri Bhikhari Thakur.
So I plan to approach Louis Banks to take this forward…With exception of 1 or 2 Bhojpuri artistes I don’t see all other Bihari artistes are promoting Bhojpuri music in the right way…Not necessarily in Bihar or UP the language Bhojpuri (innocent) exists.
I am a non-Bihari…Meine Bhojpuri ka namak khaya mein namak haram nahin.
I am trying bridge in between the two worlds…Either it’s my foolishness or there’s over-flowing love.
Tell us about your experience and all throughout tell us everything about how did you go – the people you meet and what you do feel about them. Who are the Artistes who impressed you?
My first long trip was in 2014 to the West Indies in the Caribbean…There are lot of Bhojpuri Biharis Ghayana, Surinami ….. they love their particular musical genre chatni sokha …I was sent by the Indian Government…The Legacy of Bihari Thakur I did in Mantralaya in Mauritius.
It was Bhojpuri literature but I do not do it for the Biharis, there’s a Brahmin lobby (in the government), the right Ambassador for Culture has to be there but no we have a problem with Bihar cause its specifically partial, the people out there treated me as if some age-old folk has come to them.
Cajri Sohar Baghua are shudh forms over there, I had gone to Dubai I got the award, then Osslomi etc…are very different in Norway and…People were not bothered with language but concerned with Music. They were all singing and dancing along simply enjoying the music.
A story of Ladhki in a line…And the most-interesting were the Timbuktus wherein a Timbuktu asked me to perform along and Ila Arunji was there…Say choli kepeeche kya hai choli ke peeche kya hai she has the confidence.
I was wondering why they didn’t ask her but asked me to do it…Then I thought, I think I have something in me I must take forward my Music incorporating folk.
You are taking Fusion music into Bhojpuri like Film music in Western influence, so, is that the way you want to present your music?
I want to blend in both.
You sung for Bollywood?
How many I don’t know but Gandi Baat, Begum Jaan or Bidhaai…
Then before I sang like De Dhana Dan, Welcome, Aafrosh, again item song, Aila Re Aila, Billo Barber,
I don’t believe Bollywood is the mainstream but Bollywood has a lot of strength but how the power is used does matter. But leaving aside art films Bollywood main-line – it’s realistic for sometime you are driven into,
My first I started recording in 2010 and released in 2012 Bhikari Thakur. I thought of an archive and I thought of Bhupen Hazarika ji so more then devotional songs I am more into during Chhat puja and on the other side is commercial film songs. In Bhojpuri doing bhajra ak folk. Say 2 lakh and above audience come to see me my shows,
Musically I have got nothing. Say 3 to 4 years I did R&D on Bikhari Thakur instrumentation is 70 years old that’s played and is completely different. There’s no electronics into it,
Dholak has Banrasi etc… but Bollywood has no Bihar
It has Harmonium, Dholak, Jaal, etc….
I did the Bhakti Andolan. In Assam Bhagti Sangeet,
The secret scriptures of Kirtan Ghosa and…And Monicut made of wood…The secret scriptures of Monikut.
I worked on Anthology of Veda…And khadi veda I went into Coke Studio…Called an artiste from Ghazipur to Mumbai in order to archiving – documenting.
I have two parts archive and other to collaborate with others like Louis Banks etc…. I do not want to go with fusion band. I want to be happy doing something I wish to.
You have been maintaining Your heritage – and – it’s a big risk factor.
Say something that people do not know about you?
I think I have already said a lot so far. Well…. what more do you want to know about me. Infact, there’s nothing much to say and nothing new about me –but - in the Bhojpuri journey I have myself, updated and upgraded my skills and discovered…. in the sense I have myself, invented… some things and lot more new things were happening at that point of time.
When but when I first came into the Bhojpuri world as a female artiste there were lots of new things and in-kept with the Bhojpuri trend. And all those associated with the Bhojpuri music industry like music directors etc were quite excited when they got to know about me.
In Bhojpuri there’s Purvi as one folk form. It is that it comes from the Purvi tak. Maximum people from Bihar are across the Country and worldwide. I think even now in Bihar there’s employment hassles so most go away to the East in order fetch employment to make their living so when they go from Bihar they either go to Calcutta or Assam.
It is said when the Man leaves the Women behind home and go out for work. And, when the wife or sister or mother remembers their men, it’s the wind blowing from the Purab (East) it’s called Purab ka hawai (Purvaiya) flown in.
Until now there existed different types of Purvaiyas. And the much-talked about Purvaiya is the Chhapraiya Purvaiya sung in quite a high pitch and sung like… in a talking voice. It’s the male artistes who sung all female elements (female themes) uptill I came into the picture. My singing range is very high-pitched. When I first heard the songs sung by them, I learnt that the songs they sang were sung in pretty-high pitches which were very-very different. It was interesting. Though, you have Classical notes in it but you do not have to sing the murki(s).
Ultimately in 2004, I, Kalpana Patowary, successfully, became the first-ever first female vocalist to render the Bhojpuri Chhapraiya Purvi in the male-dominated industry.
In what way do I express when we talk about Bihar in many aspects there’s a lot of negativity and wrong notions even in Bombay lot of misunderstanding has happened, politically, when 100 years back Mahatma Gandhi came to India from Africa and on this occasion of andolan sangram we celebrate 15th August Independence Day its part was somewhere lost in the Champaran of Bihar. And in this year during 2017 we complete years of the Satyagraha Champaran. So, in this context, on this occasion, in the name of Champaran Satyagrah, I paved tribute to the Bihar Satyagraha Champaran.
I felt that someone or the other has to do it, somebody has to do it. I thought must do it, for it is one such moment. Champaran locale language is Bhojpuri
If I do not bring in this very-moment then like why do deserve positivity of Bihar Bhojpuri?
So, we went in to the remote right into the village to the Ashram where Mahatma Gandhi and Kasturba Gandhiji himself, had built up their own Ashram.
When was this released?
Released in Delhi like I have a lot of BJP MP friends. Say about a year ago, we released the same. It’s on Youtube and all over. I am very comfortable in every
Born in London, raised in Australia and now settled in renowned singer Susheela Raman is an artist who has staunchly charted her own musical path. Always exploring and experimenting with sounds, from diverse musical genres like, Baul folk to Sufi to Gamelan and especially the Indian devotional and Carnatic music of her Tamil roots, Susheela has gone where the music took her.
She started her musical journey in Sydney with her own band, playing popular rock-pop songs, before venturing into blues and jazz. By then she was experiencing the limitations of pop-rock and travelled to India to learn from India’s rich musical heritage.
Her critically acclaimed debut album Salt Rain was nominated for the Mercury Prize, becoming the first World Music artist to receive that honour. She also received the Best Newcomer Award from BBC Radio 3. Susheela has since released five more albums and in 2006 she again received a nomination for the BBC World Music Awards. Currently she is working on her seventh album, Ghost Gamelan, featuring Gamelan artists from Indonesia, which is set to be released in January 2018.
With a head full of frizzy hair, her intense stage presence and exuberant yet soulful singing style, Susheela Raman has received accolades from audiences around the world, confirming her reputation as among the foremost world music artists in the world.
Here RagatoRock speaks to Susheela Raman about her musical jouney and her perspective as a female musician in the world of music:
What do you think of this years Paddy Fields being dedicated to women?
It's a great idea, especially if it reminds people that no two female artists are alike and women don't need to be patronised.
What are your views on Women empowerment?
Culture change towards female equality is good thing. Many men are scared of women and feel and need the control or belittle them ignored to reassure themselves. Women's empowerment will help such men to be free from that conditioning and fear and enjoy being with women as equals and fellow humans. Its also good at omen can participate fully in public life on the basis of merit. It makes for a more fair and balanced environment. .
What is your repertoire about or what can we expect at the Paddy Fields on the theme of women?
I am there to play music, be myself. I am not singing slogans from stage. By playing and being confident and free onstage i think it sends a positive signal that women can and should express themselves without fear.
What would you like see a change in Women Rights?
I want women and girls to have equal rights and opportunites at work, in public and at home. I want women to feel safe whoever they are. The culture that says men have right to censure women for failing to conform to arbitrary, absurd and historically backward values is morally bankrupt.
Name some songs that you like are Women Enpowering or Women oriented ?
How about RESPECT by Aretha Franklin.
You are a multi-lingual Singer, but you haven't done any original music album in English ? Any particular reason.
I have performed and written many songs in English but my albums tend to have a mix of languages.
In fact my next album 'Ghost Gamelan' is all in English.
Tell us about your forthcoming album Ghost Gamelan releasing in 2018?
Its a record i am very excited to have made with incredible musicians from Indonesia. The songs are in English and therea re some intoning vocal arrangements. The record has a really unique sound and am looking forward to sharing with everyone in 2018.
How did you manage that since your 2014 album "Queen Between" was supported by your fans ?
I signed a reocrd contract with a French record company called Naive which is owned by Believe Digital and can distribute music worldwide.
As an artiste what title would you give yourself? Queen of World Music ?
No i would NEVER say that! it doesn't mea anything. And Kings and Queens belong in the dustbin of history along with fake religious leaders!
-Stanley Paul Memury and Pradeep Joseph
ShubhaMudgal is a thinking musician: Singer, composer, activist and a lovely human being whose smile brightens up the stage as does her robust mellifluous voice. In a free-wheeling chat, she discusses her upcoming show at the Paddy field festival and much more with Shamali Gupta.
What are your views about this year’s Paddy Fields being dedicated to women? Do you think this kind of effort will really make a difference?
I appreciate the gesture of saluting the voices of women artistes in this year’s edition of Paddy Fields. Whether or not it will make a difference to the status of women in general is impossible for me to predict, but surely it cannot have a negative impact in any way. Besides, folk songs often speak of the plight of women, their dreams and aspirations, their pain and longing, so to hear these songs in the voices of women would not be detrimental in any way. Having said that, I would not be able to claim that deep rooted gender biases that have existed in society for centuries will be wiped away in the course of a music festival just because the festival featured women artistes. But from a curatorial point of view, a showcase of women’s voices is creditable.
What are your views on Women empowerment?
Can you please clarify what exactly you want to ask, because otherwise, the obvious answer is that women must be empowered and attempt to empower themselves, no two ways about it.
Your powerful song “Man kemanjeere” struck a chord in many women’s hearts across the country. How did it happen?
The song Mann KeManjeere was part of an album of the same name, which was produced by Breakthrough, an organisation founded by MallikaDutt. Breakthrough’s mission is to use popular culture for powerful messaging on important social issues, and Mann KeManjeere was the organisation’s very first project. The album contained ten songs on the dreams and aspirations of women, and the title track, Mann keManjeere was a powerful one with lyrics by Prasoon Joshi and music by ShantanuMoitra. It was recorded in my voice and the accompanying music video featuring actor MitaVashisht was based on the true life story of ShameemPathan, a lady from Ahmedabad who overcame several odds including domestic violence, and drove a taxi for a livelihood. The song and the music video were imaginatively used by Breakthrough to create a curriculum for discussion on gender related issues in schools and colleges.
What songs can we expect to hear from you at the Paddy Fields on the theme of women?
Paddy Fields aims at presenting folk repertoire from different parts of the country with fusion music. I was born and grew up in Uttar Pradesh and my mother was from Kumaon, therefore my association is with folk music from these two regions primarily. I have therefore worked on a repertoire of folk songs from these two regions. The songs I will present include references to women as Mother Earth, and others in which women feature in seasonal songs and life cycle songs.
Please tell us about your experimentations with different forms of folk?
I cannot claim to have experimented with folk music in any way, so my involvement with folk music has been more that of a student of music trying to learn. One of the forms I have been studying for a long time is thumri-dadra which includes elements of folk music, as thumri-dadra repertoire includes seasonal songs forms like kajri, hori, chaiti, baramasa etc. I have been referring to several old collections of such songs and compositions to enhance and extend my own repertoire and study.
From classical to folk to fusion you have done it all. What has been the experience like?
Well, I haven’t done it all because for a student there is always more to do and more to learn. But the journey continues to be exciting and challenging and fulfilling, and I continue to be an eager student.
No Stranger Here, a modern take on Kabir’sdohas by you, Ursula Rucker and Business Class Refugees, your listeners would like to know more about this.
No Strangers Here is an album produced and distributed by Earthsync, an independent music label that has been working quietly but resolutely for several years. Yotam and Patrick, who produce music under the stage name of Business Class Refugees had invited me to collaborate with them and we met at the Earthsync Studio in Chennai to work on the collaboration. Yotam and Patrick created grooves over which I composed and sang Kabir verses, and then they arranged the songs meticulously
Raincoat, HazaaronKhwahishenAisi…and you - in short your presence in Bollywood.
My presence in film music is virtually non-existent. Very occasionally I have been invited to record a song or two for films and my experience there has largely been enriching.
.Any unfulfilled dreams as a musician?
I dream all the time, even sing in my dreams. (she smiles) But seriously, I have little to be discontented about
Aneesh and I are working on a most delightful and exciting project called The Bridge of Dreams. Our collaborators in this project are some wonderful musicians from Australia. There is the leading saxophonist and composer Sandy Evans, with whom Aneesh and I are composing for the project. Sandy has also arranged the compositions all three of us have created for the project. The compositions will be performed by all three of us, the Sirens Big Band, an all women big band from Australia, Bobby Singh who is an Australia based tabla player and also Aneesh’s student, and our dear friend and ace harmonium artiste SudhirNayak. An album of the tracks is also in the making and should be launched sometime next year. And we also hope to get opportunities to perform live with our collaborators.
Sonam Kalra and the Sufi Gospel Project, are all set to bring to Paddy Fields the message that, music transcends all barriers of religion and ethnicity and there is only one language, the language of faith. Sonam’s music blends Indian Classical elements with spiritual texts, poetry, Western Gospel and Eastern Sufi music, to bring together the different spiritual voices to the universal truth – Faith.
Sonam’s musical influence started on her mother’s lap as she listened to Begum Akhtar and saw the calm surrender on her mother’s face, which she still remembers. Sonam was one of three sisters who grew up in an atmosphere of acceptance and encouragement. She was taught that girls were not just equal to men but better than them in a lot of aspects, that they could achieve anything as long as they pursued it with honesty and integrity.
However Sonam started her musical career much later. After completing her Degree in Graphic Design and Fine Arts, she took up a career in advertising, as an art director and later as copywriter. In 2000 she took a sabbatical and started her musical training under renowned classical singer, Shubha Mudgal and Pt. Sarathi Chatterjee.
In between she did a stint anchoring a couple of travel shows for BBC and Star World, test drove cars for BBC and was also the voice host for the Commonwealth Games 2010. She continued her musical training and learnt gospel and jazz from Ashley Clement in Singapore and classical opera under tenor Hur Chul Young and soprano Situ Singh Bueller.
In 2011 she was invited to sing gospel at the Urs - the birth celebration of the Sufi Saint Inayat Khan, at Nizamuddin in Delhi and for Sonam it was a sign and eventually gave birth to the Sufi Gospel Project.
The multi award winning singer has performed at various stages and music festivals in India and across the world including the US, London, Singapore, South Africa, the Middle East and Eygpt, to name a few.
Here RagatoRock speaks to Sonam Kalra on her musical and spiritual journey:
What inspired you the name The Sufi Gospel Project?
The Sufi Gospel Project is an attempt to blend the many voices of faith through Poetry, Prayer and Music to try and create one universal voice of faith- 'Utterances in one voice, the voice of faith.'
I had been singing gospel music for years, and the one question I would always be asked is, 'why does a girl who belongs to the Sikh religion sing Christian Devotional music?'. And my answer was always the same, that 'God has no religion'.
The idea to create The Sufi Gospel Project came about when I was asked to sing Gospel at The Dargah of sufi Saint Inayat Khan a few years ago. The thought of a Sikh girl singing Christian music in a seemingly Islamic space made me feel that I was being given an opportunity to do something special and I needed to do something befitting of this opportunity. That's why I created music that blended the many voices of faith together and blurred the lines between religions to try and show that we are all calling out to the same God but in different ways. Through my music I want to put forth a simple message-that each of us has our own truth, whether you find it in a temple, a shrine, a church or a mosque, the most important thing to remember is, that each truth is just as valid.
What do you think of this year’s Paddy Fields Festival being dedicated to women?
I think it’s wonderful that Paddy Fields is celebrating women and in turn their strength and paying homage to the importance that women’s voices hold in the world.
You have sung for women's rights numerous times and have used your music so often for the cause of women's rights?
I have always tried through my music to support causes that I feel strongly for including women's rights. I have sung for women's rights many times including an anthem I recently had the privelege to lend my voice to, for Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi Ji’s Yatra against Sexual Abuse and trafficking of the girl child. And I have sung for One Billion rising as well.
– However I prefer to be called a humanist rather than a feminist, because I don't like labels that differentiate people-these are just tags which create segregation rather than inclusion. We are all equal, irrespective of our gender or religion. I share my music for women's rights because I believe in equality of all people. Being a part of initiatives that work to bring about social change are very important to me, because if we do not use our Art to impact social change, then of what use is that art?
Name some songs that you have sung that are Women Empowering or Women oriented ?
I had released a song based on the poetry of Faiz Ahmad Faiz called ‘BOL’, two years ago on Independence day, and also sang it for the Sound of Freedom Concert that Bob Geldof was a part of and for One Billion Rising. The song is about empowering yourself by speaking out- against injustice for your voice is your strongest weapon. There is another song I’ve written and composed called 'Chalo Aa Hum yeh Faisla kar le', which is also about women’s empowerment which we have sung at quite a few women’s conferences and we will be officially releasing it soon.
Your video 'Bol' is inspirational and urges people to raise their voices against injustice and violence. What was the stimulus for that?
Equality and acceptance were some of the things I have always wanted to talk about through music. I came across a poem by of Poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz who urges us through his words to speak out against suppression and injustice, using our voices to make a change. The biggest crime we can commit is to watch injustice silently and not do anything about it. This is the reason I composed BOL and also added a chorus to it that says, ' Say that we are one voice' because I believe the power of our collective voices is stronger than individual voices, when we want to make a change.
And I was fortunate to be able to perform BOL in Lahore when Faiz Sahab's daughter invited me to sing at the the first Faiz Peace Festival.
You are a woman who leads a whole group of male members in your band. Is it tough to manage them?
Not only are they all male, but we all also belong to different religions, but it's our differences that bring us together and give us so many perspectives to be able to create what we do. I have to say, they are very respectful of me, as I am of them. And when we are together gender doesn't matter, we are just people, working together to say the same thing.
What would you like see a change in Women Rights?
Yes absolutely, I think Women’s rights have a long way to go- we talk of equality but we are still a far cry from treating women as equal, you can still see a disparity in every sphere.
- Pradeep Joseph and Stanley Paul
Accomplished violinist and singer, Sunita Bhuyan, is one of the most eagerly awaited performers at this year’s women centric Paddy Fields Music Festival. Sunita trained under her mother, well known violinist, Minoti Khaund, from an early age and also under legendary maestro, Pt. V G Jog. She is a recipient of the Indira Gandhi Priyadarshini Award for Excellence in Music, has a Masters Degree in Hindustani Music and also an MBA in Human Resources.
Though Sunita has her roots in classical music she was drawn to the diversity of traditional folk and Indo jazz fusion music. She recently launched an album of folk music on the violin, Bihu Strings, on the Times Music label.
Sunita has performed on various stages in India and around the world including the UK, US and Asia. Her recent projects included the Commonwealth Culture Series UK, With Strings Attached, Edinburg, and Beyond Boundaries, London, to name a few.
Sunita is a multifaceted woman who has also worked as a Training and Wellness expert in the corporate world for almost 20 years, besides her welfare work amongst children and cancer patients, spreading the healing touch of music therapy.
She has received an award from His Holiness Pope Francis, at the Vatican for her work in music therapy with underprivileged children, cancer patients and people with disability and an invitation to attend Mother Teresa's canonization, as a "Joy of Giving "Ambassador.
Here RagatoRock speaks to Sinita Bhuyan about her music, career and women empowerment:
What do you think of this years Paddy Fields being dedicated to women?
It's an amazing concept. I love breaking myths be in with my violin or in the field of business management. Paddy Fields is breaking the myth that only men can lead a mainstream mega festival where we are expecting a huge turnout. The other myth is that only Bollywood music is entertaining..which is a myth again. Audiences are wanting alternative music as long as it connects, has melody and great rythym. Kudos to NESCO and Paddy Fields for being a trailblazer !
What are your views on Women empowerment?
Empowerment to me means equality , partnership and collaboration . So I don't believe in women's liberation..or bra burning! I think nature has created men and women differently and its best to play with our own strengths an not try to over rule each other. Diversity is about inclusiveness not exclusion. Where people work together by making best use of our different strengths, skills, and ideas. thats how synergy is created
What is your repertoire about or what can we expect at the Paddy Fields on the theme of women?
Am so excited ! My genre would be mainly Assamese folk fusion . Where I will also demonstrate it at three levels. Classical folk fusion, Assamese folk Bihu and Fusion with world music like Irish and Scottish . I will be joined from Assam by the Dhol Samrat Ranjit Gogoi and his group of musicians and a few dancers too. My band in Mumbai would also join me on tabla, keys, guitars and Percussion's. Last but not the least I shall perform my song from the Paddy Field album "Porbotey Porbotey " a very old traditional song made completely different by nine other then Lesle Lewis.Theme is definitely Diversity and Inclusion through the Arts!
What would you like see a change in Women Rights?
There has already been a lot of new policies in Parliament as well as in the socio economic laws ..like representation in the government, as well right to property for daughters etc. However it's mainly about mindsets for which we as a culture have to create a lot of awareness at different levels. In the family educate the boy child about equal rights and of course send the girl to school! In organisations overrule the glass ceiling, discrimination and gender bias.
Name some songs that you like are Women Enpowering or Women oriented ?
Shubha Mudgals song "Man ke manjeere" has always evoked profound feelings..on how education can change the life of a woman...man ke manjeeren aaj khanak be late, Bhoole the Chalna Kadam thirakne lage.."I had forgotten how to walk.. but education has given me the power to dance too"
Tell us about your forthcoming work to look out for Albums, Shows etc...?
I am working on a series on "Joy of Giving " through the medium of music. Not philanthropic but creating better lives through music. As a part of this next year I am planning take a few less privileged children from Assam to perform in Glasgow Festival. Next year I am also taking the folk fusion ensemble to the UK. Then a few ongoing collaboration with some great artists are also in the pipeline Two albums are in the anvil..One classical and the other folk fusion music video . The classical will ensure I take out time for my Riyaz much to my mothers wish,
- Pradeep Joseph and Stanley Paul
Path-breaking, trend-setter in the arena of world music, ace percussionist, composer and music educator UstadTaufiqQureshi in a heart to heart conversation with Shamali Gupta talks about what his heart beats for: Rhythm
The hand matters… then the surface beneath can pave way to rhythm… will you please explain this opening line on your website, Taufiqbhai?
Basically it is your hand, when given any given surface that has the ability to create rhythm through it. So, what you really need to figure out is the tonal quality in a few seconds. A good percussionist needs to have the knack of picking up anysurface, be it the table, the djembe, the tabla, or one’s own body, one and creating rhythmic patterns on it. The hand is what matters when one create
Rhythm exists inherently within us: we are born with a fantastic sense of rhythm… there is rhythm in our breathing, in our gait, rhythm in our heartbeat; in the way we talk… we are born with a sense of rhythm. Therefore rhythm is more inherent in us than melody and we do comprehend and appreciate rhythm faster. Yet I also do believe that Rhythm can definitely be taught. I very strongly feel that the first thing that we as human beings understand and connect to, because it is much more intimate and easy to capture and grasp, and therefore easy to teach.
I can give several examples of tribal rhythmic cycles which may seem strange to the uninitiated and yet a proper study helps us to understand the deep patterns of rhythm that flow though and enrich cultures.
What has the journey from traditional Indian Tabla to contemporary world percussions been like?
The knowledge which I received from my Abbaji is all pervasive and most important and has stood by me at all times. Born in a family steeped in Indian Classical music, the normal and the usual did not attract me as much as the unusual. As a child, all surfaces, including the ‘daldakadabba’, inspired me to work out rhythmic patterns on them. I found rhythm in almost everything, pots, pans, dabbas, buckets and broom sticks. Whatever I learnt from Abbaji, I implemented on all surfaces to create sounds. ‘Other rhythms’ fascinated me. In childhood R D Burman’s music enthralled me. I had a baby bongo and I would play on it imagining I was part of his orchestra, with PanchamDa’s songs playing full blast!
In school and especially in college, I would even drum on the benches…as a result very frequently I was thrown out. As an ‘outstanding student’, the canteen of my St. Xavier’s College became the alternate abode for developing distinctive techniques and honing my skills in percussion.
This was also the time when I accompanied several stalwarts of Indian Classical music (Pt. HariprasadChaurasia, Sultan Khan Sahab, Pt. BrijBhushanKabra and many others) from whom I learnt a great deal. My grounding in Indian classical percussion became stronger and I became restless to explore and challenge my Indian grounding.When I told my Abbaji that I was looking at exploring, composing, my father was very encouraging and his only condition was that I play good music that reflects my upbringing and tradition.
I started looking for that one instrument on which I could bestow all the knowledge of Tabla that I had imbibed from my Abbaji. My experimentations brought me in close connection with several percussion instruments: the rustic Dumroo and Duff to the contemporary Batagon (Cuban) Bongo (Latin American) Madaltarang, cymbals, Timbale, clay drums, Dumbak, midi drums and many more. It was only when Zakirbhai gifted me a djembe in the late 90s, that I realized ‘this is the ONE’.Itgave me the opportunity to design a new rhythmic language as a bridge to rearrange the traditional Tabla repertoire onto this African percussion instrument djembe. I wanted to incorporate the tukda, rela, kayda…into the instrument. And that happened finally. The journey has been amazing and has given me a very unique recognition the world over.
I have always been adventurous whether it was creating the energetic entry title track for HritikRoshan in Dhoom 2 with trash materials or creating the jingle track for Indian Railways which won the Gold award at Cannes. The track was inspired by Ashok Kumar’s iconic track “rail gaadi…beech wale station bole…” Even within that parameter, I wanted to innovate and do something interesting and unusual. And I suddenly had this idea that I would compose a whole new track using voice rhythm, stamping and body percussions. The movement of the train, the rattling sound, speed, the wheels on the metallic bridge…all of it was recreated entirely through voice and body percussion. In fact, I even experimented with stamping on metallic sheets to produce the sound of rail on metallic bridge… The film of course was beautifully made, and the jingle also stood out and captured the attention of the jury and a fabulous response from the listeners!
Another jingle which is very close to my heart is for the Nike (parallel journeys) ad, which won the bronze at the Cannes, in which I experimented with voice rhythms. The Finolex ad which I did last year was interesting because I made melodic rhythms using Finolex switches and it turned out to be extremely challenging and beyond the ordinary. It is always stimulating to create sounds and rhythmic patterns which are exceptional. I love doing these things. Very often,mujheaisalagtahai, kimain sounds kesathkuchaisakaroonjopehlekisi ne nakiyaho… and it is this quest for discovering new sounds through new surfaces with my hands that egg me on constantly.
Oh yes! I’ve composed music for a lot of Gujarati plays. I also did the music for Feroz Khan’s Salgirah, The Royal Hunt of the Sun AlyquePadamsee Begum Sumroo, andRahul D’cunha. The challenge in composing for theatre is that you have to sit and watch the rehearsals, the movement, the mood, the space, the characters and the timings before composing the music. It is live action on stage; therefore the composer has to totally understand the nuances of stage performance.
Earlier it was easier to identify the singers, musicians and composers. Today, the lifespan has become shorter and when I hear a singer, I can’t identify. There is too much of cloning. It’s very important for musicians and singers to have their own identity and individuality if newbies have to survive and carve their own niche in this highly competitive industry. Undoubtedly the melodic structure is picking up, but being old-school, I feel there is unfortunately no lasting impression that is created. So that needs to change.
Well, I am planning a single track for Mumbai Stamp. This band has become very popular, so a single track for our admirers and audiences…I also want to do a proper solo track on djembe for my listeners. I am also composing a few things which are still under wraps… so I’ll spring some surprises soon.
A considerable amount of time I am able to give to my son ShikharNaad when he is doing his riyaz. He accompanies me for recordings, concerts so we bond a lot. My son and I also share a passion for movies. So if there is any spare time, we just go to a movie theatre and catch up on a movie. I haven’t really given that much time to Geetika, my wife. But when I am in town, we make it a point to have our meals together and also go for a vacation either up North in India (the vision of the Himalayas is awe inspiring) or England which is one ofour favourite holiday destination. Of course it is music which binds us together.
Between 11.30 at night to 3 am I would ideally dedicate to my riyaz, my composing, I’d like to think and feel music, so that’s my ME time with my music.
Abbaji’s guru mantra to me has always been “Always remain a Shagird (Learner). Then the urge to learn more and bring perfection to your Art will be there. The day you feel you know it all, this life as an artist ends.” Zakirbhai has taught me lessons in humility; he always respects every one, old and young. His love for life, people and music is all-pervasive.
GhatamVidhwanVikkuVinayakramji the ace South Indian percussionist has also been an inspiration, always giving: whether it is his music, or his philosophy of life or his simplicity…he loves to give.
As we near the end of the tete-a- tete, Taufiq bhai draws his djembe back to himself and his fingers weave the magic of rhythmic patterns at incredibly phenomenal speed and precision, his eyes shut as if in meditation and his lips say the silent bols as if in prayer…
Located in a former mill, the Mumbai outpost of the US chain of resto-bars has a mixed reputation among the city's musicians. In the first couple of years after opening, in 2006, indie rock acts were often asked to include a stipulated number of cover songs in their set lists. These days, Hard Rock Café, which hosts gigs every Tuesday and Thursday night, sticks mostly to cover bands, with a couple of dates a month spared for indie groups. Skip these gigs, and come here only for the ticketed events, when one of the seating areas is cleared to make room for a larger stage, for performances by Indian indie icons (folk-fusion veterans Indian Ocean, electro-rock superstars Pentagram), international chart toppers (Wyclef Jean, Jay Sean) or club-packing DJs (Bob Sinclair, Paul van Dyk). Be warned, though: the waiters break into a synchronised jig every time the Village People's "YMCA" comes on.
Bombay Dyeing Mill Compound, Pandurang Budhkar Marg, Worli, + 91 22 2438 2888, Hardrockindiablog.com. Open daily noon-1.30am. Performance times and entrance fees vary