Art For Rescue – Future Of Assamese Music Industry
The origin of music is unknown, it existed from the time when sound was used to convey signals and it has come a long way to be what it is now. Music is however not just a medium, it is also the cultural identity of a particular place.
Assam, the place where I grew up has its very own flavor to the music. The melodious sound of the flute, the ever- enthusiastic beats of dhol and the mesmerizing sound of Bhur taal completes a true blue Assamese music. Assamese music industry has seen many such gems like Jyoti Prashad Agarwala, Bishnu Prashad Rabha, Bhupen Hazarika, Jayanta Hazarika, Khagen Mahanta to name a few who have redefined music for Assam and written their name in golden letters. These artists proved time and again that music is not just to entertain, but to educate as well. They were the artists of the generation who taught us what art of music really was. But if we are to compare the music of that time with the music of today, we will find that the Assamese music industry has come a long way. It has changed a lot. Whether it changed for the good or bad is a tough statement to make.
The prime reason why the industry underwent a lot of change is because of its audience. Different people have a different choice in music which is again conditioned by our social and cultural environment which again brings us to our resulting reason, i.e. culture. People always follow a certain culture which becomes their identity. This culture that we follow has a lot of influence on our choices. For example, The influence of the west brought in a few western elements into Assamese music which could be very well be seen in Bhupen Hazarika and Jayanta Hazarika’s compositions. Similarly, now that techno has become the ‘new sound’, we see artists following the same trend. The fact that music has different variations, different feels is because of our varied choice that demands versatility. I want to make it clear that I do not have any problem with this change. I, in fact, believe that change is necessary for the development of our taste in music. But what concerns me is the way music has become so commercialized. This commercialization of music to a great extent resulted in artists compromising on their artistic freedom.
Art is to liberate and I believe that an artist should not be restricted. They should have the freedom to create any kind of music they want to. But there should be a distinction between what we really want to create and what we are asked to create. Musicians are messengers and their music is for the mass so as a musician they have to take the responsibility for their own art. They have to decide very carefully as to what goes out in public.
In any song, the lyrics play a very big role. It is the flesh to the bone called music. Lyrics give a song its meaning and the dynamics. So what a songwriter writes will decide how the song is perceived among the mass. Today as I write this article, there are multiple songs floating in the industry and I somewhat feel sad to say that the Assamese music industry is just a showbiz to see who gets the most popularity and amongst this what gets lost is the quality and the art. Nowadays we see songs like ‘Washing Powder Nirma’, ‘Disco Bhonti’, ‘Jio Sim’, ‘Heri Heri’ making rounds all over the internet and the most shocking thing is to see how easily the so-called ‘Bhodro Khomaaj’ has accepted these superfluous and derogatory songs. I am not saying that we don’t have anything else in our industry; definitely, Assamese music industry has much more to offer. We still have the artists like Manas Robin, Zubeen Garg, Anagarag Mahanta, Joy Baruah (to name a few) who have given a new face to the Assamese music industry. Amidst ‘Heri Heri’, we also have songs like ‘Majuli’ which managed to touch the heart of Assam. But the point I am trying to make here does not peak towards the presence or good amongst the bad. I draw my concern to the fact that these derogatory songs have emerged as a U.S.P or the Unique Selling Point for the Assamese Khomaj. Meaning to say that these songs have become so popular that it went on to create a prerequisite for an artist based on which s/he will make their ‘products’ in hope for success. One after another, the row of meaningless songs continued which totally degraded the quality of our Assamese music industry.
One of the ways in which these songs get popularity is through the mainstream media. Media provides a space for these songs to get popularity. They broadcast live shows where these derogatory songs are sung. They very openly portray the idea of a ‘Bhodro Axomia Khomaj’ but when it comes to their power of filtering these things out, they show their ‘I don’t care attitude’. Isn’t that their hypocrisy?
The current music scene is degrading. People’s choices are changing. But its high time we have a filter within ourselves which will allow us to appreciate art, respect our artists. Because only then we can restore our own music, our sound, and rescue art.