Bhupen Hazarika: The Ballad Singer of Life

Mumbai, Nov 7 (Calcutta Tube / IBNS) Music legend Bhupen Hazarika’s death at age 85 on Saturday is not just the passing away of a doyen of Indian music. Bhupen Hazarika’s songs sung in his deep baritone voice had brought to the musical mainstream the song of mother earth with all its earthy hues. He was a gharana in itself.

His songs were an ode to humanity and the essence of real India, they spoke of life and struggles and human spirits. They were rebellious too, with deep social and political messages often. He was a cultural icon and ambassador  of the Northeast as well as rest of India to the rest of the world.

“He was original,” says pop diva Usha Uthup, perhaps summing up the contribution of Hazarika in Indian music best.

Hazarika, who hailed from Assam, had transcended the regional barrier and reached out to the whole of India and the musical horizon of the world. He straddle the world of folk and mainstream with equal elan. His contribution to the celluloid world is also no less.

If not for his Bengali rendition of “Ganga Amar Maa” or “Manush Manuser Jonnye”, the generations of India who grew up in the 1990s would remember him for his music for Hindi film Rudaali, starring Dimple Kapadia and Rakhi Gulzar.

According to his official website, Bhupen Hazarika was born in 1926, in Sadiya, Assam. He did his Inter (Arts) in Guwahati in 1942, and went on to Banaras Hindu University to complete his B. A. in 1944 and his M. A. in Political Science in 1946.

Soon after, he left for New York, USA where he lived for five years and received his doctorate (PhD) in Mass Communication from Columbia University. He also received the Lisle Fellowship from Chicago University, USA to study the use of educational project development through cinema.

It had rained awards in the career of Hazarika. From Padma Bhushan in 2001 to Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 1992 to Asom Ratna in 2009, Hazarika got accolades all through his life. He was also the recipient of Sangeet Natak Akademi Award .

He was conferred as the first Indian Music Director for best music Internationally for the film Rudaali at the Asia Pacific International Film Festival at Japan in 1993.

In February 2009, the All Assam Students Union felicitated Dr. Hazarika by erecting a life size statue in the heart of Guwahati. It was unveiled by Dr. Hazarika himself.

Hazarika was considered as one of the greatest ballad singers alive in India.

Hazarika was one of the few Indian singers who had met Paul Robson. He became closely associated with Robson between 1949 and 1955 in USA. It was during this period he was awarded a Gold Medallion in New York as the best interpreter of India’s folk songs by Eleanor Roosevelt.

According to his website, he had produced and directed, composed music and sang for the Assamese language films Era Batar Sur. in 1956,  Shakuntala. in 1960, .Pratidhwani. in 1964, .Lotighoti. in 1967, .Chick Mick Bijuli. in 1971, .Mon Projapati. in 1978, .Swikarokti. in 1986, .Siraj. in 1988. He also directed, composed music and sang for .Mahut Bandhure in 1958. He produced, directed, and composed music for Arunachal Pradesh’s first Hindi feature film in colour Mera Dharam Meri Maa. in 1977.

Among the Hindi films, besides Rudaali in 1993, he was known for his music for 1997 film Darmiyaan, 1998 film Saaz and in 2000 for M F Hussain’s Gaja Gamini.

When the end came, his companion and filmmaker Kalpana Lajmi was beside him.

– Sujoy Dhar

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