Love for Sale

Dilruba Dilnashin is a song that Ahmedabad FM broadcasts all the time.


It reminds me of home, of Kolkata every time I listen to it.

The reason is –  the tune in a part of this song resembles one of my favourite Bangla songs.

The song is called Bhabtey Badha Nei* (translated in English it could either mean: As You Like It or You Could think Anything).

It was written, composed, set to tune by the Bangla Band ABHILASHA.

The “Tera Mera Pyar Jo Hain, Pyar yeh Zordar Hain” part of the song Dilruba Dilnashin from film Namastey London,  bears exact resemblance to the Bangla song I mentioned.

Manish Gajjar, BBC Film Correspondent, in his review writes, “Himmesh Reshamiya’s music in the movie is truly excellent”. The movie he refers to is Namastey London.

It  was directed by Vipul Shah. Music in the movie was directed by Himmesh Reshamiya. The song title is : Dilruba Dilnashin. Singers : Zubin Garg, Alisha Chinai

I have no idea whether Himesh had a chance to interact with Bangla musicians at any point in his life, whether they introduced him to the band culture.

However, considering that he listens to variety of music and looks everywhere for inspiration, he may have heard it somewhere.

The lyricist of the band Sumit Samadder has had a very brief stint at working in Mumbai.

Now, Mumbai music stores are extremely limited in their stock of pan India contemporary music. Even Planet M Mumbai or Crossword Mumbai or Landmark Mumbai is actually quite impoverished in this matter. But Sumit has been in Mumbai, maybe his music travelled too somehow.

Sumit continues to write for the band although it has now been regrouped with only the original singer Kutty still remaining in the band. Sumit writes music for other singers (than his own band ABHILASHA), jingles, scripts for TV shows, ad copies etc for a living. He is well known also for his TV show “Pathher Panchali”  in Bangla. He has worked extensively with Debojyoti Misra, one of the ace Music Directors of Kolkata.

Point of mentioning the song here is to drive home the point that artists are free to adapt and adopt. It is their prerogative.

But are they also not responsible for upholding each other’s interests and talents? Aren’t music and arts people expected to be more than salesmen with high standards of ethics and morality? Can they afford to be ordinary baniyas when society looka up to them for upholding values that nurture, enable, empower the community?

Sumit Samadder lyricist of Abhilasha, writer of Bhabtey Badha Nei

Sumit Samadder lyricist of Abhilasha, writer of Bhabtey Badha Nei

*Wanted to upload the song,  it is in my computer but as a cda file, if someone tells me how to do it, I would.

the Kolkata Rockers’ political agenda

Part 3

So who else Rocks in Kolkata?

Quite a few in fact, groups like, Lokkichhara, SHANDHAN, DHUMKETU, STRINGER, ARKA to name a few. There are scores of others in the suburbs around Kolkata, across the coastal state West Bengal and beyond the borders in Bangladesh.

They haven’t got a subversive political agenda. They are not here to change the world. “We know we cannot do it” is all they have to say about this subject. They are indeed far from being any organized force yet. They have no unions to look after their interests. they hardly have time to ponder over the distance they have covered. They are simply busy keeping their acts alive at this juncture. Survival is more important.

They do however proudly project themselves as the flag bearers of Bangla Alternative Music. They want the world to know that it is not accidental.  Their music do successfully reflect how this generation feels, thinks about life around them, their vulnerability and angst and disillusionment and dreams and aspirations, typical urbane problems and issues.

Ways of loving and living that are typical of their times. Sex is no longer a taboo, you can sing about it if it concerns you in any serious way.

There is less pretension in their music.

Most of the musicians are professionals – doctors, engineers, teachers, ad-men, journos, and university blues and know their way around the intellectual and philosophical terrain.

They have managed to capture the essence of urbane contemporary life, within an urbane contemporary format. Their presentation is designed to reaffirm the vigour and vitality of the angst ridden GEN X and GEN Y.  Their medium of expression is contemporary Bangla of campuses and tea stalls (roadside chai kitlis), uninhibited, free flowing, spontaneous musical expression, where grammar gracefully takes second seat while rocking emotions take the first.

What about the great Rocking tradition of challenging the status quo? CACTUS  Siddartha looks bored. ABHILASHA Kutty shrugs, “We abhor the disintegration that is happening all around us, we simply want people to stop waging wars and live peacefully, each one doing his own stuff.” Rupam says, “No one was listening. I realized I was lonely, with something to say to the world, so I decided to breathe in and scream.”

You don’t need to sit properly, dress properly to attend a Rock show. Anything goes, you could be anybody, they are the intellectual democrats – your age, sex, colour, creed is no bar as long as you are willing to give yourself up to their music and jive along, be alive and conscious of life around you, for their music is about here and now.

The established order is slow, the people diffident, but they won’t let go, so pitch in, fasten your seat belts and hold on to whatever while giving it a loud shout, let the angst explode, the strobes blaze…

“Jibon ar cholchhey na shoja pothhey”, roars Rupam in one of his songs ( meaning, life isn’t exactly straight”). Life is constantly changing and we get caught in the vortex at times. There is no skirting the process or getting out of it, one is driven, so let it be, jump into the Band wagon and have fun. Let physics, and nature and economics take control and evolution take its own course.

II who Rocks in Kolkata?

Part 2 Bangla Band and Advertisement

Bishakto Manush” (The Poisonous Man), Nemesis or even Hashnuhana poignantly captures this generation’s fears and insecurities.

So does Halud Pakhi (The Yellow Bird), Katha Chhilo (The Tryst We had) and Amra Bhishon Aka (We are All So Lonely).

Just these three songs are enough to drive the crowd at any CACTUS show to frenzy. The entire Nazrul Mancha crowd (where they usually hold college fests and is filled with college students) and sizeable portion of Sadan (Rabindra Sadan for the more elite crowd comprising of different kinds of people, not just college students) can be heard singing along. They seem to know the whole song by heart. Sometimes the singing duo of Siddhartha and ‘Pata’ Abhijeet appear to stand perplexed on stage while the crowd carry the song forward. The guitar wails, Baji meditatively drums along.

One would suppose this essentially is what Rock is about in Kolkata. Or is there more to it? What about the degree and range of musical innovation that Rock brought about in the West?

Anindyo Chatterji, who, at the time I had spoken to him, was anchoring the DD Metro show called Parampara besides juggling numerous shows of their own band CHANDRABINDOO, pointed out matter-of-factly, “Gaan bendhey othatai baro katha akhon” ( “it is more important to write or be able to compose the lyric of your songs at this stage) .

The kind of informed audience and technology, training and exposure necessary for this genre to grow was still not a reality back then.  That is what Prabudha Banerjee (music director of Bhalo Theko) and Dhrubada of erstwhile band Nagor Philomel, feel.

These interviews were taken five years back in 2004.

A few years back, he recorded a jingle for Thums Up with the three lead singers of FOSSILS, CACTUS and ABHILASHA.  All three are considered to be major Rock bands of Kolkata.  Why pick on them?

Prabuddho Banerjee said that Bates wanted a kind of upcountry sound and one that their target market segment could easily relate to and were already familiar with. And he hadn’t wanted to work with one band – so he had all three working together.

So to what extent does the Thums Up generation identify with Bangla Rock or the Rockers?

Rupam Islam of FOSSILS, the youngest member of the Trio said, “Oh they turn up at shows dressed like me sometimes. If they really like our music they would copy our hairstyle. But mostly, they pick up the lines, the lingo. But you must remember we are not mainstream, we do alternative stuff, so there cannot be any credible index of yet. Rock in the West is mainstream, like Hindi Film music is mainstream here in India.”

Did you feel comfortable with the idiom of this particular jingle, did it sound like your stuff?

Rupam, “Well, yes, the language was pretty much what we would have done; the music however is midway, a sweetened version of the real stuff you would hear at the Bangla Rock shows.”

Evidently, Bangla Rock Bands have managed to establish a distinctive identity of their own in terms of the sound and perhaps even in terms of the use of Language. It is branded and can be sold and bought and used to sell your stuff!

In somewhat vague way, perhaps these people represent the same cutura force that spawned poets and writers like Jibonanando Das, Shakti, Sunil Gangopadhyay and later Joy Goswami, Joydeb Basu, Mandakranta. Somehow, one cannot but feel that they have done for the music industry here, what those other people have done for poetry.

But isn’t their kind of music ‘desi maal in a videshi morok’ meaning ‘local stuff in Western package’? Look at the assortment of electric guitars and metal drums and synthesizers in their ensemble.

Well, the sound is as Western as instant coffee is Western or the suit you might wear or the car you drive or even the chairs you sit upon while you read this stuff. The sentiment is all Bangla, so is the medium of expression.

who is rocking Kolkata?

A Rock Fest in one form or another have become commonplace in Kolkata city cultural scene. From elaborate 12 hour long marathon Plug n Play concerts to Monsoon Madness – An Evening of Rock, we have seen it all in this city.

Rock fests to promote services, to push products, to add fillip to Fashion Shows.  Rock Fests to perk up Puja pandals, to liven up sarkari Gaan Mela (Government sponsored Music Festivals) or a book publishing event, we have had rock fests for a cause, to spread AIDS awareness, to raise funds for charity, for fostering Bangla on Banglabhasha Dibash. To lend glamour to a college social or to add dash of chic to an otherwise boring Alumni Association annual event in a school, rock fests have been used widely now, especially in the last five years 2004-2009.

From Anadabazar Patrika Group to Tara Bangla, to Radio for lunching a new FM channel, and early May there was a Boishakhi Rock Milan to usher in Bengali year circa 1411!

As for venues, they have been quite varied and wide ranging too. From Fort William, Saturday Club and Calcutta Club, the River Ganges, GD Birla Sabhaghar to neighbourhood makeshift bamboo platforms popularly called ‘maachas’ in places like Barasat, in the outskirts of the city to villages in North and South Bengal, engineering colleges to schools to corporates – rock has been everywhere.

How much is the demand for it?

Well, shows become sell-out within hours of publishing the ads. I mean by the time I have negotiated my way past the news headlines in my morning paper, located the ad and reached for the phone to call upthe outlet for tickets at 10 a.m. (which is when Kolkata is supposed to open shop), it is all gone! At least that is what they say. You would hear a rather curt and edgy voice firmly asserting, “Aar nei”.

Evidently, used to getting rocked in every sphere of their lives Kolkatans have taken to Rock as a natural course of events. With typical resistance to begin with, finally with great enthusiasm and fervour. Whatever Kolkatans decide to do, they usually do with lots of energy and passion. Hujugey Bangali loves to take it up and swing it when it suits them. So they have and the latest passion in town is Bangla Rock.

When Rock emerged as a significant musical force in the West in the fifties (roughly), it had a definite pattern, a very authentic social context. Eventually, artists like Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Beatles established the genre as mainstream and classic.

Rock Music traditionally embodied the spirit of the times. It reflected all the changes language, technology and society underwent in the fifties and sixties’ America and Europe. It also became a medium of communicating force, strife, rebellion, boredom with status quo and standards and norms. It ushered in the great cultural revolution in the West, that changed everything about the Youth Culture: the way they lived, loved, dressed, entertained, or coped with disillusionment and crisis. It changed the language they spoke too.

So what is the scene in Kolkata? Who is rocking here? What about or what kind of Rock is it? To what extent is it the real thing, in terms of form, content, presentation, and attitude values and lifestyle projected?

“ You pick up an electric guitar and strum it loud enough, have psychedelic lights onstage, sport jeans and sneakers and a bandana on the head, beat the hell out of folks with racing, coursing sound of this gizmo called an octopad and you think you are rocking the world. Well, screaming your lungs outwith a guitar in your hands is not exactly Rocking. These kids seem to think that you can Rock if you are loud enough!” laments ace guitarist Amit Datta of Skinny Alley and obviously not quite happy with the scene.

“Rock”, he asserts, “is a way of life”.

Most musicians of his peer groupdo not believe there is much Rocking going on here. But then of the major crowd pullers like BHOOMI, CHANDRABINDOO, CACTUS and FOSSILS, only the last two claim to be doing Rock music.

So what have they done to claim the status of Rockers?

When confronted with the question Parikhit, the erstwhile manager of the band FOSSILS at first seemed bored with the question. And then in his typical staccato Bangla he fired: “Everything we do is different. Have you actually been to our shows? Ypu would have to come to our shows and see for yourself. Everything we do is so vitally, organically different from the established genre of Bengali Popular music. The presentation, lyrics, the sound, chord progression we choose to follow, the rhythm and even the language we use to communicate our feelings and ideas are all part of it”.

Fossils have introduced an element in the music that can be used to convey disgust, agony and angst of this generation in an idiom hitherto unheard of in Bangla Pop music and is totally of the times. Mors importantly from the sixteen year old to the thirty four year old Bengali technocrat can relate to it.

What Parikhit claims is corroborated by the industry. A young record company sales person re-iterates, “Their lyrics express a view point and feelings that a large section of the young people can relate to. They have felt it; they have seen it, as a result of which they have formed opinions, which the FOSSILS have managed to pick up somehow”.

The forty or fifty odd rupees you spend for a ticket to the shows is your ticket to another world in which the listeners and their favourite Bands revel in their moment of shared fantasies of romance and rebellion and loneliness and loss. This is perhaps what makes these shows exciting.

But is the Bangla they use in their lyrics innocent or easy to understand? Does the message get across to their target audience?

I get hold of Rupam Islam, the charming, rather fragile looking FOSSILS frontsman, lead singer and lyricist. This is what he said, “I have always spoken the truth about what I felt. I have consciously never attempted to be abstract. I suffered. The effort to come to terms with the realities of my own life, intense feelings of loneliness at a certain stage of my life when I had no friends at all, and I had wanted to scream. Instead, I wrote about it…As for my idea of Rock, I personally believe it is about suffering, pain, intense feelings”.

Consequently, some of his songs like “Ei Akla Ghar Amar Desh” (This lonely room is my Country) do come alive palpably being informed with the vitality of very intense and personal experiences. “Bishakto Manush” (The Poisonous Man), Nemesis or even Hashnuhana poignantly captures this generation’s fears and insecurities.

(to be contd)

meet Buluda an oldtime Mohiner Ghonra

Odzer Priyank this is for you – Tag2

Erstwhile Mohiner Ghonraguli Buluda

Erstwhile Mohiner Ghonraguli Buluda holding up Gautam Chattopadhyay, his brother's picture

this was my fifth picture in the album frm the time I started blogging.

that is Buluda one of the pioneering team that went by the name of Mohiner Ghonraguli. he is now probably out of the country. that time he was in Kolkata and I had caught him at a special function which was organized by the friends and family of Gautam Chattopadhyay (on his death or birth anniversary I think – cant remember now) at Nandan 2. he went up on stage and shared his recollections about his legendary older brother and their stage shows.

he played percussion sounds with his mouth and later when I had met him at the La Martiniere campus I had taken interview of him with another Mohin abraham Mojumdar.

would publish that if I can find the doc at home in Kolkata.

buuluda left the counrty when the band disbanded due to lack of funds and when they realized that to ensure square meals for self and family they had to do something other than music. their music didnt sell – it was too new, lightyears ahead of their time.

he was the all rounder of the team, could play almost any instrument Abraham had told me. and this band was another of those rare ones apart from the Krosswindz (which has the husband wife and brother all together in it) that was comprised of family members – little baby son of Gautam,  Gabu included. Gabu is now the front man of the band Lokkhichhara and is the drummer.

hope Odzer and Priyank I have been able to do justice to your tag requirements – 5th pic, history, where it was. sorry for the delay guys. thanks for the tag  enjoyed the revisit.

Tagging  Terri,  since Mahendra is back,  him, Vagabond, Dust Unsettled and Smithbarney of OS (is that allowed?), Midlife Crisis, Sunny and Anil. wd post the links later. too tired and slepy now. thanks for the chance to do this Pri and Odzer – it was kind of nice revisiting.

Bangla Bands – Part 2

This section would feature more information about your favourite Bangla bands and for those that are curious about this genre. For the present, please refer to the posts that I had moved here:

A Few of the most Popular bands based in Kolkata

Bangla Bands are not just Aping the West