05 August, 2021

Bard Of Brahmaputra

Hazarika’s genius manifested itself in its empathy and a vision for a better future

Bard Of Brahmaputra

It is said that in Assam, there is every likelihood that among the first sounds a newborn hears would be a Bhupen Hazarika song. I first met the legend when I was around ten, but much before that I knew him as a near god-like figure. His unique, deep baritone voice and his easy-on-the-ear compositions, which quite often culled out finer nuances of classical ragas and the huge variety of folk music of the Northeast, were already deeply ingrained in my subconscious. It was much later that his songs—the meaning of his words and the mood they evoked—acquired deeper meaning and significance for me.

In the late ’70s, we knew him from his photographs in newspapers and magazines, each with the trademark Nepali cap on his head—reportedly a present from the king of Nepal. And of course, from his voice that almost every single day wafted in from the local All India Radio station. So, there was no scope for confusion when I saw him the first time, sitting in the living room of our neighbour Nirode Chaudhury, one of the...

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