Songs Sung True

A Profile of Jayanta Hazarika
by Krishna Dulal Barua


Time has proved over and over again that the void left by the sudden, premature demise of Jayanta Hazarika on October 15, 1977 can never be filled. He was indeed unique as a man of music. With the passing of years, his absence is being felt more and more, particularly, in the context of the present musical scenario, and all are left in utter regret imagining the height of his achievements had divine providence let him complete his normal quota of years. Singer, instrumentalist, composer and music director all rolled into one, the superlative artiste lit the post-independence decades of Assam with his soulful brand of music eternally endearing to all.

Jayanta Hazarika followed the pioneering style of Jyoti Prasad Agarwala of synthetising the elements of Assamese folk, Indian classical and western music to weave out a distinctive form, intimate and recognisably Assamese in character. The lyrics and tunes of the songs are wedded with a powerful cohesion between them. Ushering in a fresh and invigorating period, he was, like his illustrious predecessors, not of an age but for all times.

He could play quite a number of musical instruents, e.g., the guitar, dumra, mandolin, accordion, tabla and mouth-organ and his dexterity on the harmonium with his fingers extended over two octaves was an awe-inspiring sight. He showed signs of a promising singer right from his days at school and his sensitive ears contributed significantly in his accomplishment as an ingenious composer. The noted lyricist, Hemen Hazarika was amazed to find him complete the tuning of a song within half an hour. The use of uncoventional notes was a special trait of Jayanta Hazarika’s music and the underlying tone of pathos was a characteristic feature of his typical style.

Jayanta Hazarika was a regular performer at the All India Radio, Guwahati which can be said to be a store-house of his creativity. The LP disc produced by HMV after his death consisted of songs and interview-excerpts transferred directly from the recording spools procured from the radio station. It is tragic indeed that this very station has had to be the subject of censure over the loss of such prized recordings of other eminent artistes of Assam.

The pre-eminent artiste, unlike most others, started with a bang and there was no looking back thereafter. His very first recording venture with the two immortal numbers, Agali batahe kopale kalare pat... and Krishnachura... penned by Dr Nirmal Prabha Bordoloi and Mayashri Borkataky respectively produced by the HMV in 1962 established him both as a singer and composer at the early age of twenty. He began play-back singing in 1963 in the Assamese feature film Moniram Dewan where his brother, Dr Bhupen Hazarika was the music director. In the song, Sonar baran pakhire tor..., he lent his voice with Shyamal Mitra of West Bengal. In the film Loti Ghoti he sang the duet, Jeevan tu jodi abhinay hoi... with Ila Bose. He rendered the number, Mrityu sabati samadhi tolit... for the feature film Chik Mik Bijulee composing the tune and background music at the behest of his director-brother. The visual treatment failed to arrest the true emotional intensity of the song but, nevertheless, its audio impact was overwhelming.

It is worth-mentioning that he was also the Assistant Director under Dr Bhupen Hazarika in all the above films. In the feature film Faguni, Dr Upen Kakoti, the music director, produced the memorable numbers, Aglati kalapat... and Mor aoshir rati... with the brilliance of Jayanta Hazarika’s vocal genius.

The trend-setter worked independently as music director in the Assamese feature films Bonoria Phool, Niyati, Brishti, Dharmakai and Natun Asha (completed by his widow, Manisha Hazarika) where he delivered some of the most inimitable heart-rending creations of Assamese music, e.g., Tomar morome mor..., Dekha nai... (Bonoria Phool), Surat magan bhayal rati... (Brishti), Bhorir taluwar pora jodi... (Dharmakai), Ei akash bor bishal... (Natun Asha) etc. The documentaries where he directed the music are Flora and Fauna of North East India, Wheels and the Horizon, Sanman and Jyoti Chitraban.

In an exclusive interview with AIR, Guwahati he stated that his first love was directing the music for stage plays. Among the notable plays where he handled the music were Siraj by Phani Sarma, Baan by Prafulla Bora and Jinty, Janma, Yudh Ghosanar Din, Jerengar Sati produced by Progoti Silpi Sangha of Guwahati. He was with Lakhimi Theatre of Goalpara till the time of his demise where he had completed seventeen songs for five dramas in addition to the background frame-work.

The artiste stood before his audience with all solemnity coupled with humility. With his dignified personality and proficiency, he could exert his influence upon all sections of the people. He overwhelmed the German audience when he accompanied Dr Bhupen Hazarika to the International Conference of Political Songs organised by the October Club at Berlin on February 14, 1972.

Almost every song rendered by Jayanta Hazarika contributed to stamp his immortality in the world of music. Each number bears its own unique individuality. Dr Nirmal Prabha Bordoloi penned the highest number of his songs, e.g., Nibir bone je matise ja..., Barashar ritu bhal pao moi..., Mor minoti..., Mor nam Aniruddha..., Mor mon chatakar kantha..., Mayamoi rupali jonak..., Akau natun prabhat hobo..., Sapunar sare mou..., Tomosha o’ nibir..., Eku nai sunya hai..., Tomar katha jetiyai bhabo..., Kinu lila prabhu... etc. The other lyricists include Hemen Hazarika (Mor fagun ache hi ahi roi, Eiya to nohoi ahar samay, Jilmil sonowali din), Satish Das (Sandhya jetiya tulasir tol..., Ketiyaba bejarate...), Hemanta Dutta (Samay gotishil..., Moi ji batere..., More ei nao...), Ratna Ojah (Luitar sutat likha robo..., Ghurni batahe...), Tafazzul Ali (Madhumalati topani jowa...), Anuradha Das (Sandhiyar akashate ehali tora), Jitu Sharma (Jodi moi prashna koru...), Parvati Prasad Barua (Apon haate...) and of course, Dr Bhupen Hazarika (Anar karane kolijar tej..., Luitar boliya baan..., Mor mon bagh..., Sendur sendur fot diye...). Most of the tunes of the songs were composed by Jayanta Hazarika himself. A few of the tunes of the other numbers were set by Jyoti Prakash Das (Mor minoti..., Sandhiyar akashate ehali torai..., Tomosha O’ nibir... etc.), Jagadish Sharma (Tomar katha jetiyai bhabo..., Sandhya jetiya tulasir tolot...) Hemen Hazarika (Mor fagun achehi ahi roi..., Eiya to nohoi ahar samay...), Johny Joseph (Mayamoi rupali jonak...), Jitu Tapan (Jodi moi prashna koru...). Jayanta Hazarika’s judicious use of music with effective restraint is a remarkable and exemplary feature in the treatment of the above songs. He sang a few duets with Dr Bhupen Hazarika which includes Susuk chamak koi Dipali joniye kiyo..., Chitralekha Chitralekha..., Maghat dekhon uruka nohoi..., Autorickshaw chalao ami duyo bhai...

A few of the songs from the feature films where Jayanta Hazarika directed the music stand out for their sheer depth, appeal and technical finesse. Mrityu sabati samadhi tolit..., Tomar morome mor... and Surat magan bhoyal rati... are some of the exemplary ventures where the vocal as well as musical treatment can be held as role-models. His passionate and mellifluous rendering of Mrityu sabati samadhi tolit... supported by rich scoring of the background with humming and saxophone is deeply intoxicating. The deft use of the guitar and violin in Tomar morome mor... and Surat magan... with unconventional preludes and interludes are idealistic patterns of music to be studied and emulated by the succeeding generations. The technical handling of the former in the basic 1-3-5 form (Tonic, Subdominant, Dominant), and the latter beginning in the Minor and coming to rest in its Relative Major are laudable. The delicate plucking of the guitar in the prelude of Surat magan... provides the intended objective of generating the sense and movement of the song simultaneously. The background notes of the violin in both the antaras heighten the degree of excellence of the song and illuminates the intelligence and creative wizardry of Jayanta Hazarika.

Almost all the songs of the artiste recorded at Kolkata were arranged and accompanied by YS Moolki. However the numbers, Luitar baliya baan... and Moi ji batere ulalu aji... have portions in the antaras where the bar measures are disrupted. In case of the second song, the transference from the recorded spool collected from AIR, Guwahati to the HMV disc might have caused the technical fault.

There have been quite a number of tributes to the legendary artiste through his songs but some of them have been unimaginably careless and irresponsible ventures. There are glaring errors in the lyrics above the mishandling of notations and musical accompaniment. The preludes and interludes deviate to a simplified solo pattern from the superb original orchestrations, the background scorings are substandard and the extra doses of individualist treatment only contribute to mar the original excellence. The Government needs to take serious steps for the preservation and research of the legendary songs and music of the state by constituting authorised panels of personalities connected with the respective form of music, initiating and sponsoring frequent workshops under able exponents and strictly prohibiting imperfect recordings. The publication of the notations of Jayanta Hazarika’s songs in book-form as the Sur Jeuti for Jyoti Sangeet has been a very laudable and substantial step in this direction.

Thirty-five crowded years of meaningful existence has added significantly in upholding the rich cultural tradition flourishing in Assam for ages. The wings of his mind strived constantly for his ascent towards the zenith of the sky but his ever-conscious eyes were attuned firmly to his native soil. Inspite of his hectic schedule, he had the promptings of his heart to initiate the formation of the Sur Bahini, a mobile musical brigade which was committed to work selflessly for the welfare of the poor, helpless and distressed, especially victims of natural calamities. His artistic excellence and qualities of head and heart set the perfect example of an artiste in the true sense of the term. May he continue to inspire every succeeding generation in the years to come.

Courtesy: The Assam Tribune

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