Legend Resurrected

by Rini Kakati


On this day October 15, 1977, 29 years ago, Jayanta Hazarika suddenly left us all in tears. Devastated as we were then, we remember his scintillating personality with great fondness and a sense of loss. Time has proved over and over again that the void left by the sudden premature demise of Jayanta Hazarika (Rana) at the age of 34 can never be filled. The memories of his face with that childlike innocence and the heart, big enough to shower love on everybody. Leaving his young wife Manisha and his son – Mayukh, at a very early age.

With the passing of years – that mellifluous voice and 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.

The names Jayanta Hazarika, ‘Pragati Silpi Sangha’, ‘New Art Players’, ‘Kristi Bikash Sangha’ are a sweet memory for all the music lovers of Guwahati like myself. Known as Rana Bhaiti in the family circle, handsome, fair complexioned, this young legend and the music icon of yesteryears was Bhupenda’s moromor Rana Bhaiti.

I remember Rana, with his disarming smile and charming manner. In those days Uzan Bazar and Panbazar were the heart of all cultural activities in Guwahati. In 1959, the Diamond Jubilee of the Panbazar Girls High School was celebrated with a week long programme in the month of May or June (I do not remember the exact month).

Rose Hazarika and Ruby Hazarika were also students of Panbazar Girls High School, so they asked their brother Rana to organise the musical programme for the Diamond Jubilee. We were all excited and practised every afternoon at 3.00 pm for the main chorus, with Rana playing the harmonium. I still remember a few lines:

      Ro-od jilmil akashoti, Daworore dhemalite,
      Amar monor nijanoti, Sopone jai umoli,
      Ro-od jilmil, Ro-od jilmil, Ro-od jilmil.

Rose Baideu, Ruby, Anjali Baideu (Anjali Medhi), Monti Baideu (Mridula Das), Ramen Choudhury, Dost, Ara Baideu, Niva Choudhury, Pretishree Barkataki, all took part. During the rehearsal period I remember one day he was cross with me and Niva and said, Osorot thoka manuhbore sodai derikoi ahe. We were always punctual after that day.

I fell for his voice and the charm since that time. I never missed any of his functions during my teens until I left Guwahati in 1972. On behalf of the Cotton College Union Society in 1964, when we invited him to perform at the “College Week”, I became close to him. The entire Union hall was moved while listening to him. Agoli botahe kopale kolore pat was the song he sang on that day for the first time.

Fortunately or unfortunately, I happened to visit home in the month of September 1977 to attend a family wedding. On that fateful morning of October 15,1977, the sad news was announced in the All India Radio news bulletin. Jayanta Hazarika had passed away in Kolkata.

We were all shocked. I cried like a little girl. The day his lifeless body was carried from Borjhar Airport to his Nizarapar residence, we somehow managed to see a glimpse of his face in the back of the truck by standing at the Panbazar Sukleshar ghat and tried to reach out to throw a few flowers from the vast crowd in tears – men, women and children. Thirty-five crowded years of meaningful existence have added significantly in upholding the rich culture and tradition flourishing in Asom for ages. He had the prompting of his heart to initiate the formation of the Sur Bahini, a mobile musical brigade which was committed to working 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. Jayanta Hazarika followed the pioneering style of Jyoti Prasad Agarwala – of synthesising the elements of Asomiya folk, Indian classical and Western music to weave out a distinctive form, intimate and recognisably Asomiya in character.

He could play quite a number of musical instruments, eg: the guitar, dumra, mandolin, accordion, tabla, mouth-organ and his dexterity on the harmonium, with his fingers extended over two octaves, was an awe-inspiring sight. As the artiste stood before his audience with all solemnity, coupled with humility, he could exert his influence upon all sections of the people. He accompanied Dr. Bhupen Hazarika to the International Conference of Political Songs organised by the October Club at Berlin on February 1972 and overwhelmed the German audience.

According to the culture oriented music lovers of today: “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 and 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”.

Therefore, the Government needs to take serious steps for the preservation and research of the legendary songs and music of the State by constituting an authorised panel of personalities connected with the respective form of music, initiating and sponsoring frequent workshops under able exponents and strictly prohibiting imperfect recordings. Last year, when I met Mithu bou (Manisha Hazarika) at her residence, we were both in tears. I saw Rana’s old guitar in the sitting room which used to enliven many cultural functions in Guwahati, each chord has his fingers’ touch. Remembering his passionate and mellifluous renderings of Mrityu saboti somadhi tolit, Tomar morome mor and Surat magan, reminds me of that touching song by Elton John:

      Now you belong to heaven
      And the stars spell out your name...
      Your candles burnt out
      Long before your legend ever will.

This year (2006) the Jayanta Hazarika memorial concert will be held at the Nehru Centre (Cultural Wing of the High Commission of India) on October 18, 2006. The invited artistes are Manisha Hazarika, Mayukh Hazarika and Laili Dutta Hazarika.

“A woman will always sacrifice herself if you give her the opportunity. It is her favourite form of self indulgence.” This quote of Somerset Maugham somehow reflects so truly for someone like Manisha Hazarika, wife of late Jayanta Hazarika, who could be pronounced as a woman of substance. Born and raised in a respectable Bengali family, in a composite musical background in Kolkata. Manisha lost her husband at a very young age. But she did not want pity for herself, neither did she want to go back to her birth place, into the comfortable and privileged surroundings of her parents’ abode. Instead, this courageous woman started to begin from scratch, striving to survive and made every effort to give the best to the couple’s only child, Mayukh.

She has promised herself to keep those memorable songs of her husband alive. She is an inspiration and a role model for every woman.

Mayukh Hazarika can be easily mistaken for AR Rahman due to his disarming smile and charming manner. Born and raised in the Hazarika gharana –an illustrious family of several gifted artistes and doyens of Asom’s musical world and having seen and heard his family of musicians, most notably his father and uncle, Dr Bhupen Hazarika sing and interact as he grew up. He lost his father when he was only seven years old. His mother taught him to sing those immortal songs with the same depth of feeling and sincerity that his father once sang and became famous for. Mayukh relives the voice of Jayanta Hazarika once again.

Laili Dutta Hazarika, Mayukh’s wife, would also always wake up to the sound of the Swaras. Having herself learned from the legendary Padmabhusan Ustad Ghulam Mustafa Khan, her mother Shikha Dutta took it upon herself to pass on the nuances of the Rampur Sahaswan Gharana to Laili at a very young age. Since then music has been one of the most significant aspects of Laili’s life. This tradition found further expression when she married Mayukh Hazarika. She is qualified from the Bhatkhande Music University, Lucknow as a Bachelor of Music.

Jayanta Hazarika’s legacy lives on in the hearts of his innumerable fans.

Courtesy: The Assam Tribune (15 October 2006)

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