Since the Vedic, the pre Historical Mughal era and the iconic Pre-British Era with the Emergence of the East India Company itself Assam was becoming a hub of rich cultural heritage in music, arts, and literature, cinema, entertainment and dance forms.
In the early stages music in Assam used to be devotional when the basic characteristics of indigenous ethnic music of Assam distinguished itself from the Mode-Based of Raaga based forms from the rest of India. During the Vedic era Assam has been introduced to Raagas and Dhrupad Shailee of the Indian Classical music and the music then was divided into two categories viz.:-Borgeet and Oja Pali. The composers like Shankardev and his disciple Madhavdev added versatility to the music with the introduction of the traditional instruments like Khol and Taal.
The other forms of music that were gaining popularities were Goalporia Loka Geet, kamrupi Loka Geet, Tokari Geet, Bihu Geet and Jhumair and the folk instruments that included were namely Banhi, Pepa, Gogona, Dotora, Dhol, Nagara, Mrindanga and Xutuli. But towards the beginning of the Freedom fight of India the Assamese music was revolutionized by the like of Rupkunwor Jyoti Prashad Agarwala, Kolaguru Bishnu Prashad Rabha, Xudhakontho Dr. Bhupen Harazakira, Khogen Mohonto, Shanta Uzir, Dipalee Borthakur, Jayanta Hazarika and the list just goes on.
Then came the era of 80’s 90’s and 2000’s when Assamese music got a modern makeover by the likes of talented musicians like Zubeen Garg, Jitul Sonowal, JP Das, Pulak Benarjee to name a few. Also at that time there was a trend when even Bollywood singers tried their forte in the Assamese music industry, from the legends like Gulzar, Md. Rafi, Pancham Da, Kishore Kumar, Guru Datt, Mukesh, Manna Dey, Lata Mageshkar to the modern day maestros like Shaan, Kavita Krishnamurty, Anuradha Pudwal, Vinod Rathode, KK, Sonu Nigam, Sunidhi Chauhan, Udit Narayan, Kumar Sanu and Kunal Ganjawala they had their share of Assamese songs too either in Albums, playback singing, collaborative projects or live shows.
However, since the early 2010’s or so Assamese music industry kind of began to go in a haywire when the trend of VCD films and parody songs came into existence and the lyrical concepts and thematic aspects just started to get cheesy and cringe worthy with clichéd themes and predictable song writing formula. Also, to add to the worse the traditional music like Bihu itself got a western rendition when it got fused with genres like Rap, Hip Hop and EDM with obscene lyricism and generic song writing which was uninspiring and bland and such songs were getting viral on social platforms. But, at the same time some likeminded and skilled musicians were fusing western genres with traditional Assamese in the correct way. Artists like Zubli, Joi Boruah, Papon, Shankuraj Kunwor, Abhi Saikia, Nilotpal Bora and the Assamese folk band The North East Breeze blended traditional as well as retro styled Assamese music with a western vibe in such a way that people actually began to think that there were still hope to revive Assamese music.
But we must not forget the fact that the actual traditional feel is kind of getting lost in the disarray because even though modern Hip Hop, Rap, EDM, Rock n Roll, Heavy Metal or Pop artist are more likely to incorporate Assamese lyricism and thematic concepts into their composition, the feels and the vibes are still a little western with all those computerized, electronic or digital sound. Don’t get us wrong, we get the fact that the evolution is a part of human development and music needs to evolve too but an evolution is only worth it, if it is done in the right way, because if we are to put up the facts, the Mighty Samadhi of Dr. Bhupen Hazarika might stand still over its structure but how much of our current generation are actually making an effort to know about Dr. Bhupen Hazarika and his compositions? also how many of the 2000 born or 2010 born children’s parents makes them listen to Jayanta Hazarika instead of some famous XYZ Bollywood rapper or Hollywood pop-star? Because back in my freshman social in college during Higher Secondary, I found a boy who was unable to sing a Jyoti Sangeet or a Rabha Sangeet and ended up singing some Pop song of that time, and also, in another event I realized that nobody really recognized the guest of honor Mr. JP Das, Which is why it makes it important in our hours of need that we make an effort to revive the traditional and retro style of Assamese music in the wake of Modern Assamese songs on Social Platforms and make some time to explore the music of old era as much as we surf the internet for the latest trending songs.