Melody and lyrics are inextricable to our folk tunes. The melodic component is as important as the lyrical content. Author Mitra Phukan was in conversation with Akhu of the Imphal Talkies, Loknath Goswami and author Rakhshanda Jalil at a session titled “Tuning into literature: Music and literature” at the recently held Guwahati Literary Festival 2014, organized by the Publication Board, Assam.
Akhu narrates his journey. For him it was very spontaneous. He was in Delhi doing his Phd in Physics. That was the time when Binayak Sen was arrested. He was a member of People’s Union for Democratic Rights and walked on the streets of Delhi to sing protest songs. “I left physics and now I am into full-time music. It comes in a holistic manner,” he says.
Loknath Goswami, an expert on Assamese music spoke about his journey into modern songs. When modern trend came in, the classical lyrics based on ragas had changed into much more local Assamese tunes and songs. He believes in the chemistry of music which leads to bonding between communities.
Akhu, on the other hand, feels that eulogizing about the rich culture and tradition of Manipur makes him feel as if he is living in the past. “There are guns pointed at you all the time. I feel life is too short not to sing all that I see. Our roots have gone out and taken somewhere else. I want to be contemporary and talk about my generation.” Akhu was inspired by many poets. His songs are more like spoken words. ‘Maria’ is a song about a girl left to become a prostitute who eventually becomes a drug addict. “It’s a true story but it is not mine. When you picture a person, there are certain things you cannot eliminate. It comes as a package.”
Interestingly, Akhu never writes down his songs. It’s all in the mind. “Everytime I perform, my songs are different. It’s recorded in my recording. When I record it. I don’t feel like singing it again. It dies there.” He also sang his song “India, I see blood in your hands.”
Loknath Goswami talks about the shape the modern lyric is taking today. He spoke about the protest songs in Assamese. He however, admits that the ideological and political commitment in songs is missing in Assam. But, he admits that Assam has a rich musical tradition. “In fact, when we sing our folk songs, people ask us if it is folk or royal,” he adds.
Finally, Rakhshanda Jalil, author pointed out that Begum Akhtar chose to sing compositions by lesser known poets and made them legendary. “Music has a greater reach than poetry alone does. Poetry, sung by our own fakirs or wandering mendicants added to their popularity.”