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Bhupen Hazarika, the bard of Brahmaputra

Bhupen Hazarika, the 'bard of Brahmaputra' whose ability to weave magic out of traditional Assamese music gave us songs like Dil Hoom Hoom Kare and O Ganga Behti Ho, swayed and inspired millions across generations with the power and passion of his voice.

music Updated: Nov 05, 2011 18:54 IST

Bhupen Hazarika, the 'bard of Brahmaputra' whose ability to weave magic out of traditional Assamese music gave us songs like Dil Hoom Hoom Kare and O Ganga Behti Ho, swayed and inspired millions across generations with the power and passion of his voice.

A poet, music composer, singer, actor, journalist, author and filmmaker, the self-proclaimed 'jajabor' (wanderer) took the rich folk heritage of Assam and interpreted it beautifully for the world through his songs.

With his death, the country has lost not only one of its few balladeers but also one of its greatest cultural icons, cherished in Dhaka as much as in Guwahati.

Born in 1926 in Sadiya into a family of teachers, the academically-talented Hazarika completed his basic education from Guwahati in 1942, BA from Banaras Hindu University in 1944 and MA (Pol Sc) in 1946. He did his PhD in Mass Communication from Columbia University. He also received the Lisle Fellowship from Chicago University, US to study the use of educational project development through cinema.

During his stay in the US, he met the legendary black singer Paul Robeson, whose famous number 'Old man river' was successfully transformed to the megahit 'Bistirno parore' ('O Ganga behti ho' in Hindi), a virtual anthem for generations of pro-Left activists.

In an interview to a national daily many years ago, he attributed his singing to tribal music.

"As a child, I grew up listening to tribal music - its rhythm saw me developing an inclination towards singing. Perhaps, I inherited my singing skills from my mother, who sang lullabies to me. In fact, I have used one of my mother's lullabies in 'Rudali'," the Dadasaheb Phalke winner had said.

He sang his first song 'Biswa nijoy nojowan' (in the second Assamese film "Indramalati") in 1939 at the age of 12.

Awards won
National Award as the Best Regional Film (1975)
Padma Bhushan (2001)
Dadasaheb Phalke Award (1992)
Asom Ratna (2009)
Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (2009)
Conferred as the first Indian Music Director for best music Internationally for the film Rudaali at the Asia Pacific International Film Festival at Japan in 1993.
All India Critic Association Award for best performing folk artist (1979)