World Music Day: How Dony Hazarika brings global attention to local Assamese music
Dony Hazarika working in a studio

A mix of rhythms, cultures and influences combining to produce sounds that are as inspiring as they are celestial. The art cannot be separated from the artist, who must dig deep to find the right balance and perfect blend. When it comes to fusing local Northeastern sounds with music from other climes, not many can be as inspirational as Dony Hazarika, an Assam native with a musical passion that runs deep.

Dony released his debut album in 1995 titled Bondita, which not only sent shock waves throughout the industry but also cemented his place as a new kid on the block. Since then, he’s grown from one string to the next and surmounted the hurdles of the industry.

His journey to becoming one of the most sought after music fusion artists began from an early age. His appearances at live shows and his love and mastery of the electric guitar birthed a passion within him that would eventually lead to the creation of several game-changing soundtracks for many television series like Agle Janam Mohe Bitiyan Hi Ki JoSanjog Se Bani SanginiGeetaChoti Bahu 2Afsar BitiyaDo Dil Bandhe Ek Dori SeKaala TeekaBhootuFear FilesBandhanHitler DidiKuch Rang Pyar Ke Aise BhiVighnaharta Ganesha, Ganga Ki DheejMata Ki ChowkiNavyaMahabharat and many more. 

Recalling the days when he first realised his love for music, Dony says, “I used to attend live gigs of a very popular singer during the ’70s and 80’s – Nasreen Halim – who is also my aunt. And I was left spellbound every time. I guess that’s when I fell in love with music.”

Dony Hazarika playing the guitar

“I was also inclined electric guitar, and I would dream of playing it on stage in Denim and sleeveless t-shirt. Oh, wait! And the trending black goggles, too! However, my father wanted me to learn tabla under the guidance of Dr Dilip Ranjan Borthakur. Instead of the attire I always dreamt of, I had to wear kurta-pyjama, sit, and play the tabla,” he laughs.

Dony further adds that it was an amazing feeling to be associated with music, however, the enthusiasm to do more in this field developed when he started doing live shows. Today, he is not only an expert in tabla but also equally sound in guitar, mandolin, keyboards, and dholak.

Dony’s expertise in music fusion is truly one for the record books. He has been able to hone his craft and create amazing compositions, gaining the respect of fellow musicians in the process. A perfect example can be heard in Aaya Bihu Jhoom Ke, the first complete album of Assamese Bihu songs written in Hindi. “My style is folktronica – a fusion of folk and electronic music, without disturbing the originality and without creating any tonal confusion.

“My album Bohnimaan; The Folk Flows, which is available on Times Music, is an example of my style. I conceptualised this project with Borgeet, Lokageet, Zikir, Jhumur, Nisukoni, Dasavatar, and several other forms. The complete album, featuring eight songs, has been sung by a very talented singer – Mizee Geetashree Rajkhowa. I consider myself the first one of our generation to spread folk on a global scale. Aaya Bihu Jhoom Ke was the first Bihu album in Hindi, where you will find all contemporary compositions mixed with Bihu elements of the composition based on the pentatonic scales. It was not a traditional Bihu number but based on Bihu musical structures with the inclusion of traditional Assamese instruments such as dholtaalpepagagana,” he says. 

Over the years, Dony’s music career has blossomed into something quite enviable. Reminiscing on his journey so far, this music icon relives some heartfelt moments along the way. “Looking back makes me emotional. I had a lot of professional turbulence. It was tough to survive with only music during that time. I was in Dibrugarh, and I had worked a lot, but I knew it would not take me to the place and level I wanted to be. When I had seen that nothing was going to happen in my hometown, I fled to Guwahati with just Rs 350 in my pocket.

“After I moved to Guwahati, I started working with many people, and within a very short period, I became popular among everyone as a good composer and a music arranger. At that time in 1998, there was not much computer programming, so we needed to make music arrangements first before recording live,” he adds.

It was in the newspapers that his parents started reading about his success and felt proud. “Their complaints stopped, and they started encouraging me. In 2008 I realised that I should move forward to a bigger field which was Mumbai, and by that time, I was quite familiar with the city because of the recordings for which I visited frequently. I reached Mumbai and began my final musical journey to the top. To date, I have done nearly 40 TV dailies,” he recounts.

Dony Hazarika with Anil Kapoor during the launch of Tamannah, a show for which Dony produced music

“For me, this is the beginning of success. Getting regular offers for work indicates that people like your work. On that basis, I count myself one of the top music composers of the television industry, but unfortunately, my father didn’t wait to see me achieve my dreams. He passed away,” Dony reveals, holding back tears.

This unstoppable talented musician has also been involved in several superhit Assamese feature films such as Yugantaror Tejal PuwaPriya O PriyaIman Morom Kiyo LageChinaki AsinakiMaa Tumi AnanyaPrem Bhora SokuluAntaheen YatraSuren Suror PutekAchin ChinakiSoy Gaanwor Champa, and Astitva. Other grand releases include Naam, With Love, SparshBahon meinArnab; the K factor, Faasle, Swag, Endhaare EndhaareSaawariya Sataye Mohe, Ankhiyaan Zaar Zaar and many others.

From the pedestal of his venture Staccato Records, Dony has released numerous soulful numbers and soundtracks. He has worked in the production of musicals for have never waned. He describes his process as one that depends on the characters being depicted or talked about, the place of the story, the plot, etc. “That’s how we create music. In short, I will say, I try to feel the character and create the music going deeper into it. I must add that the approach varies depending on the nature of the story,” he says.

One may wonder the endless source of inspiration that this talented musician has that fuels his passion to create these masterpieces. Dony gives an insight to solve the mystery. “My inspiration comes from various sources and in different ways. Sometimes, my daughter, Nirju asks me to listen to a particular song which she finds interesting. She always tries to keep me updated with the latest trend. I also listen to whatever music she asks me to listen to. After listening, I get a lot of inspiration to think and create things differently. Since they are from today’s generation, their musical thought process is different. This unique thought process inspires me. Also, my son Nirab is a very good cook. At the time he comes to my music room with a new snack and asks me to try out the flavours. These gestures inspire me to do good work so that I could give them a far better life,” he says. 

Talking about utilising time during the lockdown period, Dony says, “We have released a Marathi Song called Durava composed by me and my music partner RaaGini Kavathekar on our music label Staccato Records. RaaGini is a trained Hindustani classical singer-turned-Bollywood playback singer. I have worked with Zublee Baruah on a song called Xhui Thaak Guwahati; sung and composed by her. I did the mixing and mastering for the song Usha Aniruddha sung by Joi Barua and composed by Latu Gogoi. Very recently, I have released a song Uduli Muduli sung by Papon and composed by Zublee Baruah. Other than these, the television serials are keeping me busy. My recent show is Ishq mein Marjawaan on Colors channel. Now excited for the the release of my upcoming daily show Kuch Rang Pyar Ke Aise Bhi Part 3 for Sony TV.”

This composer reveals he has several projects with various musical juggernauts in the industry that are still in the works. “Composer RaaGini and I recently completed a web film containing 3 songs and background score for MX Player. For live gigs, RaaGini and I, as RKDH Live, are exclusively signed by Artist Root, a Mumbai-based event company under the leadership of Ravi Mittal. I am also working on an instrumental folktronica track with one of the most eminent flautists of our country. Then a few independent songs by various singers, while also doing a historical Marathi film which was scheduled for release in December, but got delayed indefinitely due to the pandemic. Honestly speaking, at the end of the day, I’m a happy person – for the work that I do and for the love that I receive from family, friends, colleagues, and well-wishers. I am grateful that I’m not running out of work in this crucial time and I’ve my dear ones around for support,” he says, flashing his bright wide smile.

Also read: Musicians Guild Nagaland to raise funds for COVID-19 relief on World Music Day

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