Music sometimes can mean different things to different people. For some, music can be a source of healing for the soul, inspiration and a medium of expression. For others, it is a way to promote their rich cultural heritage and history and project same to the world. Not many musicians are capable of blending these two major causes into one. In Assam, a very select class of musicians exists, one that is poised to put Assamese indigenous music on the global map, while soothing the souls of their listeners in the process. One very talented artist that continues to release soul-lifting music for Assam indigenes and music lovers around the country is Himsekhar Borthakur.
Like many with a deep passion for music, Himsekhar comes from a family of musicians and artists dedicated to their craft in more ways than one. As you reveals, his family was his earliest source of inspiration to pursue music. “My father used to tell me about my grandfather; late Khageshwar Borthakur. How he was a devotee of music who was deprived of any publicity. He used to play the violin, flute, banjo and many other instruments, and also had his own original songs, many of which were composed on some Bhatiyali folk songs.
“My grandfather was acknowledged as the founder of ‘Xur Bahini’ during the Nagaon Flood in 1929 and sang his original song, ‘Borluit Noi’. Besides that, many of my parents’ cousins were significantly connected and also contributed to the Assamese music and film industry. They were basically dedicated devotees to their art,” he says.
As a result of his family’s deep roots in music and art, it is easy to comprehend how he set out on the very same path despite several other options that were available to him. He took vocal training on Indian classical ragas under the guidance of his guru Chandan Baruah, and was also coached by late Guru Ruxeshwar Baruah, Kalpana Bhagawati, late Manik Das, and reknowned lyricist Dr. Prasanta Bordoloi in the course of his childhood. Whilst pursuing a career in music and trying to make a name for himself, Himsekhar is also studying to get his PhD simultaneously. This doesn’t only make his journey the more challenging and filled with hurdles, but also makes the rewards all the more satisfying. While it is tough, both complement each other in some way, according to Himsekhar.
“I feel my geology research study makes me more self restrained while music tries to make me more composed and calm. I rarely face any challenges balancing both my studies and my music simultaneously. My PhD study has indirectly molded the notion regarding the conventional composition and music arrangement exercise of Assamese songs. Music has always been research, experimental work and a learning process for me,” he remarks.
Himsekhar’s stellar rise in the music industry has done more than prove his naysayers wrong, by proving there is a guaranteed formula for excelling in Assamese music, especially as an independent musician. The concept of independent music is steadily growing recently in India, with many paying attention to its rise. “To produce good quality music, I believe that lyrics should be the first priority followed by the tune, music design, mixing and mastering. Indie music is a concept where the artist or the creator of the song must make it raw, by delivering what they feel in their heart. The song should reflect the characteristics of the lyrics and the artist as well. Personally, I think independent music should be experimented practically rather than producing it exclusively for commercial purpose,” he adds.
Himsekhar’s music style could be defined by the simplified compositions with a guitar plucking or rhythm and abstract lyrics expressing the minor moments oriented towards the realisation and positive attitude of celebrating life. His tuning and music arrangement of the originals are greatly influenced by Assamese folk genre and contemporary blues, progressive rock, and country rock fusion music.
From releasing his first song album ‘Rupantar’ in 2007 to his second audio album ‘Protyaxaa’ in 2017 and experimenting one of his singles ‘Bluesot Ase Ki’ – an assamese Blues song in 2014, he has indeed come a long way.
“In consideration of doing Indie-style and defined music, I started an Assamese music research project ‘PROHOR’ in 2018. Four of its songs are released and we’re gearing up for the next. Among these ‘Whispering Wish’ – the 4th Instance – was one of the most lovable and experimented works done, right from the audio to video.
Speaking of some of the musical legends that inspired his work, he has this to say, “My musical iconis Dr. Bhupen Hazarika. I used to follow his perspective in writing lyrics, tuning songs, and the standard of designing words abstractly. I love his presentation while singing a song with perfect pronunciation. At the same time, I am influenced by many other musicians and musical bands in different ways such as Tom Leeb, Roo Panes, Lumineers, Queen, Pink Floyd, ColdPlay, etc. Moreover, Indian vocalist Hariharan, composer A R Rahman, bands like Euphoria, Indian Ocean, and Assamese renowned singers Jayanta Hazarika and Zubeen Garg also greatly influence me,” he reveals.
Like most musicians, Himsekhar too utilised the lockdown period in creating music. “I worked on a new composed song named ‘Ubhota Baat’ which will be releasing in this month and also started a podcast channel ‘Okothyo’. I collaborated with a couple of musicians to record music at my home studio. Although I am a self-trained musician, I do love to play and explore new instruments. I’m currently learning ukelele and dotara.
As for his upcoming releases, Himsekhar shares some insightful details. His last song off the project ‘PROHOR’,5th Instance will be released in December 2021. The song was written and tuned by him. Also, an experimental folk base travel song will be released in the month of October. His friend, Abhijit Nath, has put together the lyrics of the song, while Himsekhar handed the tune and music design. His future plans also include creating a Bhatiyali Folk Music Project where the compositions of his grandfather will be showcased experimentally.
“I would also want to highlight a noble initiative that I along with a few research scholars and students of Dibrugarh University have started. It’s a street jamming musical group known as POTHIK, with the motto ‘Good Music for Good Cause’. Pothik has street jammed to raise funds for flood victims and cancer patients. Recently we initiated another movement of collecting books for financially deprived school students around Dibrugarh with a concept of entertaining the pedestrians by jamming a song in exchange of a book,” he concludes.
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