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When classical music meets the rock: Two worlds in one universe
Last year on December 22, 2013 , Assam Association celebrated the 150th birth anniversary of Lakshminath Bezbaroa. The event took place at the renowned Siri Fort Auditorium. I am not much of a music lover myself. However, I decided to go ahead with the show for lack of anything better to do.

The event started off with a chorus “Aami Asomiya Nohou Dukhiya” a composition by Bezbaroa. A common refrain throughout the programme was remembering the contributions of this illustrious son of the state, who explored almost every possible form of writing and gave Assamese language a new identity. Apart from that, the pertinent question was how we can keep alive the language with the newer generations, especially with those kids who live away from their motherland.

Quite interestingly, the line up of the function consisted of the second generation of artists. The first being, Amaan Ali Khan and Ayaan Ali Khan, both sons of Amjad Ali Khan and Subhalakshmi Khan. Mrs. Khan, a classical danseuse happens to belong to Assam. And the second being, Angaraag Mahanta with his band East India Company. Angaraag is the son of popular Assamese singer Khagen Mahanta. While both the Khan brothers and Papon have an association with Assam, the similarity ends there. The music they represent and their presentation were poles apart.

Spiritual Conquest

It was heartening to see the audience maintain a pin drop silence throughout the performance of Amaan and Ayan. While Amaan came across as a serious and disciplined performer and Ayaan was more on the flamboyant side. The jugalbandi that both of them created along with their companions was amazing.

It’s only when you watch a classical performance you realize, the amount of patience and riyaz that goes into a recital. I deeply regretted the fact that my understanding of classical music was so limited. I am a trained Bharatnatyam dancer myself. However, I still do not understand the ragas well.

After a point of time, my ignorance got the better of me and I found the music repetitive. I cursed myself silently for not being able to enjoy true talent. I could only appreciate the highs and lows of it. Sadly, my opinion was also the opinion of my friends present in the hall. Despite that the audience maintained perfect decorum throughout their performance.

The performance continued non-stop for about an hour. It would not be wrong to say that we were transported to a different spiritual level altogether. Needless to say, that it ended with a thunderous standing ovation.

Power of Rock

The next performance was that of Angaraag and his band. The crowd welcomed him with loud cheers. Angaraag is consummate performer, his body language confident, his voice captivating. From the moment he appeared on the stage till the time the show ended, no one looked anywhere else. He belted out his popular numbers from his albums, Coke Studio and some Bollywood songs. He handled every cat cry every demand comfortably. And when a young fan declared her love for him he replied with great panache that he loved her too.

Before long, he had every one on their feet and the ‘sitting comfortably auditorium’ became something close to a rock concert.

Two Worlds in One Universe

In the aftermath of the show, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that his rocking performance which had everyone on their feet overshadowed the standing ovation that the Khan brothers received. It brings to forefront an important question, how we as an audience should appreciate art? Do we know how to take our culture forward?

In this regard, Papon aptly said that we have to present our culture to the younger generation in a way that is not imposing. His songs, his music truly reflects his thoughts. Be it Boitha Maaro or his version of acoustic folk Bihu, it all spells his belief.

And yet, we cannot underestimate the magic of something pure. Perhaps, the best way to judge them is to understand that they represent two different worlds. One has the remarkable power to instill a rare stillness in the otherwise restless audience, and the other has the magic to get everyone up on their feet.

While there is place for the popular there is also place for the classical. And in tandem, they become a whole that is our culture.

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