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Journey of Bishnupriya Manipuri music

BN Sinha

I always had the privilege growing up with the belief that we are enriched with culture and dogmas which we have inherited traditionally. From the very childhood I have had the advantage to be brought up seeing people of Bishnupriya Manipuri community who are believed to be the idols of Bishnupriya Manipuri music and literature. Keeping an interest in music was obvious being neighbors of maestros like Pt.Matilal Sinha and Late Suronath Sinha apart from schoolmates of various communities who also used to engrossed with art and music. In my younger days,  western classics like “Material Girl, Hotel California, Sultans of Swings, Another brick in the wall, Final countdown etc.. were dictated youngsters along with the Hindi film songs of Kishore Kumar, which the then generation used to be fond of. Nevertheless, the enticement for Bishnupriya Manipuri music was never diminished.  

Historians say that the evolution of Bishnupriya Manipuri song took place with “Boronor Ela” … songs of rain to the heaven like “boron de bouraja” etc. I have only heard about the legendary Bishnupriya Manipuri composers of yesteryears viz., Tonu Kirtanee, Gokulananda, Kalasena, Senarik etc., but never had the opportunity to listen them since their works were not conserved or propagated properly. Not to mention Gokulananda who is better known as Geetiswami Gokulananda had revolutionised  and was instrumental to bring a  renaissance  to Bishnupriya Manipuri community with his “Pada kirtan”. Even modern generation kids can also mumble “kale kale kalor kotha nahunai nakorer”. Few other significant works also had been there in that era but unfortunately those were not archived.

Another great musician of our community Late Pt Nilmadhav Sinha who was born in Singari, Silchar, India was one of the dearest disciples of none other than Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore. Nilmadhav passed many of his early life in Jorasako Thakurbari in Kolkata, later he moved to Lucknow to propagate Rabindra culture to North India. He is the only Bishnupriya Manipuri musician who happened to perform in front of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister and Sarvapalli Radha Krishnan, President of India from 1962 to 1967. Shri Nilmadhav was a renowned name in Rabindra Sangeet. Being a colleague of Suchitra Mitra and Kanika Bandopadyay, Nilmadhav has very negligible contribution to Bishnupriya Manipuri music.

Seventies and eighties can be termed as the golden era of Bishnupriya Manipuri music when the evolution of many great compositions took place. Who can forget legendary songs like “Punno Tirtho Manipur Maati, Mani Moyee Mor Ema” by Late Sj. Golap Sinha. This song is more like an anthem for the Bishnupriya Manipuri community, so also there are many other compositions of Pt Matilal Sinha like “Loktake Kaader” etc., which certainly need to be preserved. The person who contributed most was Late Surokar Suronath Sinha, youngest brother of Late Jagat Mohan Sinha of Bhakatpur, Assam. Songs like “Aaji Rohei Rohei Panchjonno Emar Ning e”, “Hai Radhe More Basigo De ne”, “Jonom Jonome More Diyapetheis Hunar Monipure” are to name a few among many of Suronath’s creations. Suronath used to write, compose and sing himself and was highly instrumental to motivate the people involved in “Bhasha Andolan”. Mahishasur Mardini, Raasa and Arati songs were also created in Bishnupriya Manipuri language by Sh Suronath only in that golden era, the era of our language movement in India. Many songs based on many poems which are detesting and rebellious also on poems which are sublime and melancholic. Many other unsung heroes like, Beli Lady Kunjabati, the greatest “Sutradhari” and “Basokuli” Maharani and many other singers who used to perform “Khollik” and “Monshikha” were also of that era.

However, the momentum started plummeting with time along with the language movement; consequently all kind of cultural bustles got paused or inhibited. Nevertheless, the corollary was strong enough to inspire non- Bishnupriya Manipuri musicians to show interest in songs, like the one by Rising group of Silchar spearheaded by Mriganka Gowasami and Bidhan Lakskar. It is always nostalgic to hear songs like “Taar Yaari Eta Jebakao Mone Aher” and “Aami Jir Jugor Jir Meipul Gi” etc.

The long pause started diminishing as we entered the i-networking era witnessing an eruption of gusto towards Bishnupriya Manipuri music and literature. Many youngsters started producing audio and video album of modern BM song also started posting on YouTube etc. Many gen Y singers emerged with their unique compositions. Hrishikesh, Tushar, Bithi, Subarna to name a few who already have had few albums in their kitty with hits like, “Monor Maloti”, “Jorom Oitou Mi Singarei go oiya”, “Tore Cheya”, “Jibone Morone Tor loge Thaitou”, “Jinar pothe”  and many more. And above all, Tripura-born Bhajan and Ghazal singer Sushanta who already have become a household name in Bishnupriya Manipuri music with his unique style of semi classical religious songs. Sushanta being the disciple of bhajan king Anup Jalota has acquired all the qualities to become an excellent musician and already performed in many occasions in various places in India and Bangladesh. His collection of Bishnupriya Manipuri bhajans “Bhajan Amrit” can be found in every household of Bishnupriya Manipuri community. Few other band like “Jam Station” also emerged with songs of rock and sufi genre.

Nonetheless, all the hip hop of latest trend of music and compositions, the decade old legacy of Bishnupriya Manipuri classical songs composed by the great legends of yesteryears  like Dr K P Sinha, Jagat Mohan Sinha, Biresh Sinha etc., is taken forward by Pt Matilal Sinha’s son Adhir who himself a maestro in classical music. Adhir Sinha has created name and fame on his own in Assam by giving his melodious voice to the legendary composition like, “Aar more ti ningsing nais” “Khalkoria Thaitou, Ahitei Buliya Kiya Ti Naile”, “O mor konak beibuni”, “Aajir E milon ehan” etc.  But the song which always takes me to a cerebral trance with a nostalgic effect is Adhir singing…

“Suror bhubone ….tore mi denar moto aar nei ….  Aaji tor janar din e..

Courtesy: "Suror Bhubone"Firaal


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