Dr. Bhupen Hazarika was an Indian playback singer, lyricist, musician, poet, actor, filmmaker and politician from Assam, widely known as Sudha Kontho (meaning cuckoo, literally “nectar-throated”), he emerged as a central unifying figure in Assamese culture giving voice, identity and inspiration across the generations. His central message and vision of ‘unity with diversity’ included not only the numerous indigenous groups within neighbouring states undergoing difficult transitions in post independent India, but all of humanity. He was to achieve this feat through hundreds of songs, rich in voice melody and lyrics, written articles and personal contributions to promote peace and to extoll the greatness of a united and multi-cultural India.
His songs were written and sung mainly in the Assamese language by himself.
|Age||8 September 1926 – 5 November 2011 (85 years)|
|Other Names||Sudha Kontho|
|Occupation||playback singer, lyricist, musician, poet, actor, filmmaker and politician|
Early life of Bhupen Hazariki
Hazarika was born on 8 September 1926 to Nilakanta and Shantipriya Hazarika in Sadiya, an interior town of Assam on the bank of river Brahmaputra. His father was originally from Nazira, a town located in Sivasagar district. The eldest of ten children, Bhupen Hazarika (as well as his siblings) was exposed to the musical influence of his mother, who exposed him to lullabies and traditional Music of Assam. His father moved to the Bharalumukh region of Guwahati in 1929, in search of better prospects, where Bhupen Hazarika spent his early childhood. In 1932, his father further moved to Dhubri, and in 1935 to Tezpur. It was in Tezpur that Bhupen Hazarika, then 10-years-of-age, was discovered by Jyotiprasad Agarwala, the noted Assamese lyricist, playwright and the first Assamese filmmaker, and Bishnu Prasad Rabha, renowned Assamese artist and revolutionary poet, where he sang a Borgeet (the traditional classical Assamese devotional songs written by Srimanta Sankardeva and Sri Sri Madhabdeva), taught by his mother at a public function. In 1936, Bhupen Hazarika accompanied them to Kolkata where he recorded his first song at the Aurora Studio for the Selona Company. His association with the icons of Assamese culture at Tezpur was the beginning of his artistic growth and credentials. Subsequently, Hazarika sang two songs in Agarwala’s film Indramalati (1939): Kaxote Kolosi Loi and Biswo Bijoyi Naujawan at the age of 12. A revolutionary zeal was rooted during his childhood. Its expression was, no doubt, “Agnijugar firingathi mai” (I am the spark of the age of fire) which was written at 14 years of his age, and he was well on his way to becoming a lyricist, composer and singer.
Hazarika studied at Sonaram High School at Guwahati, Dhubri Government High School and matriculated from Tezpur High School in 1940. He completed his Intermediate Arts from Cotton College in 1942, and his BA (1944) and MA (1946) in Political Science from Banaras Hindu University. For a brief period, he worked at All India Radio, Guwahati when he won a scholarship from Columbia University and set sail for New York in 1949. There he earned a PhD (1952) on his thesis “Proposals for Preparing India’s Basic Education to use Audio-Visual Techniques in Adult Education”. In New York, Bhupen Hazarika befriended Paul Robeson, a prominent civil rights activist, who influenced him. He used music as the “instrument of social change” following the path of Paul Robeson who once told him about his guitar – “Guitar is not a musical instrument, it is a social instrument.” His song Bistirno Parore which is based on the tune, imagery and theme of Robeson’s Ol’ Man River. This song is translated in various Indian languages, including Bengali and Hindi and sung by the artist himself, and is still popular. Being inspired from some other foreign ones, he also composed several other songs in Indian languages. He was exposed to the Spiritual, and the multi-lingual version of We are in the Same Boat Brother became a regular feature in his stage performance. At Columbia University, he met Priyamvada Patel, whom he married in 1950. Tez Hazarika, their only child, was born in 1952, and he returned to India in 1953.
Professional life of Bhupen Hazariki
After completing his MA, he briefly worked at the All-India Radio station at Guwahati before embarking for his doctoral studies at Columbia University. Soon after completing his education, he became a teacher at the Guwahati University. But after a few years, he left the job and went to Kolkata where he established himself as a successful music director and singer. During that period, Hazarika made several award-winning Assamese films such as Shakuntala, Pratidhwani etc. and composed evergreen music for many Assamese films. He was also considered as a new trend setter in Bengali music. Bhupen Hazarika composed music for films from Bangladesh to which got international acclaim. He was elected the President of the Asam Sahitya Sabha in 1993. In 1967, Hazarika got elected as a member of Assam Assembly from Naoboicha constituency.
Marital Life of Bhupen Hazariki
Bhupen Hazakiri was married to Priyam Hazarika and the union was blessed with a child, Tej Hazarika.
Death of Bhupen Hazariki
Hazarika was hospitalized in the Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital and Medical Research Institute in Mumbai in 2011. He was admitted to the intensive care unit on 30 June 2011. He died of multi-organ failure on 5 November 2011. His body lay in state at Judges Field in Guwahati and cremated on 9 November 2011 near the Brahmaputra River in a plot of land donated by Gauhati University. His funeral was attended by an estimated half a million people.