In conversation with eminent Assamese singer and music director Kula Barua
In the galaxy of Assamese musicians and singers, there are but only a handful of personalities who have managed to attained eternal brilliance through their songs and compositions. One such eminent virtuoso in our midst is none other than Kula Barua, a person who has proved his excellence and versatility as a singer, musician as well as a music director. A crooner by nature, he has sung for numerous Assamese films and given to the Assamese music world some of its most evergreen and popular hit tracks.
Kula Barua was born in Guwahati in the year 1938 to late Premadhar Barua and late Lily Barua. He did his initial schooling in Tezpur since his father worked for the government in a transferrable position. From the fifth standard, he studied in Cotton Collegiate School of Guwahati. He finally graduated from B Barooah College of Guwahati.
Kula Barua’s singing career started when he began to perform in the Semoniar Sora programme of All India Radio. A regular singer since his college days, he became a regular artist of All India Radio by 1968 and by that time, was performing across various stages in the State. He has sung for several Assamese films, like Bristi, Srimoti Mohimamoyi, Xadori, Bixexerati, Probhatipokhirgan, Bonohonxo and Xendurare.
Besides an accomplished singer, Barua had also proved his mettle as a music director when he teamed up with Atul Medhi for two films – Srimoti Mohimamoyi and Xadori. In these two films, the music director-duo created evergreen hits like Duhatote Disa Muk Phool and Nila Akaxore, which were sung by Dolly Ghosh. Besides films, he has also worked as a music director in two serials of the Doordarshan, Guwahati.
Kula Barua, apart from singing, also plays the Hawaian guiter, Congo and Bongo. As a musician, he performed mostly during his college days when he was part of a music group called Melodica. Incidentally, the group, Melodica, was one of Assam’s first live performing bands and included prominent artists like Ramen Choudhury, Ramen Borkotoky, Padma Barua, Prabhat Sarma, Dr Siba Gogoi and late Utpal Barua. The group had also associated with legendaryartists like late Dr Bhupen Hazarika, late Khagen Mahanta and late Jayanta Hazarika.
The versatile singer was employed with the Assam State Transport Corporation since 1959 and retired from his job as Head Assistant. With the spirit of music flowing continuously in his soul, Kula Barua keeps travelling throughout the State, taking part in different musical performances as a judge and advisor.
The melange team met him in his familial house in Silpukhuri on June 21, which is celebrated as World Music Day all over the world, to know a bit more about his singing career. Following are excerpts.
Q. Please tell us a bit about your childhood and how you developed your interest in singing.
Ans: I was born on January 21, 1938 in this very house in Silpukhuri and have grown up in the city. Although I spent a bit of my formative years in Tezpur due to my father’s posting as a government employee, I did most of my schooling in Cotton Collegiate School of Guwahati. I later on did my graduation from B Barooah College. So you can say that I have literally been born and brought up in the city.
I never got the chance to receive formal education in music. During our days in Tezpur, one of my father’s younger brothers, late Mohan Bordoloi, was a crooner by heart. He used to hum popular songs and watching him, I too started humming songs to myself. I still do not know how it turned into an art form but I believe it to be the blessings of God and the love of the people which has brought me here to this stage. However, I have to admit that there always used to be a cultural ambience in our house as my father also used to perform in theatre performances and plays.
Q. You are also a prominent artist of All India Radio. Can you recount those early days of your association with AIR?
Ans: Once I started going to college, my interest in music deepened as I started performing in different stages across the entire State. During that time, I was invited to perform in the Semoniar Sora programme of All India Radio and by 1968, I had become a regular artiste of AIR. I believe my association with AIR greatly enriched my singing career as I came into close contact with the luminaries and legends of the Assamese music world. Recollecting those days, today I can safely say that those who sang for All India Radio those days comprised the cream of the music industry and being in their company, one could learn a lot. Even today I feel that the songs which were created back in those days are still alive in the hearts and soul of every listener of Assamese songs.
Q. Talking about lyrics, there is a lot of resentment regarding the lyrical content of the songs being produced in recent times. What is your opinion regarding the same?
Ans: Back in our days, we grew up listening to the creations of luminaries like Joyti Prasad Agarwalla, Bishnu Rava and the like. Later on, we got the opportunity to listen to the works of a legend like Bhupen Hazarika, whose works have been critically appreciated by the entire world audience. When we compare them with the songs which are being released nowadays, there is obviously a lot of difference.
I personally feel that in our days the singer, composer, music director and musicians all used to work together as a unit. They knew other’s abilities and weak points. They harnessed each other’s talents and exploited those to bring out the best in them. I somehow feel that same kind of bonding and team spirit missing in today’s music world.
Of course, there are a number of good and highly talented musicians in the music industry today. But I feel that they have forgotten about our rich musical legacy for the sake of producing fast-selling video songs. For them, I would like to say that it would be a sin if we forget about our musical legacy. I believe that if each and every artist keep our glorious music history and legacy in mind while creating new music, then we can surely revive the glory of our rich musical past.
Q. What was your first film as a singer? Can you please share your experiences about your first film?
Ans: I had first sung as a playback singer for the Assamese film, Bristi. Looking back, I am grateful to Jayanta Hazarika and Rhidiip Dutta who introduced me and gave me a chance to perform as a playback singer. Herein, once again, I would like to talk about the role of All India Radio in our lives. As artistes, AIR was the only medium which gave us an opportunity to express ourselves. There were no other communication media in those days and through AIR, we came into contact with a lot of positive and luminous personalities. Through AIR, I developed a sort of bonding with artists. The film Bristi holds a special place in my heart also for the fact that I got the chance to work with two legendary artists in that film. While I have already spoken about the role of late Jayanta Hazarika, it gives me a lot of pleasure to say that the first song which I sung as a playback singer was written by no one else other than Dr.Bhupen Hazarika himself. Two more legendary personalities – late Biju Phukan and late Deuti Barua – were involved in the production of this song.
After Bristi, I worked in films like Srimoti Mohimamoyi, Xadori, Bixexerati, Prabhati Pokhir Gaan and others.
Q. You are also a very popular music director and your collaborations with Atul Medhi is still recounted even today. Please tell us about your journey as a music director.
Ans: I worked as a joint music director withAtul Medhi for two films, Srimoti Mohimamoyi and Xadori. In these two films, we created songs like Duhatote Disa Muk Phool and Nila Akaxore, which were sung by Dolly Ghosh. I got introduced to Dolly Ghosh, who is originally from Dibrugarh, through All India Radio itself. By the grace of god, the songs have been very warmly received by music lovers even till date. Individually, I have worked as a music director for two television serials, Lahar and Namghoriya, which were telecast in Doordarshan.
Q. You play a number of musical instruments like the Hawain Guitar, Banjo and Congo. How did you learn so many different instruments?
Ans: I love guitar. In our days, buying a guitar was a herculean task. My father passed away early and I had to take familial responsibilities early on. Somehow I managed to purchase a guitar. Through All India Radio, I came into touch with Rana (late Jayanta Hazarika). He was a good guitarist. I used to go to his house in Happy Villa of Kharguli and learn from him. Incidentally, I met his guitar teacher Bhaba Banerjee in his house and it was he who introduced me to the Hawain Guitar. I started playing instruments like the Banjo at that time.
However, I did not take any formal training in any musical instrument. Somehow by the grace of god, everyone loved my music and I got the opportunity to perform alongside on the same stage with my guitar guru. I count that as a real blessing in life.
Q. You have been part of Assam’s first instrumental music group, Melodica. Please tell us how you formed the group.
Ans: In Melodica, I played the Hawain Guitar and also sang a few songs. The group comprised of Ramen Choudhury on the piano, Ranen Borkotokyon the drums, my brother who played the Congo and myself, who played theHawain guitar. Since all of us were involved with music, we thought of forming an instrument group which would not be confined to studio sessions.
Later on, flautist Prabhat Sharma also joined us. We performed all popular songs, especially Assamese songs and Lokageets. We even performed as a group for an Assamese feature film.