Assam has a unique pride of place when it comes to traditional folk songs and music. Regionwise, however, these traditional songs and music have their own distinct styles and forms, and they differ in their rendition patterns, thanks to different cultures in different parts of the state. Yet, all these combine together to make the colourful composite Assamese culture. And, even as we march towards modernity, these very folk traditions reflect our cultural identity.
Goalpariya songs are a major component of the Assamese folk traditions. With a distinctive style, these folk songs instantly touch the inner chords of listeners with their melody. It was Pratima Barua Pandey – billed the Samraggi of Goalpariya Lokageet – who popularised these folk songs all over Assam with her unique style of rendition, assisted with able instrumentalists. Conferred with the coveted Padmashri and the Sangeet Natak Akademi award, the late singer was also instrumental in putting Goalpariya folk songs on a firm pedestal at the national level.
After Pratima Barua Pandey’s demise, a number of Goalpariya folk singers have come to the scene, trying to fill the void left by the Samraggi and, in the process, winning the hearts of music lovers. Bina Das Borthakur is one among those select few, who have endeavoured to popularise and propagate this art form.
Bina Das Borthakur has, however, been lucky enough to have had the chance to meet Pratima Barua Pandey at a very tender age and to be blessed by the legend. It only encouraged her to learn the nuances of this art form thoroughly, and since childhood, she has been performing Goalpariya songs creditably on various fora, honing her skills over the years. She was also lucky enough to feature in an album of Goalpariya folk songs alongside the Samraggi herself. Titled Jhunuka Gareya, the album was a huge hit among the music lovers.
Inspired by its success, Bina Das Borthakur, who says, “the blessing of my audience is what eggs me on”, soon after, came out with her solo album of Goalpariya folk songs, where popular Assamese singer Pulak Banerji appeared as a guest artiste. The album was aptly titled Sundari Radhe and it too gained immense popularity among the listeners because of its pristine tunes and melody.
Now, Bina Das Borthakur has come up with her latest Goalpariya folk song offering – Kamala Sundari Nache — a video CD, which is a tribute to the folk form’s empress Pratima Barua Pandey. The video album has some soul-stirring numbers, with Pulak Banerji rendering the male vocals. The folk numbers have been beautifully picturised in the VCD as a number of top and popular Assamese artistes inject life into the songs with their lively dance performances and acting. The artistes include among others, Chetana Das, Gayatri Mahanta, Barasharani Bishaya, Nishita Goswami, Nayan Nirban and Siddhartha Mukherjee. This VCD has also been receiving a good response from the Assamese music lovers.
In her solemn mission to tread the path of Pratima Barua Pandey in popularising Goalpariya folk songs, Bina Das Borthakur herself had ventured into the remote corners of undivided Goalpara district to collect these folk gems and present them before the audience in their pristine form. She has been successful in it too, as she has so far performed well in over 500 stage shows across the State as well as in various places of the country, including Delhi, Kolkata, Rajasthan, Kerala, Andamans, etc, and these have been well received by a cross section of audience.
In recognition to her dedication towards this folk form, the recent feather to have been added to Bina Das Borthakur’s cap is her empanelment in the list of folk singers by the Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) in 2008. This will win her invitations to perform in various select festivals and fora in India and abroad. The year also saw her being selected for a special award by the Assam Sports and Cultural Festival, 2008 for her selfless works in the field of Goalpariya folk songs and their development.
A visharad in Indian classical music (vocal), Bina Das Borthakur feels that Goalpariya Lokageet is not the traditional art form of undivided Goalpara district alone, it has, in fact, assimilated into the greater Assamese culture as the land’s folk song. “Goalpariya Lokageet has a unique bond with the Assamese lifestyle and their echoes can even be heard in any other ethnic society of Assam,” says the folk singer, according to whom the popularity of this particular genre of Assamese folk songs has been soaring with every passing day.
Kamal Kr Bhagawati