Songs of Spring

Violinist Sunita Khaund Bhuyan will perform songs from her upcoming  album, Bihu Strings, at a concert that pays tribute to the Assamese New Year, Rongali Bihu, a festival that heralds the coming of spring

Violinist Sunita Khaund Bhuyan recalls the festive fervour associated with the Assamese New Year, Rongali Bihu, while growing up in Assam.

Violinist Sunita Khaund Bhuyan

“The celebrations kick off one month in advance, and are characterised by shopping, heading to pandals where there is singing and dancing, and family get-togethers,” she says.

There are three different festivals that come under Bihu. These include Kongali/ Kathi Bihu during October and the harvest festival, Bhogali Bihu, in January. However, it is Rongali Bihu, which falls on April 14, this year, celebrated during spring that is most looked forward to.

When a record company approached Bhuyan a year ago to create an album of original Bihu songs, she readily agreed. “The north-eastern states have a rich folk music heritage that is yet untapped. The songs speak of the culture of these states through rhythm, melody and meaning.”

Dabbling in Assamese folk music was a novel venture for the 41-year-old musician, who is trained in the Hindustani classical style. “This is the first Assamese project I am working on,” says Bhuyan, who was encouraged to work on the album by her mother, veteran violinist Minoti Khaund. “My mother encourages people to learn the classical arts as she believes it enables you to innovate, later on, and dabble in various genres.”

Album cover of Bihu Strings

At her upcoming performance, Bhuyan will perform songs from her new album, Bihu Strings, which includes five compositions that fuse Jazz and Irish folk music with Bihu compositions.
Each song tells a story about certain facets of Assamese life. Buli Naage Champa, for instance, is a song that speaks of the sensuous tresses of the lover adorned with the naage champa flowers, while Luitor Baalite is about the fun had by two youngsters on the banks of the Brahmaputra and fuses Bihu with Irish folk and rock percussions.

Though, not all the songs are about love and laughter. Ranga Nadi describes the travails of life during floods, which cannot dampen the festive spirit.

The final composition, Xosakoi Bor Dhunia, is an expression of teenage love in the Bihu toli or gatherings.

“We’ve used the buffalo horn flute, tabla, dhol and keyboard, but we haven’t tampered with the essence of the components — be it the classical ragas or the Bihu compositions,” adds Bhuyan, whose voice also features on the album.

According to the violinist, the biggest challenge was not to perform the folk songs on the violin, given her background in classical music, which helped her recreate the sounds, easily. “Adding a folksy feel and recreating the earthy vibe of the songs, which are usually performed in fields across the state was the real test,” she says.

The event at Nehru Centre will kick off with a Bhupen Hazarika tribute, which will be followed by a classical composition, a Bihu dance and songs from the album.

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