The golden history of Bengal
The Golden History of all music of Bengal. This article is driven by the culture of the rock music of Bengal. Rock music in Bengal started its glorious journey from Kolkata. There are two components to it – the immensely popular rock music scene in Bengali, called Bangla rock, originating in Kolkata in the 1970s with the formation of Moheener Ghoraguli, and Engish rock music, which, albeit fewer, has had its well-known artists and performers.
Rock music in Bengal started its glorious journey from Kolkata. There are two components to it – the immensely popular rock music scene in Bengali, called Bangla rock, originating in Kolkata in the 1970s with the formation of Moheener Ghoraguli, and Engish rock music, which, albeit fewer, has had its well-known artists and performers.
Moheener Ghoraguli was inspired by Western artists like Bob Dylan and many others. Their music was a mixture of a wide variety of influences, including folk traditions of Bengal like Baul. After Moheener, there was not much Bangla rock to speak about in West Bengal, for some time. Inspired by Moheener Bangla bands began to form in Bangladesh in the 1980s.
Later artists like Suman and Nachiketa popularized the idea of singing solo on stage with a guitar slung around their neck. This was markedly different from the way Bengali music had been traditionally sung. The seed for a new form of music had been sown.
The 1990s was the time when Bangla rock was reborn, and when it really gained the kind of frenzy stirred by Moheener Ghoraguli. There has been no looking back since. Here are few of the notable names in Bengal's Rock scene over the years:
The name 'Moheener Ghoraguli' was taken from the poem called 'Ghora' by poet Jibananda Das, whose new and different take on poetry inspired the band to create their own unique brand of music. The similarity with their idol, Bob Dylan was far from ignored, as Dylan was also influenced by a Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, and went on to take up the poet's name as part of his pseudonym (original name was Robert Allen Zimmerman).
Krosswindz was the first band from the eastern region to release an album in English way back in 1993 called 'Singles' and another album called One World in 2002. They also have nine albums in Bengali. Krosswindz toured the US in 2007 when they also played for Sandusky Radio in Seattle.
Lead guitarist and the band's lynchpin, Vikramjit 'Tuki' Banerjee is also a brand ambassador of the well-known USA-based guitar manufacturer, Schecter Guitars. BBC Radio London has done a full live interview and unplugged concert with Krosswindz.
According to the band, Cactus derived their name from the fact that the music scene was then (the early 90s) devoid of life as in a desert. And as they say, despite the odds, like a cactus, they have survived and prospered. Cactus was formed in 1992, inspired by bands like Deep Purple, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Iron Maiden and others. Theirs started with the purpose of doing rock'n'roll in a language closer to the soil and its people, that is, Bengali. Cactus went on to become the first ever professional Bangla rock band.
Fossils are considered one of the pioneering acts in Kolkata's Bangla rock music scene. Fossils came to be at a time when Bangla rock was taking baby steps. Rupam Islam, after his debut solo album in 1998, went on to form Fossils a year later.
The band started as a gathering of a handful of musical colleagues who shared Rupam's vision of a band that would push the envelope in contemporary Bangla rock. Within a short span of four years, Fossils went from strength-to-strength to become the most popular Bangla band in India, largely due to its explosive live shows and introspective and cathartic lyrics with melodic aggression.
Hip Pocket is a classic rock band. They formed in quite a casual manner. One fine day in 1996, drummer Nondon Bagchi called up other musicians to seek their interest, and that led to the formation of this band. Nondon is now the only existing original member of the band. They started as a pop band but later turned to classic rock. They also play hard rock in concerts. The band has been able to attract audiences and became famous after performing at Someplace Else in Park Hotel regularly. They now perform there every Wednesday and Friday night. Their early influences were Rolling Stones, Beatles, Pink Floyd and The Doors. Though they began playing Pink Floyd much later, they realized that it works best for them.
The rock band Lakkhichhara was formed in early 1999. Initially, they played professionally in college fests, hotels, and pubs. The year 2001 saw Lakkhichhara's debut album Megha Malhar. The album was not commercially successful but had some major hits like 'Care Corina' and 'Shudhu Chai Tomay' courtesy radio play on FM channels in Kolkata. In 2003 they recorded their second studio album – Jibon Chaichhe Aro Besi. Their 2005 album, named Eka, was a huge success. They have now become one of the most sought-after and highest paid Bangla bands of Kolkata.
Writing about rock music in Kolkata (and Bengal) cannot be complete without Amyt Datta, the virtuoso guitarist. He is also a session musician, teacher, and mentor. Datta, who commands a sort of demigod status with guitar fans across the country, is widely acknowledged to be one of the most innovative guitarists around today. He toured extensively with the rock band Shiva from mid-1980s to the early 1990s. He now plays and composes for experimental band Pink noise, pop/rock band Skinny Alley, and his own solo work, often in collaboration with Jivraj Singh.