The Complete Bhupen Hazarika - Part 1

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Bhupen Hazarika is an artist who has inspired billions of people with his music. There can be a whole manuscript written on his life. In this article, we'll look into one of the albums that has connect with me since my childhood: The Complete Bhupen Hazarika.

Released in Jan 2002, as an audio cassette under the label Virgin Records (India) Pvt. Ltd., this album has songs that are mainly Hindi translations of Bhupen Hazarika's original songs, with his voice in some of them. The tracks have an interesting structure: they begin with Bhupen Hazarika's voice with the original lyrics and then transition into the Hindi version, sometimes lead by a different singer. I love how there is a 'vintage' texture in these preludes before the soundscape starts sounding 'modern' from a production standpoint.

First track on the A-side of the album is Ganga Behti Ho Kyun, a song that calls upon the river Ganga which flows through the Himalayas and northern part of India before it merges with the Bay of Bengal. The river is the main source of water and livelihood for an entire set of population and the song lyrics ask it, "Why do you flow?", as if provoking, "What's your purpose?" The song then brings up the social and economic issues of corruption & evil and provokes the river of its silence to all of this. "Budha lui" is how Bhupen Hazarika calls Ganga. He sounds personally connected to it.

The song is filled with mesmerising flute interludes, bass, other instruments and the electronic sounds available during those years. The artist list mentioned in the credits include Kavita Krishnamurthy, Shaan, Hema Sardesai, Dominique, Ishaan, Mahalaxmi, Suneeta Rao, Rekha, Arpana & a group for Chorus. Each of these accompany Bhupen Hazarika, often for just one line, but it all just reiterates the message that the call to Ganga isn't just from one person but rather a concern from every citizen.

The song concludes with a goosebump giving combination of these magical voices. As you can notice, I haven't been able to find any good adjectives and words to properly describe the experience you get when you listen to this song. I'm overwhelmed as I write this while listening to the song on loop so I'm going to let you listen to it for yourself and will write details of rest of the songs from this album in another article.

Concern: Even though this is the best cassette I own, it's unfortunate that there is no digital version available anywhere on the internet. In the past year or so, a few CDs have shown up on some websites but it's not clear if those are from the original source. It's a lesson that archival of art must become a priority for us. There needs to be funds, departments & organisations to seriously pursue it.

I found a YouTube version of the song, which is possibly uploaded by a fan who also was looking for the digital copy but couldn't. There's no guarantee that this video would stay online in the future. I'm hopeful that the label will officially release the album on streaming platforms soon. If you know someone at this label, please do share this article with them. For more details about the album, take a look at discogs.