Abhishruthi Bezbaruah, one of the most famous Assamese classical musicians in India, believes that music should be inclusive. The award-winning singer, blessed with a melodious voice and rich artistry, is charting new ground with music videos that connect with everyone. Onmanorama is catching up with talented singers, and has just released a new cover of ‘Aaj Jaane ki Zid Na Karo’, a music video that connects well with the hearing impaired.
Can you talk about the new cover song that was released?
‘Aaj Jaane ki Zid Na Karo,’ sung by famous ghazal singer Farida Khanum ji is very close to my heart. This last cover is my tribute. I have done several cover songs to commemorate great ghazal singers but this is different because I have performed the song in sign language.
What made you create such an album?
I’m a big believer in hybrids. My previous music video was dedicated to the transgender community. I decided to make a ghazal cover for the hearing impaired because I want my music to be understood by everyone. I specialize in Indian sign language so I decided to work on this cover.
That is a noble cause. Have you faced many challenges in learning a language?
Yes Accuracy is very important in sign language in India. I was trained by a teacher who taught me different aspects of the language. You need to correct your movements and facial expressions. Even a small difference can change how the other person sees them. Of course, there are challenges adding my album, but it’s a beautiful experience. I hope to do many more covers.
Your previous video ‘Ore Raati’ dedicated to the transgender community was very emotional…
Oh yes! I’ve always been clear that this song will be uplifting as I want to celebrate the lives of transgender people. I wanted to break down the lyrics of the sad song that feels for the community. So the number rises with a strong message at the end of ‘coherence’, ‘education’ & ’empowerment’: to embrace them as they are, learning & empowering ourselves.
Can you share your experience working with the community in song?
I had a wonderful experience working with the community (transgender) although at first I have to tell the truth, I was worried and doubted whether the community would talk to me or not and the song was more than helpful. We have a large LGBTQIA+ community in Assam, and the person who has reached out to me most of all from the community is Milin Dutta who is a proud trans man. He is now my best friend.
For this song to work for me, I had to do some research and study before talking to anyone. Milin helped me connect with many people & they gradually shared their stories over time. My lead character is a trans woman herself Ms Janvi Borkakoti. So the music video opens with a line that says ‘Inspired by live experiences’. I put together some important points that everyone talked about in this music video: How important it is for trans folks to change their names on paper, how hard it is when it comes to public bathrooms because there is no such thing as gender neutral bathrooms. and how difficult it is when the family does not accept you.
Although you are a classical Hindustani singer, it is interesting to see you working on independent covers and originals…
I like to experiment and try new things in terms of sound structure. If you listen to my Assamese songs like ‘Roi Roi Roti’, ‘Tok Dekhi Mor Gaa’, ‘Kordoi Sokola’, ‘Kerumoni Thuriya’ you will hear the sounds of nature. The keen interest in mixing and matching natural sounds, local instruments of Assam with electronic sound (without losing the essence of folk music) also comes from my experience working in sound design. of films under Dr Resul Pookutty, Amrit Pritam. One of my tracks called Roi Roi Roti, the track starts with the sound of a cuckoo and we create the general rhythm of the track with the click-clack of the loom where we wrap our traditional Mekhela chador, with the sounds of rice, waves etc. . you will also notice that the visuals and audios are the same as the sounds. An attempt at folk fusion is a natural sound, a local instrument as opposed to a traditional and western sound.
How did you get interested in sound design?
I have always been interested in music since childhood and started my formal training in music under maestros like Guru Shri Damodar Bora of Assam, Guru Smt. Mandira Lahiri of Kolkata and Guru Shri Jiten Basumatary of Assam from the age of six. Although classical Hindustani music is my forte (Abhishruthi is a disciple of Padma Bhushan Pt Rajan – Sajan Misra of Banaras Garana), I have studied different types of music. Soon enough, my interest in learning the technical side of music also grew. This is why I decided to pursue a degree in sound design and music production at Whistling Woods International. In 2011, I started working with Academy Award-winning voice actor Resul Pookutty. I have worked in films like ‘English Vinglish’, ‘Highway’, etc.
Was music the only career option you considered?
Although my parents wanted their daughter to pursue a career in medicine, they were very supportive when I told them about my fear of blood and my interest in continuing to study music. Almost everyone in my family is a musician, including my father who played banjo and mandolin.
What are the efforts to popularize Assamese music all over India?
Nowadays, we have very good Assamese representation in Bollywood. However, we still have our art and culture to get the recognition it deserves across the country. Now it is happening slowly, thanks to the efforts of the head of government and the prime minister. Our culture and music are also greatly appreciated wherever I perform and this brings great joy.