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Singing a different tune

Bhoomi from Kolkata, are credited with reviving folk music in Bengal.

As the name Bhoomi suggests, this Bangla Band's music is close to its roots. Their songs, colored with the flavor of traditional tunes, have easily conquered the young and the old. Bhoomi [Earth] has fast emerged to be one of the most popular bands in the last few years. It is the only band which defines its music as decidedly ‘urban folk’, and it is evident in their consistent fusion of modern, urban lyrics with Bangla rural folk tunes like Baul or Bhatiyali, the latter being traditionally sung by the boatmen on the Ganga and also the Padma, now in Bangladesh.

It is a significant achievement that Bhoomi of all the bands, has been successful in expanding the audience of Bangla Band’s urban music beyond the college campus and youth circuits into the older, middle aged listeners. Though everyday city life remains one of their main inspirations behind their music, the band maintains that there was no conscious attempt to sound political at all.

For an entire generation of Kolkatans, Bhoomi’s first album Jatra Shuru opened up a whole new world in music. The group does not like to call itself a Bangla rock band. Instead, they have emerged as the voice for Bengali youth and speak about the new generation’s joys and sorrows, about who they were and what they want to be - all in lilting melodies and simple lyrics.

After having come out with four successful albums - including Jatra Shuru Udaan and Paal Chhutechhe, Bhoomi is now looking to expand beyond Bengal. "Our lyrics set us apart, and more importantly, they are totally original" says Surojit Chatterjee, the band’s lead singer, lyricist and composer.

In Kolkata today, bands like Bhoomi, ChandraBindoo, Krosswindz and Cactus are hugely popular. "Bands have taught people that music need not always be solo singer-focused. Guitarists, bassists and drummers too play an important role", says Soumitra Ray, the other lead singer and drummer. Bhoomi, which started out in 1999, has today been credited with reviving folk music in Bengal. "Our popularity is not just with youngsters, Bhoomi’s songs are enjoyed by a wide cross section of people", says Surojit, who feels Bhoomi is the only band that has conquered urban as well as rural Bengal. "We churn out numbers that strike a chord as we speak the language of the people", says Abhijit Ghosh, bassist and entertainer of the group. "We have performed at several festivals in India and the US.

We have also performed to a record audience in Washington and Los Angeles", says Surojit.

Probably a decade earlier a rock band singing folk numbers would have been unthinkable. Earlier, the rock groups sang Bengali songs that were either adaptations or translations. But things have changed. "We dislike singing cover versions and that is why people enjoy our music", says Abhijit.

The first Bengali music album of the group called BHOOMI sets in motion the concept of folk music in terms of MUSICAL BANDS. The songs are original, but have rustic flavors all the same. The harmony in all the numbers is highly appreciable. It is really a matter of sheer joy to listen to this album. If I am not mistaken, the artists have toiled hard to visit various rural places and learn the nuances of different types of sounds that could be transformed into musical notes. It is sad that the female voice is no more associated with this Bangla Band.

Definitely, "Yatra Shuru" is a JOURNEY WELL BEGUN! Music sure brought them closer, but it is a sense of fun that really binds them together as a group.

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