An artivist who fought to have it all

Hemanga Biswas.

Humayun Azam Rewaz writes about the legacy of Hemanga Biswas, a lyricist, musician and political activist

The literature which does not arouse in us a important spirit, or fulfill our religious requirements, which is not ‘force-giving’ and dynamic, which does not awaken our sense of magnificence, which does not make us deal with the grim  realities of lifestyle in a spirit of perseverance, has no use for us today. It are not able to even be termed as literature. — Munshi Prem Chand

Hemanga Biswas, the legendary cultural personality’s musical journey can be reread to trace the legacy of a particular literary custom and its social therapy in the colonial time period and subsequent political occasions. Well known resistance songs these as ‘We shall overcome’, ‘John Henry’ or the planet well known anthem of the socialist motion ’The Internationale’ was translated, composed and popularised with best craftsmanship by Hemanga Biswas. He was a person of international spirit but generally intently related to his land and soul of his individual persons. He was philosophically motivated by the Joseph Stalin’s terms, ‘International in content but nearby in the form’. He is celebrated for his literature, enthusiasm for people’s tunes, specifically the Bhatiali. Most of his folks tunes are motivated by the spirit of mass music. Hemanga Biswas outlined mass song with its utmost political prudence, as he mentioned that ‘In reality, mass tracks are originated in the estuary, the place a stream of patriotism flows into the ocean of universality of the proletariat’ (my translation). He created a considerable contribution as a political thinker and musicologist which is a quite rare blend among the popular artists. Rongili Biswas, daughter of Hemanga Biswas and editor of Hemango Biswas Rachanasangraha explained to that ‘He firmly considered that folk singing is non-codified. Its sensibility is outlined by the specificities of bodily atmosphere, language, tune, the rhythm of labour, designs of articulation as very well as geographical, historical and cultural contexts of a distinct region’. She additional, ‘if it has a thing that is construed and formed by the parameters, I just talked about that would improved be termed as bahirana, a method of mastering that attracts upon the traditions of a specific location, and is firmly rooted in the cultural specificities of the same’. His theoretical essays are compiled in the ebook titled Ganer Bahirana, a important contribution to ethnomusicology. 

Hemanga Biswas was born to a landlord relatives on December 14, 1912, in Mirashi of Habiganj and died on November 22, 1987. Hemanga turned included in the Swadeshi movement at a very young age. He was imprisoned for his involvement. Later, he joined the communist motion and the Indian People’s Theatrical Association. He played an active part to sort trade unions in the tea gardens of Assam. His genius in assimilating the art kinds of folks tradition and his enthusiasm for the workers and peasants built him a outstanding personality of the IPTA movement. He once explained, ‘I came in this article for revolution, not just to perform’. He was not just a mere lyricist, singer or performer but a political activist with a progressive eyesight. That’s why he never ever stepped back to criticise party’s improper conclusions. In his essay ‘Gononattyo Andolone Amar Gaan’, he criticised the typical practice of ‘link-up’ and ‘way out’ whilst composing a new track for the campaign. The system of ‘link up and way out’ was to url every single text (tune) with ‘Japanese Fascism’, ‘famine’ and escalating ‘production’ which lacks aesthetic perfections. He criticised this weak propagandist method and asserted himself as an avid communicator.

He was so passionate about the ‘source materials’, the primary expression of music that he prioritised the real bonding of the entire body and soul of the singer. He was bitterly significant pertaining to the craze for low-cost urbanisation of renowned people songs distorting the incredibly primary compositions. He desired the minimalist presentation of a folks tune by day-to-day area singers. Proper musical accompaniment can bloom the actual essence of people songs. His autobiographical crafting Ujan Gang Baiya tells the untold historical past of the singers, activists from the working course in India.

During IPTA movement, several of his music received greatest reputation amid political activists and mass individuals. Those people songs largely uphold the battling spirit of peasants, mock the electricity structure. The Mountbatten Mangalkavya (1948) was most famed amongst the latter category. It was a satirical tale towards the Congress government, which was composed in a combined tune of Kirtan and other folk tunes. He was arrested for this music and the track was banned.

In the 1940s, he led to the development of IPTA wing in Assam. IPTA artists utilised indigenous establishments and folk texts to talk with the mass to ‘propagate anti-fascist ideology and espouse the trigger of world democracy’. For the duration of this time in Assam, he grew to become close to celebrated composer, singer and poet Bhupen Hazarika. Throughout 1960, riots broke out in Assam. Hemanga Biswas along with Bhupen Hazarika, led an anti-riot cultural marketing campaign in Assam by forming a cultural troupe including artist and activists of many ethnic origins. They jointly composed and performed a track known as Haradhan Rongmon Katha. It tells a tale of two distressed Bengali and Asamees peasants who shed everything in the riot. The song was composed by blending the bhatiali and bihu folk tunes. Their collaborative peace initiative built a sizeable contribution to ending the riot. At this juncture, Hemanga Biswas deviating from his social gathering line and lend his guidance to the Congress government to prevent the riot.  Rongili Biswas began a research project on that historic occasion and produced a documentary in 2018. at?v=AtI0yEbwYCs

In 1957, he went to China and lived there for two and a 50 % yrs. The motion for the transformation of social and financial relations in China amazed him. He frequented China yet again and published two guides on his working experience there. In the Bombay Meeting of IPTA in 1953, Hemango Biswas and Salil Choudhury engaged in a debate. Hemango Biswas was in favour of relying only on folks tunes for mass songs with an eye to consider it to the peasant masses. Salil Choudhury, on the contrary, was of the perspective of mixing folks tunes with the harmony of western music.

As part of the IPTA motion, Hemanga Biswas composed tunes for a quantity of theatre productions. That involves the historic participate in Kallol (Wave) by Utpal Datta. Kallol was a milestone in the cultural background of Kolkata. He also composed music for the performs which include Tir (Arrow), Rifle composed and staged by Utpal Datta. Hemango Biswas was the playback singer in Meghe Dhaka Tara (1960), Lalon Fakir and Komal Gandhar (1961). The extremely 1st LP record of Hemanga Biswas arrived to the marketplace in 1978, when he was at the age of 66. His record of the recorded track is not extended, but the kinds that are recorded are strong more than enough to echo the internal self of the artist variety the valley of Surma. Habiganjer Jalali Koitor is a form of his autobiography. He named himself the thirsty Seagull from the valley of Surma, also talked about his musical bond with Bhatiali and its awesome tune. Shongkhachil was a different milestone which was a response to Hiroshima massacre for the duration of the Environment War II. Ajadee Hoyni Tor was published and sung by Hemango Biswas. It is one particular of quite a few music in the legacy of the motion of the progressive remaining of India. Dhakar Dak was written and composed in response to language motion in 1952. Negro bhai amar was composed and created by Kamal Sarcar dependent on Subhas Mukhopadhyaya’s translation of Najim Hikmet’s poem. ‘Mass Singers’ the troupe of Hemango Biswas offered this song and it was a grand good results.  Some of his popular songs contains Roosh desher comrade lenin, Amra to bhuli nai shahid, Nam tar chhilo Jon Henry, Banchbo re banchbo amra, Ful guli kothai gelo, kollolito nobo Kolkata, Sona bandhu re, Deho tori dilam chhariyo, and many others. Ful guli kothai gelo was the translated edition of famous American folks singer Pete Seegar’s well-known song ‘Where have all the flowers gone (1962)’. Hemanga Biswas translated superior range of protest music from various international locations such as China, Central Asia, and Russia.

‘Hemanga Biswas archive’, initiated by Rongila Biswas, contains many notebooks with lyrics of tunes gathered by Biswas from a variety of Indian provinces. They involve bhatiali, bhaoaia, kamrupi, bongeet, sari, jari, jhaore, ghumor, murshidi, jhumur, gambhira, bhadu, tusu, kajri, choiti, dhamail, lullaby, hori, bihu, and many others. Rongili Biswas mentioned, ‘within this repertoire, only preferred number of have been recorded in Biswas’ possess voice (in the album Surma Nadir Gangchil), which gives a essential strategy about the very nuanced and ornate design of bhatiali. That also tells us about his bigger role to preserve the folk songs and its custom. It is unfortunate that the legacy of Hemanga Biswas can hardly be traced in Bangladesh now. The partition and article liberation war political context produced a gray location where famous cultural icons lost their lively connection to this land and persons of Bangladesh. Hemanga Biswas produced enormous contribution to IPTA motion, peasant motion and inspired lots of unsung heroes of this land who celebrated the social electricity of songs with top excellence, artist like Nibaran Pandit, Nirmalendu Chowdhuri, Gobinda Das, Moghai Ojha and Gurudas Paul. The urban mental community has currently minimised them by solitary tagline, ‘folk music’. Hemanga Biswas challenged this dominating tendency. He dreamed of the triumph of cultural variety. This essay intends to forged a highlight on the social electrical power of music, natural and organic celebration of people society and tradition which at the time united the country to battle against colonial electricity and tyrant rulers.  This is substantial time to retrieve the legacy of Hemanga Biswas, an activist who fought to have it all through his everyday living, whose language is quite near to our coronary heart. It’s additional vital now as the area for cultural liberty, progressive motion, freedom of speech is steadily shrinking and the extremist are making new means to distort the harmony, but —  

Oh, deep in my heart

I do believe

We shall conquer, sometime.

Humayun Azam Rewaz is a youthful cultural activist.

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