Most versatile singer (1970-2017)

Folk singer and researcher/song archivist Kalika Prasad Bhattacharya (11 September 1970-7 March 2017) was super versatile. Born and raised in Silchar, Assam, music, rhythm and tune were an intrinsic part of his growing years, his musical inspiration being his uncle Ananta Bhattacharya.

He took to the tabla as naturally as he learned to walk, and was gradually propelled towards various ethnic percussion, and also trained in vocal music. With a comparative literature degree from Jadavpur University in 1995, he got in 1998 a research grant from India Foundation for the Arts for ‘Industrialisation and Folk music’, and went to Bangalore.

His keen interest in music eventually led him towards the folk music of Bengal and Bangladesh, Barak Valley in Assam and northeastern India, and the search for traditional vibrant, melodious folk songs.In 1999, he co-founded the band Dohar, a group of folk musicians with the intent to revive the folk music tradition of northern and eastern Bengal,and got unnoticed folk songs flowing from time immemorial, reach innumerable people through the nine albums produced by his band. Dohar amazingly merged the urban feelings with their commitment to the roots, research and entertainment, being inseparably entwined.

He can also be attributed as a Tagorian scholar. ‘Bangla’, a collection of Rabindra Sangeet and folk songs in the form of a dialogue between the genres was based on its thematic reading. His Ajab Kudrati proves his unique innovativeness and dramatic craftsmanship. Dohar incidentally was also empaneled by Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR).

He also contributed music to a number of movies, like Bhuban Majhi, Selfie, Bhuban Majhi, Bishorjan, Rosogolla and Sitara. He also sang a few playback songs in Hindi and Bengali movies. The Hindi films include Gumshuda. The Bengali films Chaturanga, Moner, Manush, Jaatishwar and Bhuban Majhi.

He also steered many television music-reality shows. He promoted Bengali folk music in the popular Zee Bangla programme ‘Sa Re Ga Ma Pa’, and got worldwide acclamation. His last concert was at the Baguihati Krishi Mela.

In 2012, Bhattacharya wrote various research oriented articles for national and international journals and newspapers. He also gave music for eminent theatre groups like ‘Nandikar’, ‘Kalyani Natya Charcha’ and ‘Tritiyo Sutro’.

He was also one of the founder-organisers of ‘Sahaj Parav’- an annual root music festival, striving to celebrate the diversity and variety of folk forms of arts and crafts in greater south Asia, with a deliberate focus on Bengal. Through this, Kalika’s commitment to the proliferation of the traditional arts is explicit, and once again confirms his pledge for the development and rediscovery of the lost tunes of the soil.

The Bangladesh government organised a memorable programme as a token of tribute to the maestro Bhupen Hazarika where Bhattacharya led Dohar dished out unforgettable numbers of the former. Besides, he was the pivotal personality at a seminar on Dr. Hazarika at a Dhaka programme.

Bhattacharya received the ‘Sangeet Samman’ award from the government of West Bengal for his unique creation and musical excellence in 2013, and the ‘Cultural Ambassador of North East’ award from Bytikram Group, Guwahati, in 2013.

Bhattacharya died in a terrible road accident near Gurap village in Hooghly district of West Bengal on 7 March 2017, aged just 47.On his way with four other members of his band, Dohar, to perform at a Birbhum school, their SUV was hit from behind by a truck,and fell into a nearby water body.He was declared brought dead to the hospital. Condolences poured in. He was creative thinking personified. His passing is a big loss to Bengali music. He leaves behind his wife and daughter.

– A.Radhakrishnan is a Pune based freelance journalist, poet, short story writer.