RASHMI OBEROI | 25 NOVEMBER, 2019
Where Words Fail… Music Speaks
It was one of those boring days on Facebook and while scrolling through the mundane status updates and photos (mostly selfies) that random people put up, I noticed that one of my favourite musicians, Rudy Wallang, had shared a link to a song by Ambar Das. He mentioned that the song ‘hit the spot’. Curiosity killed the cat they say but in this case I heard one of the most powerful renditions in recent times.
There is something unique about music and how it binds us all universally. Music is the one language everyone can speak (though the argument may be made that some speak it more fluently than others). That power of music, lyrics, and songs to reach from the beyond – or into the future – has a magical ability to make you smile, understand or get a sense of something with a deeper meaning. Music is a powerful tool in this regard because it acts on consciousness more directly than most other mediums of communication.
Ambar initially sat down to compose a romantic song for his wife but previous to that night, he had been having some fervent discussions with like-minded friends about the times we live in. “The cows are safe, but the girls are not…” he said aloud and his musician friend Nilanjan egged him on to turn those words into a song – and what a song he churned out!
Ambar is very vocal about the fact that he is not one of those who believes in being politically correct – in fact he says that is not an option for artists like him. He uses the medium of music to speak of things that are not right in our country. India has been going headlong into a deep abyss, without pulling any brakes and it is only getting worse by the day – be it on the political front, on our economic front, the plight of our farmers, the education scene, the job scenario, our infrastructure, rising prices, drought, pollution, you name it. Since all that had been playing on his mind, Ambar just turned the words into something deep and soulful.
Recently, his intuition had been speaking to him through lines of music in the night. It was more than just music, as the lines stuck in his head. They came as random lines but became meaningful lyrics, in turn repeated as a direct message in the form of song and music. Sometimes almost painstakingly pointed, sometimes a little more oblique but insistent enough to wake him night after night.
His words in the song are haunting:
“The cows are safe. But the girls are not.
We can go to the moon And claim a spot.
The beggar boy waiting for The bullet train.
Another guy in the sewers Dies in pain.
We lynched a guy Didn't like his name.
Currency changes So does the game.
The news are loud To please the crowd
Sane voices are lost Covered in a shroud. And here I sing Jai Shri Ram Jai Shri Ram I have a foolish hope That good days will come.
We cut down trees And we plant some rocks.
We’re changing the rules, You’re in for rude shock.
We need devotion No revolution
We have all the voices You’re left with no choices.
So you better sing Jai Shri Ram Jai Shri Ram I have a foolish hope That good days will come.”
It comes as no surprise that his song has gone viral – the hits, the shares and the kudos has been non-stop. Praise has been filtering in and I was pleasantly amazed by the fact that he hadn’t got any slack for it – as is the norm whenever there is any form of dissent shown. Maybe there is a new dawn awaiting us all.
Ambar is justified in saying that this is the self-expression of an artist. Call it a rant, a rumination or the pains of an Indian citizen. His intention is not to hurt anyone, but just share the things that have hurt him and many other people like me as well. He is just looking forward to a better India…as many of us are. And like him, some of us have been vocal about it, some quietly seething and some forced into silence due to fear.
We are probably in the age of desperate times and artists such as him can only express what they feel and reflect the society at large. Ambar has said it all with aplomb and subtlety - singlehandedly creating a piece of art to speak his mind, which apparently is a collective voice of so many Indians. Now here is a man who has shown his mastery over execution of so many skills over a long career, and this song is a salute to his thinking and intent. His mighty music has surely woken up many from their slumber.
It was like a breath of fresh air for me to speak with Ambar Das who is a music composer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist of repute from Guwahati, Assam. He has worked in several musical bands and composed and produced music for Jingles, Films, TV and web series, documentaries etc. Ambar studied Music and Compositions with Late Jiten Baruah, who was a musician of national repute, and one of the pioneers in initiating western orchestration into Assamese music. He learnt the drums and other Percussions from elder brother Late Bhaskar Das, one of the foremost drummers in the north-east region in the early 80's. He later studied jazz drumming under Mr. Jurgen Busse a respected Jazz drummer and music teacher from Hamburg, Germany. He learnt Guitar and the nuances of music arrangements from Late Rana Roy, a musical giant and the lead guitarist of the Fusion Band 'Karma' of Kolkata.
Ambar entered into the Professional Music Scenario first as a Stage Musician and accompanist in percussions and Guitar since 1985. He moved on to Professional Music Arrangement and Programming in 1998 with his first audio Album "Porisoy Bihin", sung by various renowned artistes of Assam. Till date Ambar has 73 audio Albums to his credit.
Other than Audio Albums, he has worked for many Feature Films, Tele Films and Jingles as a Music Composer and Programmer. Ambar has also been a part of bands such as: Soulmate Band (Shillong, Meghalaya), Faith (Mumbai), Voodoo Child (Assam), Band of Brothers (an Indo/German fusion band), Crystal Ann (Assam), Monthsmind (Assam), Chocolates N Ciggerretes (Assam/Hyderabad), East India Company (Delhi) and Warklung (A Karbi progressive folk/fusion band). Later he joined Sawar@aj, Floating Boots Collective (a band composed of artists from various genres and countries) and The Mumbai Mariachis (an Indo-Australian Gypsy Jazz band).
He has been actively involved in the regional music scene and has accompanied artists such as Bhupen Hazarika, Zubin Garg, Angarag (Papon) Mahanta and Santa Uzir. As a music producer, he worked with artists such as Shankar Mahadevan, Sonu Nigam, Ila Arun, Pankaj Udhas and Sukhwinder Singh.
Ambar is also involved in the composition of ‘’The Stories Untold’ series which are an issue based award winning musical video project with his partner Sanjoy Dazz, who is a well-known for his work with noted Bengal director – Rituparno Ghosh, composing award winning music for his films. “Ghar Jaana Hai: The Stories Untold": deals with drought and migration of families. "Hausla Na Ruthe: The Stories Untold": deals with the large scale devastation caused by the Super Cyclone in Odisha.
Music is more than just the notes – it speaks aloud and the words reverberate with a message. Music has a voice and is a vessel of thoughts that speak out to one and all. There’s nothing more soulful than spreading music for a cause.
Listen to this song and if it doesn’t hit a spot, touch a nerve…you need to rethink your priorities and ideologies!
But still… “I have a foolish hope that good days will come…”