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Saturday, January 28, 2023

    Assam Skies: Musicians Come Together To Tell An Untold Story

    An amalgamation of 15 artistes from India, the UK and the USA shaped this project with an aim to tell a true story set during the colonial era

    Based on a 100-year-old true story from the tea gardens, Assam Skies, a musical docudrama was released on September 25th, 2019 worldwide and it has already received heaps of praises from all the corners.

    An amalgamation of 15 artistes from India, the United Kingdom and the United States of America (USA) shaped this project with an aim to tell a true story set during the colonial era. Assam Skies is adopted from the poem written by Karen Weed, a poet based in London.

    The poem is about Frank Cyril Edwards who came to the Balijan tea estate in Assam in the year 1919 and joined as an Assistant Manager. During his working tenure, he met with a tribal girl, Rampyari and soon fell in love with her. By the year 1922, they had two daughters but destiny had other plans.

    In the year 1925, Frank’s fiancée from London Muriel Florence Collins arrived at the tea estate to marry him. With the arrival of Muriel, the relationship between Frank and Rampyari restrained which led the later to take some hard decisions. He separated Rampyari from her daughters and took them into a childrens’ home in Kalimpong in Darjeeling.

    Soon after the separation, Rampyari couldn’t bear the pain and died shortly. While Frank returned to England and married his fiancée with whom he had a son.

    The poem made it to the semi-finals of the prestigious UK Songwriting Contest, 2017 and in 2018 Char Seawell, a folk-country singer from the USA collaborated with Karen and gave music to the poem. Later, Jim Ankan Deka, an award-winning Assamese musician, was approached by Karen to give folk tunes to the poem.   

    Speaking to Time8, Jim said, “Earlier this year when Karen, who happens to be the great-granddaughter of Rampyari, approached me to produce the music of Assam Skies I jumped right into it. First of all, I got a chance to collaborate with international musicians, secondly, I got the chance to infuse our Assamese folk instruments into an English country song, and lastly it is a real story based in the tea gardens of Assam. Later, Karen wanted a video of the song so I gathered actors, filmmakers from India and Spain and finally it was released yesterday worldwide.”

    The audio version of the song was released in the month of June this year and it was equally appreciated by many.

    “As Assam Skies is a country song mixed with fusion traditional instruments, it is a project like never before. A total of 11 traditional instruments were used for the song including two African and nine Assamese folk instruments and the output is pretty much satisfying,” added Jim.

    The song is sung by Seawell along with Catherine Khiangte from Mizoram. Jim himself has played the guitar, keys and the bass. The Assamese traditional instruments have been recorded by Barun Das and Debojit Kalita and the percussionists are Prabal Gogoi and Debjani Hazarika.

    Speaking about the video, Tarunabh Dutta, the director said that the shooting for the song started in the month of August this year in the picturesque locations of Chandubi in Kamrup and Sector 1 located in Noonmati, Guwahati.  

    “A lot of research went into for this project and I enjoyed directing this song because it is the untold story of Rampyari who fell in love with Frank completely unaware of what destiny had in store for her. The places where the song was shot were chosen carefully and we made sure that no modern elements were shown in it,” Dutta told Time8.

    “This song will make people aware of the rich history Assam and it was also a learning process for me. The actors Lain Heringman who is from Spain, Alice Banting Bhattacharya from UK and Gargi Buragohain from Assam have delivered the right emotion that their characters needed and I am sure people will love the song along with their performance,” added Dutta.

    Dutta further mentioned that stories like these should come to the light as it is important for the people of Assam to know their history and in fact, more historical films should be made to bring an appeal to the stories of the state.

    The video is jointly produced by Karen, Jim and Debjani. The video is released under the ChaiTunes Project by Music Malt.


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    First published