Remember the Shama Thakile song from the Assamese film Chikmik Bijulee (1969). A remastered version of the evergreen song, originally sung by music maestro Bhupen Hazarika, was released on the YouTube in April 2019.
26-year-old music director and avant-garde composer, Axl Hazarika restored, edited, remastered the audio and released the song on online platforms. Hazarika has travelled across Assam and flea markets of Kolkata, Bengaluru and Delhi in search of old vinyl records and cassettes.
After relentlessly tracking down families and hunting markets, he has been successful in collecting 10,000 songs sung by legends like Bhupen Hazarika, Sudakshina Sharma, Malabika Bora, Jayanta Hazarika which are facing the risk of fading into oblivion.
Hazarika is heading the Assam government-run Jyoti Chitraban Studio’s Digital Archive. And for the first time ever, the bygone tracks are being digitally remastered, refurbished and released on YouTube, Sound Cloud by the Studio. Till now, over 190 digitally cleaned songs are available online.
“After going through most of the old tracks, the only constant thing I’ve noticed is that almost all of them were of very low quality. The internet is flooded with such low-quality audio of classic Assamese songs. When I was offered to spearhead the digital project, I wanted to do something to fix the issue,” said Hazarika.
Meet and greet
Speaking about his experience on travelling across the state and hunting the flea markets in search of old cassettes and vinyl records, he shared, “A few were encouraging and willing to share the tapes with us. A few others would hesitate initially but would later support our cause. There were also some who demanded money in exchange for those old records. I have collected the materials from people all over Assam along with Kolkata, Delhi, Pune, and Bengaluru. I will be travelling in the coming days too.”
Trip to flea markets
“I have collected some vinyl records from the flea markets of Kolkata and Delhi. The records are sold in bulk as decorative items. On average, one out of 10 was of good quality. Still, that didn’t dishearten me. If not the song, I got the image of the cover, artwork and the text printed on it. In days to come, we will do digitization of all Assamese films, photographs, and literature,” he added.
He said that remastering an old song takes more time than producing an original one. “The entire process of restoration and remastering of old tracks is multi-phased. The process to get rid of unwanted noise from old records is a daunting task but it is worth the effort,” he said.
Axl’s Excel sheet
Hazarika picks up his favourite songs:
- Dehei Joubonmoti by Mahananda Majinder Barua & Malabika Bora from the film Buwari (Music: Upen Kakoti)
- Ei Luit Kaberi by Jayanta Hazarika (Music: Puroshottam Das)
- Xuoroni Mur (Vocals & Music: Bhupen Hazarika) from the film Puwoti Nishar Xopun
- Suti Suti boli maya (Film: Jhumur) by Bharati Majhi
- Bugila bok bok (Rabha Song) by Heera Rava
- Asi Jili Jiliko (Mising Song) by Tabu Taid
- Bihu Geet by Kabita Hazarika, Sudakshina Sharma, Ila Kakoti, Moni Baruah, Krishna Das, Bharati Das from the film Chikmik Bijulee (Music: Bhupen Hazarika)