21st century music is a plethora of genres and sub-genres. As an art form it continues its journey of exploration into distinctive yet familiar subjects, instruments and ‘the feel-good’ factor. Gen Z music is soul searching, it’s reflective of the individual and constantly trying to fit into the collaborative representation of mass understanding.
Contributors are not limited to performances and artists but extend to vernacular, technology and popular understanding to create impact for and upon regions and culture.
Music today is based out on familiar experiences- love for nature and beyond, love for the other and the ‘self’, hardships of growing up, especially in the 21st century world, gender and sexuality, geopolitic and the economy.
This familiarity extends to create wholesome experiences for audiences, here, there and everywhere. Platforms like YouTube, Spotify or Instagram and their increasing accessibility helps with the reach, creating massive trends within music industries for better and for worse.
The Assamese music industry is no different. In the last few years, it has come far away from its obsession with folk tunes and Bihu melodies, creating multi-faceted yet parallel musical trends. There’s a new generation of artists, lyricists, music producers and singers who are introducing themselves into these global cultural trends, creating honest music that’s bursting with rhapsody.
For the regional audience, this new variety of content is a lot more than a happy coincidence, an uphill run out of an industry that was spiralling around cringey lyrics and a cacophony of voices, instruments and a little too much of autotune.
Tonmoy Krypton, the 19-year-old music producer from Sivasagar has more than a dozen songs to his name. He was one of the first creators out of the region to experiment with R&B music, now he’s dangling with Ambient Music and EDM variants as well. One of his recent collaborations, ‘Alakananada’ has more than 3 million views on YouTube with most of his other compositions hitting popularity charts across a variety of platforms.
‘Project Baratalaap’, an effort by the creative duo Shankuraj Konwar and Maitrayee Patar and the other half of the ‘Alaknanda’ equation, is another fresh narrative in this scenario. They are inspired by “the universal human urge to communicate, talk, touch and love” and the result is unique in terms of ‘lyrical structures and arrangement’ and a category of music that can be identified with ‘pop-rock’ and ‘electronic’ genres.
Kuldeep who goes by the stage name ‘KoolD’ is another exceptional example, a rap artist, his track ‘XORU MANUH’ has some 7 million views and the numbers keep rising by the day.
For most of these artists, language is a conscious yet comfortable choice, it helps with an uninterrupted ‘flow of their emotions’, emotions being the point of ‘connection’ with their listeners.
The growing popularity of their music is somehow dependent on relatability and familiarity with an unrestricted context of sympathy. For a generation of regional youth, obsessed with pop, rock, electric and a variety of other styles, their music is an element of surprise ‘boxing’ up a very fresh perspective with comforting genres and styles of the business. The bulk of their audience might be from a younger age group but that seems to be changing too.
There is an acknowledgment across generations, who are now finding comfort with a regaining sense of control over their language, a sense of protection from an understanding that language is being passed on in a celebratory and dignified manner.
The popularity meter of these creators isn’t limited to state lines and national boundaries. Kuldeep’s rap numbers are very well received by viewers from Odisha, West Bengal, Maharashtra and other states, who are able to connect with the sense of familiarity he provides. A number of Tonmoy’s creations have been able to amass special attention, even internationally with videos of reaction to his music, dance and song covers now flooding the internet.
Shankuraj Konwar has been getting feedback from countries like Thailand, Nepal, Germany, USA, Bangladesh, Indonesia, China along with states across India and requests to translate their music into English. This popularity in turn creates curiosity towards language and the region, how that impact is translated into practice is yet to be discovered but what it does for sure is extends the collective awareness on either sides.
Music has always existed beyond the boundaries of language and it will hopefully continue to do so. Popular music however depends on a sense of universality that has little to do with language. It’s popular because it creates a sense of familiarity for the listener, either it be through tunes or melodies or the interpretative nature of meanings it generates, different for each one of us.
What is very exciting and unique, is the free space popular music has been able to create, perhaps accelerated by the growth and impact of the internet revolution and social media, with creators and artists from everywhere being able to utilise it.
It’s a very exciting time for the Assamese music industry. Collaborative efforts from artists help with an extension and continuation of that space. It ensures that a new artist wouldn’t shy away from experimenting and introducing their own versions into the tidal change. It ensures that more and more of them keep coming and find a voice to create entertainment, connections and soulful experiences for listeners everywhere.
The artists mentioned in this piece are just some of the exemplary names, there are many more doing wonderful work within the new possibilities of this creative space. I hope this article motivates you to go and check out their work and to truly understand the changes they are initiating and hopefully will be able to realise with the collective support of our communities.