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Happiness of singing in a Choir

Kasturi Borkotoki

During the 80's and 90's choral singing was considered a mark of class. If your cultural function started with a chorus, it was considered important. Most of the songs were based on world peace, equality (of races) and patriotism. They were often sung by both men and women and formed opening pieces in cultural shows.

I too had my more than fair share of choral singing. My mother was a member of a ladies' group of singers from the University Campus, who competed in a state wise chorus competition. There would be this annual competition which took place in Rabindra Bhavan in Guwahati (which can be compared to the NCPA of Mumbai, in terms of prestige). I remember few of these clearly and the fun we as children had along with it. Songs written by late Dr. Nirmal Prabha Bordoloi, a well know writer, poet and litterateur (Sahitya Academy Awardee) of Assam was chosen with excellent music by a well-known musician from the University Campus, coming from a family of musicians. A home grown 'Beatles', each of the brothers were experts in a distinct musical instrument! One for composing music, singing and playing the violin, one for being a Tabla exponent (and other percussion instruments like the Congo etc.), one for the guitar and mandolin. The practice would mostly take place in their house or in the Guest House, and obviously the talented brothers were all the hands for the background music. We children would watch as they practised numerous times and also rehearsed positions and beginnings and endings with hand gestures (Namaskars). After that we would play or gossip. On the day of the final competition, we would all go together on a hired bus to Rabindra Bhavan along with interesting tiffin boxes. Needless to say, with the best of talents, the Chorus group had won prizes a few times.

I also participated in the All India Radio's chorus competition for children, again from the University Campus. We University kids prepared two songs, one Assamese and one in Hindi, for an All India Radio Chorus Competition, on an inter- state level. The practice sessions were gruelling and the presentation of the songs was complex. The starting, pauses and ending had to be in unison and even a small departure was caught by the radio recording. We would go for practice in the weekends and also some weekdays in the evenings. I would be exhausted after several rounds of practice and come home and attack the fish curry with gusto! Finally the day dawned. We were in the cold AIR studio. The recording person gave us the gesture to start from his room across the glass. We were all arranged in the sound proof recording room, and started once the music started. We sang in unison, practised by formula and finally it was over! I saw the smiling faces of the musicians and knew it was a hit! I do not recall now but remember we had received a prize! I remember the lyrics of the Hindi song went as "Hum nanhe nanhe bacche hai, kacchhe umar ke nadaan hai, hum panchi hai door gagan ki, hum gool hai apani chaman ki".

The chorus connection continued. When it was the silver Jubilee of Oil India Limited (Pipeline Division), my father wrote the lyrics for the opening chorus. The lyrics in Assamese described the crude oil in the form- Gold from under the earth. Practice started in our bungalow in Oil India limited, with a mix of talented musicians from the university as well as India Campus. Our drawing room always had some Congo sets, Tabla's and synthesizers as various practice sessions were held, and me and my sister had to manage our study sessions in between all these.

In our children's functions in the Oil Colony too, we tried singing a few chorus songs. One of the senior ladies, would try to get us kids together and force some of the boys too to sing in the chorus. Once we sang "Hum honge Kaamiyab". I remember the teenage boys were hesitant to sing along with the girls but she chided them and somehow they turned up on stage in Indian tunics, on the day of the show!

Today, chorus singing is not as common as in our days but the charisma of the songs and singers still exist!


[Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Publisher.]


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