Harbingers of Band in Bengal: Moheen-er Ghoraguli

Posted on May 18, 2012 in Media and Culture

By Pinak Pani Datta:

All of you might have heard the song “Bheegi Bheegi” from the film Gangster. Do you know the real story behind it??

Well, in the 1970’s a small group of musicians in Bengal wanted to break free from the stereotyped lyrical forms of Rabindranath and Najrul and create something which was unique but connected directly to the middle class. They called themselves “Moheen-er Ghoraguli” which literally translates to “Moheen’s Horses” in Bengali.

Led by Gautam Chattapadhyay, the group was ahead of its time as said by most music journalists. Their lyrical and musical style was dynamically ahead of the time. Established in the 1970s during a period of stagnation in Bangla music, when commercial film songs were the dominant market force, the lyrics (and to some extent the compositions) of leader Gautam Chattopadhyay were radically new. They were of a very personal or social nature, similar to the urban folk movement led by Bob Dylan in the 60s.

They were credited as the pioneers of Bangla bands in the new millennium. This is debatable as their songwriting was strongly rooted in Bangla folk and also American urban folk. Like a moonlit horizon their career was always hazy and the spirit of these mighty riders became prominent only after the Jibonmukhi (pertaining to realities of life) movement and advent of singers like Suman Chattopadhyay (now Kabir Suman), Anjan Dutta and Nachiketa. In 1995 Kolkata Book Fair, their album “Abar Bochor Kuri Por” (Twenty years later) became a great hit. Soon the Bangla Bands became a phenomenon and they brought the aspect of mass participation to Bangla music. Moheen-er Ghoraguli and their talents were recognized and became popular.

They were unknown in their own time may be because of their lyrics or tune. Those were hey days of superfluous Bengali music which had only soothing melody and simple lyrics. Melodiousness had almost always been the deciding factor for Bengali songs to be good or bad. To categorize Moheen-er Ghoraguli in a genre would be a futile task. They used a mix of Baul (a genre of Sufi folk song in Bengal) and rock — a weird combination which paved the way for the future Bengali modern songs. Their songs dealt with everyday topics -politics, poverty, injustice, revolution, love, loneliness, even begging and prostitution.

Introducing their music as Baul-Jazz Moheen-er Ghoraguli was able to compliment electric guitars, saxophone, drums with Dotara (instrument used by the Bauls of Bengal), country flute and violin. Their music had everything to shake self-content Bengali culture. But like everything else, Bengalis were happy with the same soothing tones of the soloists, Rabindra Sangeet and Nazrul Geeti. Nobody wanted to listen to these songs and Moheen’s Horses had to run different paths in search of livelihood. It took 20 years for Bengali audience to get out of this inertia.

This band knew that they live in a city which has no contemporary music. The music that is popular is no more than a mellowed continuation of the canon. Thus, Moheen-er Ghoraguli wanted to come up with songs which speak of pangs, problems and happiness of their generation. Their music was more of a protest against the tradition, against superfluous lyricism and against all the sentinels of Bengali high culture.

They started the movement. Some call them The Beatles of Bengal. But, whatever it is, they will be immortal in Bengal and Bengali music.

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