Jorhat, June 12: Singer Joi Barua listened to his heart and returned to riot-torn Assam through his Samannay concerts. Now, he’s back with a song — Pitol Soku (brown eyes) — dedicated to the undying spirit of the bareback riders from Jorhat and Sivasagar.
The song, written by Ibson Lal Baruah, is about the machismo inherent in the more than 100-year-old man-dominated races, popularly known as the Jorhat Derby. It is the title track of a documentary by Mumbai-based Kahini Media on the bareback races.
The 3.55-minute video will show footage of the documentary as well as that of the singer and musicians.
Speaking to The Telegraph over phone from Mumbai, Joi said, “It expresses the passion of the Mising jockeys, who hand down the art of riding the indigenous breed of Mising horses bareback down the generations. It sings about life on the other side — the making of a jockey till the rider melds with the horse and we cannot tell one from the other.”
The singer said the documentary traces the evolution of bareback riding among the Misings on the banks of the Brahmaputra — about the fire in their hearts — and the history of the races organised annually by the Jorhat Gymkhana Club. “From a young age, we watched the races at the Gymkhana racecourse and saw the small town turn into a carnival for those few days,” he said.
Joi, who has been singing for Bollywood productions and has been in the field of advertising for more than 10 years now, said his journey as a musician took him from Mumbai and then led him back to Assam.“Though it took a while, I eventually found out that the ache inside me stemmed from the fact that I was singing in languages other than mine and my own tongue had been stifled.”
“I realised that I had to find my way back into my own heart in a tongue that it understood, in ink that was my essential DNA,” the singer added.
The result was the album, Joi: Looking Out of the Window, where he and his friends “laid down folklore and simple stories from our land, on a bed of rock and soul”.
He came to Assam with the Samannay concept in 2012 when Assam was rocked by violence that later assumed a communal tone. “The violence involving the Bodos and the migrant community took a very nasty turn and people of our state and the region who lived in different parts of India felt the heat. Thousands of northeasterners living in different parts of India ran back to their home states fearing a communal backlash,” he said.
It was around this time, Joi lent his voice to the Sadbhavna concert, first in Pune and then in Bangalore, where he joined hands with Lucky Ali. “Here the chief minister wanted my friend Shyamkanu Mahanta and me to create music that would unite Bodos, Misings, Rabhas, Karbis and tea tribes with other religious minorities. I had found a musician’s route of giving back to my land. We have held about seven concerts till now and these will continue. Pitol Soku is just one more way of coming back — to sing of the co-existence of man and beast — of this land and its people,” he said.