The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Melody-makers strike a united chord

A forum to fight exploitation. For the first time in Bengal, music directors and lyricists have formed an umbrella organisation that will unite them against a common evil. The Music Directors and Lyricists Association (MDLA) has taken off under the “guidance” of senior melody-makers like V. Balsara, Bhupen Hazarika, Abhijit Bandyopadhyay and Anal Chattopadhyay with a multi-pronged action plan.

“Music directors are the most exploited in terms of both cash and credit. Recording companies fudge figures to deprive us of royalty. Producers keep our dues pending even after everyone else has been paid off. This has to stop,” says Kalyan Sen Barat, composer and MDLA working president.

A legal cell has been formed, with two advocates appointed to look into grievances of members. “Individually it is not possible to fight a music company. Nor will one find support from colleagues. Only a faceless organisation can take up the brief with immunity,” points out general secretary Samindra Roy Chowdhury.

An effort to bring together the music directors under an umbrella was made in the 70s by Salil Chowdhury and Shyamal Mitra. Recalls Chowdhury’s wife Sabita: “When he went to Mumbai, there were a lot of producers who were giving musicians a raw deal. He spearheaded the move to form an association there. It is now so strong that a musician first has to register with the association before he starts working in the film industry. He also started a musicians’ body here during his brief stints in Calcutta and wanted to do something for music directors in Bengal as well, but nothing concrete took off.”

Singer, composer and proprietor of Prime Music Indranil Sen, stresses the need for an association. “Cases of depriving singers have come down drastically in the past six years after the Association of Professional Performing Singers came up. It is only the music directors and lyricists who have no one to speak for them,” he says. According to Sen, the forum should play a role in increasing awareness about copyright laws and the importance of contractual agreements. “This will reduce chances of exploitation. The industry runs on word of mouth terms, which makes exploitation so easy. There are procedures of registering a tune or lyrics which many are not aware of,” he points out.

Another area of concern is medical care. “A year and a half ago, lyricist Shibdas Bandyopadhyay had a bypass surgery. The man who penned Manush manusher jonye for Bhupen Hazarika did not have anyone to stand by him in his hour of need,” recalls Sen Barat. So medical insurance for all members is a priority.

MDLA’s first act will be a workshop on February 8, conducted by V. Balsara at Moulali Yuba Kendra. “While passing on the legacy baton, it is important to train the next generation in the grammar of music — for instance, what distinguishes a Tagore song from a Salil Chowdhury number,” Roy Chowdhury says.

While taking care of the needs of the present, the association also proposes to make provisions for posterity. First on the agenda is a website to list the works of all members. The next step is an archive of their music. This effort has struck a chord, especially among senior artistes. Folk singer Amar Pal who immortalised the voice of the deprived in Satyajit Ray’s Hirak Rajar Deshe (Ami kotoi rongo dekhi duniyay) feels it is important to keep track of the lost notes. “Tomorrow, listeners may not even know about Himangshu Dutta or lyricists Ajay Kar or Gouriprasanna Majumdar. It is our duty to preserve their work. Why should we leave it to the recording broadcasting companies to do for us what we can do ourselves'”

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