Nothing says “pujo aschhe” (Durga Puja is here) like the sound of the dhaak. While Birendra Krishna Bhadra’s Mahishasur Mardini on Mahalaya morning is what announces that Durga Puja is here, it isn’t until the rolling beats of the dhaak start, often drowning out the cacophony of traffic, that it truly feels like the festivities have started.
It is fitting, therefore, that the dhaak takes centrestage in composer and percussionist Bickram Ghosh’s mega Durga Puja release — a multi-artiste single aptly titled Aaj Baja Tui Dhaak. The song, featuring Amit Kumar, Hariharan, Shaan, Sona Mohapatra, Zubeen Garg, Mahalakshmi Iyer and Kaushiki Chakraborty, will be released at the Manicktalla Chaltabagan Lohapatty Durga Puja Dhakutsav on October 6.
“The dhaak is synonymous with Durga Puja and this song is about capturing the Puja spirit, but it is also about bringing the dhaak, which is a symbol of Bengali culture, into the mainstream. There is a drum for every culture. In Kerala there is the chenda, in Tamil Nadu there is the thavil, Punjab has the dhol. In Bengal the main folk drum is the dhaak. And it is high time the dhaak arrived on the national scene,” said Ghosh.
The thrill of hearing the voices of some of the best singers from across the country elevates the song, penned by Sugata Guha, from a simple single to a magnum opus, and the unexpected electronica elements make it contemporary.
“I don’t know if there has been any song that has been done nationally with the dhaak, with national artistes. So I wanted to make a statement. The song is textured by a variety of instruments that are also very much a part of our culture — the sitar, sarod, banshi, the dotara and the ektara. It says to the world that this beautiful sound emanates from Bengal. But this is in no way retro. The energy, the touch of electronica I have added makes it contemporary and takes it out of the niche and puts it in the mainstream,” said Ghosh.
For singer Mahalakshmi Iyer, one of the major reasons for being a part of this project, apart from the fact that this was the first time she was working with Ghosh, was that so many stalwarts were coming together. “The album has the energy of the festive spirit in the way he has conceived it. Add to it the magic of the array of singing talents, and it is an album that will be appreciated by a whole lot of music lovers for its content. It’s after a very long time that listeners will hear such varied artistes who have very different styles come together,” said Iyer.
The song, which is the title track from Ghosh’s Durga Puja album that will be released over the next few weeks, one single at a time, also has a Hindi version that will be released later. “The Puja album was a great tradition very close to the hearts of Bengalis. The Puja albums of RD Burman and Ashaji or of Rafi Saab and Kishoreda went on to be such huge hits, but the sheen of Puja albums has been lost and Bengal is no longer setting the trends in the vista of sound. I wish to see the sound of Bengal resonate countrywide again,” said Ghosh.
Iyer, who has also sung a duet with Shaan on the album, promises nostalgia and old-world charm in her other song. “The dhaak song, both with its audio and video, truly depicts the spirit of Puja. And the duet I have sung with Shaan has charm and elegance. Listeners will be taken down memory lane with its old worldly charm,” said Iyer.
The album, like its title track, is going to be bilingual, with each of its six tracks, sung both in Bengali and in Hindi.
The video for Aaj Baja Tui Dhaak, which has been shot by Shekhar Ghosh, will also be released at the Dhakutsav, in the presence of almost all the singers who have collaborated on the song.
So, get ready to dance to the dhaak… Ma aschhe