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Mohiner Ghoraguli, Cactus, Lakkhichhara: Fossils’ Allan Temjen Ao picks favourites

Songs that made every Bengali say, ‘rock belongs to us too’

Aatreyee Mohanta | Published 04.10.21, 04:08 PM

Allan Ao's image: Prasanta Kumar Sur

Fossils’ Allan Temjen Ao has a theory on why the '90s and aughts were so crucial in cementing Bangla rock’s influence. “The people who listened to these songs back then are now in their late 40s or early 50s and are passing it on to the next generation,” he shares. The musician who left Fossils in 2001 and returned as lead guitarist in 2011, believes the time was just right for the golden era of homegrown rock to commence.

“Bangla rock bands gave a voice to the aspirational Bengalis who were leaving their city or the country to work. These guys listened to English rock music in their colleges and hostels but found the same genre in their own language, it was music that they could identify with and with time this has only grown,” remarks Allan.

The guitarist recently took some time out to list some of his most cherished band numbers, in order of when he first heard them, including some that changed Bangla music forever: 

  • Koto Dure from Path Geche Benke by Krosswindz

I was a student of Krosswindz frontman Vikramjit Banerjee or Tuki Da. When I first heard Koto Dure, I was blown away. I wasn’t used to hearing rock music in foreign languages and it was happening in Bangla! In fact, the entire album is a lesson in songwriting and performance, a group of fantastic musicians who were just serving their music. It is such a beautiful, haunting song with superb songwriting and execution. It’s one of my ‘desert island’ albums, it resonates with everyone not just Bengalis.

  • Prithibi Ta Naki Chhoto Hote Hote from Abar Bochor Kuri Por by Mohiner Ghoraguli

I heard this around the same time as I heard the Krosswindz album, courtesy Tuki Da. I didn’t understand the lyrics back then, someone translated them for me. It didn’t really make much sense to me back then, but I found the wordplay fantastic. Over the years, the relevance of the lyrics started dawning on me—how people are getting isolated, even though the world is getting smaller—and that really hit home. It’s sung by Bonnie (Chakraborty) Da and has taken on an anthemic quality, both young and old listeners love it.

  • Shudhu Tumi Ele Na from Cactus by Cactus

Cactus was actually the first Bangla band I saw live. There was a buzz around them at that point, I was curious and I dropped in at Gyan Manch where they were playing. I wanted to see what the whole deal was! I remember the performance very clearly, it was sung by Rajesh (Lahiri), the second guitar player and vocalist, along with Sidhu (Sidhartha Sankar) Da. There were these lights on a dark stage and this haunting song started playing, it was just amazing! The audience was going crazy. This song stuck with me because it’s very simple and yet the vibe is on point. It is urban and has a certain psychedelia to it which you can associate with Kolkata.

  • Hasnuhana from Fossils by Fossils

I remember the first time I heard this song, Rupam played it for me on the guitar when we first met and I thought, ‘wow, this is such an amazing tune’. Once I got around to understanding the lyrics, I knew it would be one of those big songs.  I remember I had a job interview the day we were recording Hasnuhana, and I was in a hurry. I quickly recorded the solos, I didn’t want to leave but I did need a job (although I wasn’t hired). 

It feels surreal that the song is like an anthem for so many. It’s amazing to see how college-goers even today are signing this song, I see a different generation singing along to it every year we play it live. I think this is one of the first power ballads in Bengali rock where the protagonist is unapologetically expressing unrequited love along with his angst and frustration. This was definitely a step forward, the aspirational Bengali could identify with it and say rock music belongs to us as well.

  • Ke Ki Bole from Eka by Lakkhichhara

This is the millennial song, they were the next-gen of Bangla rock. Their music expresses a sense of breakthrough or coming of age, these musicians were trying to break out of the shadow of the older bands. It’s a great song and never fails to grab you when you hear it. They’ve put together such a vibrant, energetic song that just never fails! It’s worked for all these years and it sounds fantastic!

  • Girgiti from Girgiti by Eeshaan

This song is so catchy, the sensibilities are so modern. I think the band as a whole resonates with people because of how they have pushed the envelope and how they continue to stick with what they believe in. This song and the self-titled album, Girgiti, perfectly personifies Eeshaan as a band; it is again a generation trying to break out of the old mould, and trying new stuff. They have gathered a very loyal following of fans and listeners who love them for what they’re trying to achieve. 

Last updated on 04.10.21, 08:26 PM
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