Musical tribute to bind Assam's 27 districts - Folk artist crafts 27feet-long traditional instruments to spread the message of harmony

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  • Published 13.04.13
Dwijen Gogoi displays a bor toka in Sivasagar. Picture by UB Photos

Sivasagar, April 12: Popular folk artist Dwijen Gogoi, who is also a master craftsman of musical instruments, has made two traditional folk instruments, each measuring 27ft, as a symbol of harmony among the people of the 27 districts of Assam.

The unique instruments — bor toka (a kind of long bamboo instrument generating tak tak sound) and jeng tong (a kind of drum made of bamboo) — have been named sampritir bor toka and sampritir jeng tong, signifying unity and peace. It took Gogoi and his team of five assistants five days to complete the bor toka and a week to craft the jeng tong. Gogoi used a local variety of bamboo called lothou baah or dolou baah to make the musical instruments. The bamboo was treated before it was given shape, to make it termite-resistant. Thin coats of varnish and touchwood paint were applied to give finishing touches to the instruments.

Gogoi told The Telegraph that six people were needed to play the bor toka and 20 for the jeng tong. “Traditionally, bor toka was used in the Haidang husori of Sonowal Kacharis. The traditional bor toka is 5ft to five-and-a-half-feet long and it is also called mati (land) toka, as one side of the instrument is placed on the land while playing. The other toka is called haat toka or pati toka and it is about 3ft long,” he said.

Gogoi, who hails from Nimaijan, on the outskirts of Sivasagar, has been making traditional musical instruments since childhood. “I used to play with bahi (flute), pepa (flute-like instrument made of buffalo horn) and dhol when I was a child. My interest in musical instruments increased as I frequented Jamuguri, the hub of dhol-making, as a teenager,” he said.

Gogoi, who works as an executive engineer with the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), has devoted his life to the revival of traditional musical instruments. He has employed several local youths in his workshop for making the instruments.

“This way, I am generating employment and preserving indigenous culture,” he said.

Many of his musical instruments have been exported to Japan and Germany. He has already made 500 pepas this season. Among his other accomplishments, Gogoi had made a 12ft-long bahi in 2010. It can be played by 12 players in proper tune.

“I am planning to set up a centre to train local youths on making traditional musical instruments. I hope the government will lend a helping hand to my initiative,” he said.

Gogoi’s instruments are displayed for sale in exhibitions across the state. He has a 55-member team to handle the instruments in the exhibitions while he frequents the expositions too. “This season, I have sold musical instruments worth Rs 3 lakh. Public response has given me inspiration to create more of these and keep the traditions alive,” he said.