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Remembering Mohiner Ghoraguli Written, illustrated and designed by Damayanti Chakravarty Damayanti is a final year postgraduation student of Graphic Design at NID, Ahmedabad Printed at Chhaap Digital Published by NID May 2012 Price: Rs 250

The How & When & Where

It was the seventies. In many ways it was a decade of innovations and breakthroughs. The perfect bridge between the rebellious sixties and the happier eighties. It was the start of the digital and electronics revolution, and home computers were steadily gaining popularity worldwide. Televisions and calculators were more easily available now with the invention of transistors and integrated circuits. It was a decade that saw a significant growth in women’s rights and the contraceptive pill. Even airtravel was booming with the 747 Jumbo Jets carrying more and more people across continents.

Coming closer home, Bengal at that time was in the heart of the Naxal movement in India. And Kolkata was still pretty much Calcutta back then. In the city of Calcutta, a new music revolution was brewing, and it is here that our story begins. A young man named Gautam Chattopadhyay, still a student in Presidency College, felt it was time people moved beyond the realm of “chaand”, “phool”, “akash”, “nadi” (moon, flowers, sky and rivers), something that had become the staple diet in record players of Bengali homes those days. He got together with his brothers, cousins and friends, trying to figure a way to connect to people by writing songs about real and pressing matters of their time. Something that they knew they would be able to immediately connect to without the frills of beautified poetry. Against all odds, Gautam, always an eccentric, and intellectually so, along with his friends and brothers found an answer to their problems in Mohiner Ghoraguli. The year was marked in Bengal’s musical history as 1975. As all living members and friends of the band still recollect fondly, they initially called themselves ‘Saptarshi’ (a Sanskrit word for ‘seven sages’). However, as it turned out, all of them had been heavily influenced by the modernist Bengali poet Jibananda Das, who is arguably one of the most popular Bengali poets till date. Rising to fame towards the middle of the twentieth century, he was instrumental in bringing about a radical shift in poetic diction, themes and symbolism, from the stronghold of Tagore’s Romantic poetry. Gautam and his friends were on a similar route in terms of Bengali music. Quite appropriately so, on the suggestion of Ranjon Ghoshal, a first cousin of Gautam and founding member of the band, the name of the band was re-christened to Mohiner Ghoraguli (Mohin’s Horses) borrowing from a poem ‘Ghora’ by Jibanananda Das.

The line of the poem went something like this —

‘Mohiner ghoragulo ghash khae, Kartik’er jyotsna’r prantorey’ which can be loosely translated in English as: “Mohin’s horses graze on the horizon, In the autumn moonlight”

The 1970s were not a promising time for a radically experimental group like Mohiner Ghoraguli. Bengali “adhunik” singers like Hemanta Mukhopadhyay, Sandhya Mukhopadhyay and Shyamal Mitra were primarily working on updating the tradition left behind by Tagore and Nazrul. The music was not contemporary in the literary sense. They were traditional in their instruments and arrangements, and traditional in their themes and lyrics. The music of the seventies was chiefly weighing on Bengali film releases, and the songs generally appeared for the first time as soundtrack for those films. These were predictably romantic songs, easily forgettable in their lyrical content. What Mohiner Ghoraguli dared to venture into has been compared by many to Bob Dylan and Joan Baez’s Folk Music revival in America. Strange as it seems today, in culturally conservative Bengal of the seventies, Mohiner Ghoraguli, with its unconventional musical compositions and strange choice of song themes, failed to gain much of a fan base. They were largely the makers of music without an audience, much like a God with no believers. Its songs dealt with everyday topics, the mundane and the often “we-dare-not-speak-of-them” themes such as politics, poverty, injustice, revolution, love, loneliness, even begging and prostitution. As pointed out by former bandmate Abraham Mazumdar, Gautam Chattopadhyay had strong political beliefs. Like many intelligent and idealistic young men of his generation, he was involved in socialist-communist politics, namely, the Naxalite movement. This political outlook was evidently reflected in the musical output of the band, not only in terms of lyrical content but also by way of presentation of the same and even the clothes they wore.

Mohiner Ghoraguli’s arrival in the 1970s, though short-lived, is very vital to the history of Bengal’s popular culture. Their efforts can be appreciated significantly more if seen in retrospect to the music of the Seventies across the world. The Progressive Rock movement of the time was giving rise to bands such as Genesis, Yes, Lake and Palmer, and Pink Floyd. Other bands that saw a steady rise in their fanbase included AC/DC, Queen, Black Sabbath, The Rolling Stones, Kiss, Blue Oyster Cult, and Led Zeppelin. The decade saw the decline of the term “Rock n Roll” as bands of cult status like The Beatles broke up. Various sub-genres of Rock, like Soft Rock, Hard Rock, Country, Folk, Punk, and Shock emerged along with the new craze of Disco. ABBA was one of the big names in the 1970s too. With the death of Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix, came the end of the booming phenomenon of the 60s. Country Rock acts like Eagles became popular, and people like Bob Marley helped make Reggae mainstream.

The turn of the decade saw a new breed of intellectual singersongwriters such as Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Lou Reed, Neil Young, Tom Waits and Bruce Springsteen. In Britain, Hard Rock and Progressive Rock branched into several sub-genres, while Rock n Roll was given an almost intellectual quality. It is safe to say that music became a cultural peer of European cinema and literature. Decadence in music gave birth to singers like David Bowie who popularized Decadent Rock. Similarly Robert Fripp and Peter Gabriel were revolutionalizing Progressive Rock. Brian Eno’s innovation of Progressive Rock led to the invention of Ambient or Post Rock music. Meanwhile, Pink Floyd’s experiments with psychedelic progressive music resuting in

some important albums of the decade. For instance The Wall, a concept album by Floyd, following one common thread through all the songs, dealt with man’s loneliness and the metaphorical wall they build around themselves. On the other hand German Rock led by Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream and the like were probably twenty years ahead of British rock. They in turn laid the foundations for popular electronic music, instrumental rock, new-age music and disco.

70s – Musical Innovations Studio Evolution

Accelerated improvements in stereo recording. Advanced layering of vocals (eg. Carpenters “Big Hits”) and celebrated albums such as Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” and “Dark Side of the Moon”.

Singer Songwriters

Solo artists kept the spirit of folk music alive (John Denver, Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, Jim Croce)

Development of Soul

Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder were the forerunners of this movement

Disco Craze

Transformed the music industry by elevating producers and overshadowing individual artists. This disco fever culminated to its peak with the release of Saturday Night Fever (1977), starring John Travolta, featuring music by The Bee Gees.

Hard Rock

Rock Music became louder and meaner with the introduction of metal

New Directions

Midway through the 1970s, punk music began invading rock music and youth movements rebelling against established music led to bands like The Ramones and The Sex Pistols.

Discography Albums from the first phase by the original members:

Albums from the second phase (ed. Gautam Chattopadhyay):

Shongbigno Pakhikul O Kolkata Bishayak (Ruffled Feathers and on Calcutta) (1977)

Aabaar Bochhor Kuri Pore (Again, After Twenty-odd Years) (1995)

Ajaana Udonto Bostu ba Aw-Oo-Baw (Unidentified Flying Object or U.F.O) (1978) Drishyomaan Moheener Ghoraguli (Visible Horses of Moheen) The type of music that Mohiner Ghoraguli had quite unknowingly pioneered can today safely be termed as “Jibonmukhi”, or songs that spoke of “ordinary life”. It took singers like Kabir Suman, Anjan Dutta, and Nachiketa about two decades more to bring

Jhora Somoyer Gaan (Songs of Times Past) (1996) Maya (Illusion) (1997) Khyapar Gaan (Songs of the Loony) (1999) Aabaar Bochhor Kuri Pore extended CD re-release (1999)

“Jibonmukhi” to a new level of unprecedented popularity. By the nineties, there was clearly a more dedicated audience for such music, and this made the new breed of singers a more easily acceptable name in every home.

This could partly be a result of the liberalization of television channels in 1991. People now had a good idea of what the world was watching and listening to because of foreign channels such as Star TV and MTV.

What They Said

In their later years, Mohiner Ghoraguli enjoyed wide acclaimed popularity. Many articles were written in regional magazines and local newspapers by friends, critics and even the members themselves. The following pages contain excerpts of some of these stories that were originally written in Bengali. All original documents and scans of articles appear courtesy Minoti Chatterjee, wife of late frontman Gautam Chattopadhyay.

“Mohiner Gautam, Gautam-er Mohin Ebong Porer Prajanma” Mohin’s Gautam, Gautam’s Mohin, and the next generation – JOYJEET LAHIRI

Mohiner Ghoraguli (1976 - 1981) – Fifteen major public performances, three records, and a lot of criticism. All this, followed by a period of lull. The fame and respect that they have today would not have been possible in the early 1980s. Specially not after their sudden disappearance. Rabindra Sadan, one of the most important cultural centres in Calcutta, witnessed the first performance by a Bangla band on 12th August, 1979. This band was none other than Mohiner Ghoraguli. The tickets for the show were printed on pieces of old news-papers. The stage décor was done innovatively using the concept of bamboo scaffolding. Among other notable venues in Calcutta Mohiner Ghoraguli performed in Jogesh Mime Academy (1977), Star Theater (1978), Max Mueller Bhavan (1979), St. Paul’s Cathedral lawns (1980) and

Calcutta School of Music (1981). Every performance had something special to look forward to. The show tickets and invites were innovative and often ‘strange’, enough to make people stop and wonder. If some tickets were printed on scrap of newspaper, others would have thumbprints of all members in red ink, or something as outlandish as a two-liner that would read like a telegram “ARRIVING ON… AT… STOP ATTEND”. All Mohiner Ghoraguli members had the gift of playing more than one instrument, so during each show they would easily shift from one to the other, taking each others’ role, erasing boundaries and limitations. In an attempt to put a finger on their musical style, they claimed to be “Baul Jazz”. Blending the twangs of an electric guitar with those of the baul’s ‘do-tara’, the saxophone

with the snake charmer’s flute, or the veena with the violin - all this seemed like cakewalk. It was enough to shake the foundations of a generation that had grown up loving and knowing Rabindra Sangeet. This musical revolution was happening in the 1970s, when the guitar was hardly a household thing. As a matter of fact, the guitar had not been seen extensively anywhere beyond the pubs and nightclubs of Park Street until then. But as luck would have it, like hundreds of promising young bands the world over, Mohiner Ghoraguli faced a sudden demise. They exclaimed “None of you wanted to listen to what we had to offer anymore”. All members scattered, and left the city in search of other jobs elsewhere. Music took a backseat for many.

One fine day in an old canteen in Presidency College, a couple of students broke into songs like ‘Runway’ and ‘Bhalobashi Jyotsna-e’. With renewed curiosity more and more people wanted to know who Mohiner Ghoraguli were, a band that had written lyrics that reflected and stirred their own urban sentiments. It was the nineties. A new search began for Mohiner Ghoraguli and the second phase of its music began. Gautam Chattopadhyay was surprised to find that youngsters still remember them in colleges, after all these years. With renewed interest and energy, a Mohiner Ghoraguli album edited by Gautam Chattopadhyay was released in 1995 during the Calcutta Book Fair. The name was simple and appropriate “Abar Bochor Kuri Pore” (translated Twenty Years Hence).

Soon after, more albums followed – “Jhora Shomoyer Gaan”, “Maya” “Khyapar Gaan”. Of course, this was the new face of Mohiner Ghoraguli with Gautam Chattopadhyay standing tall as the only one of the founding members of the original band. The band became more like a music project where new artistes and voices were given a chance. Singer and instrumentalist Gautam Chattopadhyay took a backseat, concentrating only on lyrics and musical arrangements. Prithibi ta Naki Choto Hote Hote” became an instant hit as it strung a chord with the contemporary urban youth’s lonely heart. Other popular songs like “Rabeya ki Ruksana”, “Ei Muhurte” and “Telephone” were belted out to an eager audience, seasoned and ready for more.

“Elo ki e Ashamaye” An untimely visitor – LADLI MUKHOPADHYAY

To his near and dear ones, Gautam Chattopadhyay was ‘Moni da’. He believed in bringing people together through his music. Everyone was expected to join in, whether to lend a voice, play a rhythm on the table or contribute any which way they could.

Revolutionary Theater and IPTA –

Before and after every meeting, and also during breaks, music became a source of inspiration and motivation, a way of bringing people together and keeping their spirit high. Everyone was expected to sing, write a lyric or poem, or join in somehow. Of course this also led to the belief that “everyone can sing” with often disastrous results. But Gautam Chattopadhyay, starting from the corridors of Presidency College where he studied, often took to the streets with his band of Mohiner Ghoraguli members and other faithful followers, singing, clapping, playing percussions, and simply raising a voice in every “para” (neighbourhood), spreading the cause of the Naxal Movement for which he strongly stood by.

Both of these rose to their heights in the 70s because of the sociopolitical scenario of the times.

In Bengal, it could be said that Salil Chowdhury was one of the firsts

From the Students’ Union and local politics of the 70s, he managed to reach an alternate world of nightlong music jamming sessions in Park Street. Around the same time IPTA (Indian People’s Theater Association) the Cultural Wing of the Communist Party of India, became active in Kolkata, Mumbai and Assam.

to make Bangla modern music popular among the masses. Gautam Chattopdhyay was a close second, although of course, soon after, people like Suman Chattopadhyay (now Kabir Suman), Nachiketa and Anjan Dutta only helped in bringing such music closer to the masses. Gautam Chattopadhyay managed to spread music like an addiction amongst countless young men and women. Music became like opium for the masses. During his lifetime he was far from the media glare. All that he received was due to the support of the people whose lives he had touched. Gautam Chattopadhyay would keep travelling in search of inspiration in the villages and interiors of Bengal. He was eager to learn and incorporate different forms of music, weaving them

seamlessly with rustic as well as modern western instruments. From Baul, Fakir, Bhawaiya, Jhumur, Leto, Chatka, Chhau, Murshidi, Tushu, nothing missed his musical soul. They all found a place in his compositions. Although he’s not with us anymore, the new generation of musicians can take measures to keep his music alive by re-mastering the old recordings and circulating them. People can take a leaf from his page and continue supporting the traditional forms of Bengal’s music and spread the love and respect.

“kanpe kanpe amar hiya kanpe e ki je kando e ki je kando eki kando shob pondo emon kando shundor laage ki je chai chinta ki je chai chinta ki chai chinta ohe kanta pore pranta dukkho laage tumi chara shunno laage kopalta mondo kopalta mondo kopal mondo kaje dhondho kaate chondo biroho raage tumi chara shunno laage shirer shonkranti shirer shonkranti e oshanti dao khanti shob bhranti dur hok aage cofeee chara shunno laage caafe caafe, amar priya caafe”

« ‘Amar Priya Cafe’ is a bluesyjazz song from their album Jhora Somoyer Gaan. Initially it seems to be a song about one’s beloved who is greatly missed. However it later surprises the listener with reference to a coffee cup at Priya Cafe which is in fact the real subject.

“Chole Gelen Bangla Gaaner Prothom ‘Pop-Cult’

Gautam Chattopadhyay”

Bengali music’s first ‘Pop-Cult’, Gautam Chattopadhyay, now no more – DEBOJYOTI MISRA Mohiner Ghoraguli proved that it is possible to tread a different path in music while having respect for all that Eastern music has to offer. However, this was indeed a very difficult feat. To brush off denial and ridicule and go against the current is never easy. It would be unfair to Mohiner Ghoraguli if we spoke only about their music. Even the way they performed or presented themselves to the public was radical. They always managed to create a buzz by doing something different on stage. For them it was never about singing sweetly like a choir. Rather the whole stage was like a gymnasium to them. Someone could be rollerskating while singing, another playing the flute while lying down in a yoga position, yet someone else could be swaying on a swing with a microphone in

hand. The audience on the other hand would be shocked and taken by surprise, and not necessarily enthralled or awe-struck. It is true therefore, in those days only 10% of their audience loved and appreciated Mohiner Ghoraguli’s contribution. However, Gautam Chattopadhyay was not one for giving up easily. He was a firm believer of the notion that if the path is right, no matter how long or difficult, one will always reach the final destination. And now we know how true it was, since the winds of change in Bengali music that became popular much later actually started in the 70s. In the prelude to their vastly popular song “Bhalobashi”, Abraham Majumdar plays the violin in a way that was hitherto unheard of in these parts of the country. The three-layered harmonies in the song were enough to make people amazed because of

their sheer beauty and innovation. Gautam Chattopadhyay was not only familiar with various musical styles and instruments, his lyrics too were very unique. Some of his typical subjects would be urbanization and loneliness, love, emotion, nostalgia, subjects that were seen in the works of Kallol poets of Bengal, but in music for the first time in Mohiner Ghoraguli. Gautam Chattopadhyay was one who could make things happen. Instead of giving in to popularity he was able to remain creative and original throughout. He had both passion and talent, and during his lifetime was never known to say a thing against anyone else. Gautam Chattopadhyay had a very individual style when it came to music or even his general lifestyle. It would be impossible for anyone to try and imitate him.

“Mohiner Ghoragulir Din” The days of Mohiner Ghoraguli – GAUTAM CHATTOPADHYAY

Whenever I think of the seventies, I can’t help but feel that we were ahead of our times. We used to believe that if we have a sense of melody, no matter how our voice, the songs will sound sweet. That’s how the world outside looks at music. Whenever Mohiner Ghoraguli used to perform, we would sing our original compositions as well as old nostalgic Bengali songs. As for instruments, there was piano, guitar, bass, drums, table, do tara, flute etc. I don’t believe music has any race, creed or genre. When we used to jam in Behala, our group of thirty odd members used to easily switch between harmoniums, strings and percussions. Our group was formed with the will to give voice to our thoughts, since we knew no one else could do that for

us. The group went through a long process and finally got formalized as Mohiner Ghoraguli some time in the year 1975. Behala, in those days, was something like Liverpool for us. We all shared a common allergy with the conventional idea of a choir or orchestra style of music performance. We would not be caught dead singing in white sarees with red borders or kurta-pajamas. More so because our basic premise was to break free from conventions. The first experiment with Mohiner Ghoraguli happened in a Durga Puja pandal. Since then there was no looking back and never an empty seat. None of us wanted to be stars. Our consolidated efforts took shape in our first music album from Bharati

Records. We wanted to take initiative to reach out to people with this record. As a matter of fact, our intention was to stir the poet and musician that lives inside every Bengali. At ten in the night we would take to the streets singing and playing our songs in local neighbourhoods, sometimes even sleeping in the open. We could see people getting motivated this way. The political scenario was pretty complicated in 1975. In a way, our songs helped in sending out secret messages. Music back then was a way to buy fame. A way to live. There was no room for an authoritative voice in Mohiner Ghoraguli. No one leader, no “me”, only “all of us”. It was the same when it came to playing music, since we all played everything in turns.

However, the time came when we realized that we are not being able to reach out to the ones we wanted to. On the other hand, it was the elite Bengali who readily accepted and appreciated our music. It was then that we decided we have to stop. The reason our target audience went through such a shift is probably because of Passive Culture. The upliftment of Active Culture had been the sole purpose of Mohiner Ghoraguli’s existence, but sadly, the results were far from that.

I was asked to sit in the living room. In a minute she joined in, followed by two cats and a dog. I was immediately greeted with a smile and a glass of nimboo pani. Behind her I noticed a larger-than-life framed photograph of the legend, Gautam Chattopadhyay. Suddenly it sank, the fact that I did not know where to start. So much has happened before I was even born, and sitting there in front of the photograph I felt like a toddler facing an ocean for the first time. Excitement, anticipation, the vastness, curiosity. In a moment I relaxed. I was determined to find out more about the band I have grown to love ever since my teen years. And the man who started it all. She started talking.

In conversation with Minoti Chatterjee, wife of Gautam Chattopadhyay

Through Her Eyes

“It is a common misconception people have about Mohiner Ghoraguli, the fact that it existed between 1975 and 1981. Truth be told, it ran up till 1999, with a few gap years in between. As a matter of fact, the second phase that began in the mid-nineties was more intense and focused and managed to produce more memorable songs. The most popular among them would be Prithibita Naki Chhoto Hote Hote, Ghore Pherar Gaan, Tomae Dilam etc.” I asked her about the recent controversies dealing with the way Prithibita Naki was used in a Bollywood film in 2006. “Pritam had in fact come to tell me that he had intentions of using the composition for a song in the movie Gangster. However I was not keen to go ahead with that and I told him so. Later, when the song Bheegi Bheegi Si (sung by James) became an overnight hit, I immediately approached Asha Recording Studio who claimed that Pritam had gone to them for the rights but they did not sell it to him. I thought the whole deal was a little fishy, but at that point there was nothing more we could do. However that acted as a reality check for us. We went ahead and copyrighted all of Mohiner Ghoraguli’s creations

to avoid any more rip-offs in the future. Probably the only good thing that came of this incident is the fact that now more people across India are familiar with the band’s contributions to music.” I showed interest in the album covers, particularly the ones that had been designed during the early years. “That was mainly Ranjon’s contribution. Of course the band went through a brainstorming session together… but he had a way with illustrations and visual puns. As a matter of fact, his wife Sangeeta, who was then a fresh graduate in fine arts and literature, handled a large portion of the artwork and design”. Interestingly, the stylized black seahorse has become Mohiner Ghoraguli’s most iconic image. “This was meant to be a visual pun. When we think of horses we don’t automatically think of sea-horses... Yet these

mini horses live underwater and lead extraordinary lives. The males carry the little ones in their pouch and are responsible for the way they are bred. Mohiner Ghoraguli too comprised of members who were not run-of-the-mill. When you thought of Bengali musicians in the seventies, a bunch of young rebellious men in shirt and trousers singing about airport runways and UFOs, accompanied with guitar, drums and ektara, could not have been the first image that crossed your mind. No matter what they did, they always took pride in doing things differently.” “Apart from penning songs and composing music, Gautam used to play the guitar, the tabla and the saxophone.” Gautam Chattopadhyay’s son Gaurab, popularly known as Gabu, chips in, “Baba used to say that the guitar

and drums are like English and Math. Mastering both melody and rhythm gives the musician a good base”. Mrs Chatterjee continued speaking, “He would often take off from the city and stay in rural Bengal for long stretches. While political motivation was definitely one of the reasons for such trips, his main interest lay in looking out for new music. Drawing inspiration from local musicians like Baul singers, he often stayed with them to learn their art. It’s almost as if he got habituated to this nomadic lifestyle. On returning back, he would experiment with the sound further, and sit with his band members to figure out ways to incorporate them into new songs. During those days, they would stay cooped up in a house in Behala for days on end, practicing and jamming relentlessly, like there’s no tomorrow. But this house in Naktala had always

been his home. Even Gabu and his sister Chiquita grew up here. This room, where we are sitting right now.. he’d spend hours writing or fiddling with some instrument here.” I wanted to know how the band went about with the recording and publicity. “ASHA Recording Studio – That’s the record label that always released Mohiner Ghoraguli albums. When the original line-up was active and running, they were mainly dependant on their live performances for publicity. You can well imagine, unlike today, in those days it was never easy to arrange for shows. They would often roam around in the streets or stand at bus stops distributing tickets for their show. Otherwise, news spread through word-of-mouth.

In ‘95 they launched Abar Bochhor Kuri Pore in the crowded grounds of The Calcutta Book Fair. It had a very responsive audience and received good positive feedback. Along with the cassettes, there were little booklets that were launched by A. Mukherjee and Sons. Today those are out-ofprint, but if you go hunting in College Street you will still find some old copies in select stores.” At this stage, I became naturally interested to find out what happened during the years in between, when the original members of Mohiner Ghoraguli broke up. “Hmmm… A time came when some of them started losing faith in the band. They were not getting the results they had in mind. Although they did have some loyal fans even then, very few people were able to accept their kind of radical

music. Most of them decided to move base to different cities in search of a more stable job. Also, unfortunately, some ego issues and ideological differences crept in. They had no real option but to part ways. Gautam decided to stay back. Music was his first love and he could not sacrifice it for the so-called ‘greener pastures’. During that phase he continued his experiments and travels. He turned to music direction, made a couple of short films and even directed a feature-length Bengali film called Nagmoti. All the songs were written and composed by him too and the film went ahead to win a National Award. One of the songs from the same, ‘Doriyae Ailo Toofan’, is a big hit even today, and many musicians and bands have covered the song. The original song in the film was sung by Paban Das Baul, the legendary contemporary Baul singer.

In the 90s, when Gautam realized that Bengal was finally ready for what Mohiner Ghoraguli had started in the 70s, he decided to give it one more shot. But this time he was alone. So he got on board new talents and started work as a composer, lyricist and music editor. At this point he was lucky to have a few good friends who often collaborated with him, or atleast inspired him. Arunendu Das was one of them. Subrata Ghosh and Joyjeet Lahiri were others and they were involved with the song ‘Tomae Dilam’. During this time, Anjan Dutta was a rising star and a good friend of Gautam. He would often come over for a chat. Eventually, with continued effort and a good support, Mohiner Ghoraguli went on to release four albums in that decade. The rest you know.” She finished with a smile.

Mohiner Ghoraguli Today

The band enjoys nothing short of a cult status today. They are spontaneously quoted by musicians and amateurs alike. It is agreed unanimously, that when they came to existence in the 70s, what they were really doing was a “bidroho� or revolution. They were trying to find a footing where no foundation existed. On the other hand, the bands of the 90s and the new millennium have had it much easier because of the legacy left behind by Mohiner Ghoraguli. The new bands were safely expressing themselves through brash, unabashed, in-your-face, and even metaphysical lyrics. Once unacceptable, but more than welcome now.

A few years ago, director Qaushik Mukherjee, popularly known as Q, made a documentary called Le Pocha, a film that digs into the alternative Bengali music culture in Calcutta. It features various contemporary bands and solo musicians such as Cactus, Fossils, Chandrabindoo, Shilajit and Kabir Suman, apart from featuring stalwarts like Pradip Chatterjee and Abraham Majumdar, original founding members of Mohiner Ghoraguli.

In the documentary, it becomes evident at once the kind of impression they have made in the hearts of Bengalis. People today have come to accept that if they are truly looking for meaningful content in songs then they have Mohiner Ghoraguli’s large repertoire of lyrics to fall back on. Moreover, they wrote their songs in Bangla, bringing universal feelings of pain, love, and angst closer to home. Gautam Chattopadhyay is like a father figure to many successful contemporary musicians. Many of them have had the opportunity of collaborating with him in the later albums that were released in the 90s. In any case, his was always an open house for everyone if at any point they wished to discuss new ideas. An eccentric then, friends and fans remember him today as “The Man”.

17th February 2007 saw Mohiner Ghoraguli’s first concert being performed since Gautam Chattopadhyay’s demise in 1999. A brainchild of former member and emcee of the band Ranjon Ghoshal, the concert brought together three original members, their sons, and many musicians involved with the project in the 90s, as well as a full orchestra from Abraham Majumdar’s music school, L’Atelier de Musique de Calcutta. The

concert which took place in Ambedkar Bhavan, Bangalore, also happened to be the band’s first outstation performance. Like old times, Ranjon hosted the show and ensured he had the audience’s attention at all times with little inside jokes and trivia about the band. Pradip Chattopadhyay was on the flute, prancing about the stage and playing perfect notes and singing in between. Abraham Majumdar was on his famous

violins, but was also taking over the grand piano in between. Apart from their published songs, they performed quite a few unpublished numbers like “Benojoler Gaan”, “Sobuj Gomkhet (Mithye Shwopno)”, and “Chhaya-ghera”. These songs had been composed in the 1970s but did not ultimately make it to the earlier album releases.

More recently, a tribute gig was organized in Calcutta. Gaurab Chattopadhyay (Gabu), son of Gautam Chattopadhyay, Sayak Bandhopadhyay, and Sanket (Panku) Bhattacharya who have performed in a number of shows with Gautam and been a part of his albums as kids, paid a Tribute to “Mohiner Ghoraguli” along with Ritoban Chatterjee, son of Pradip Chottopadhay at The Basement, Samilton Hotel, on 11th August 2010. They played songs from the albums of the 90’s along with songs by the original line up. Additionally, the set-list consisted of many of Gautam Chattopadhyay’s songs which were post Mohiner Ghoraguli and even songs by other artistes which were featured in these albums. It was an unplugged show featuring guest musicians such as Neel Adhikari, Arka Das, Rajkumar Sengupta and Paroma Banerji.

Interestingly, and much to the delight of Gabu and his friends, the gig saw an audience ranging from sixteen to sixty years. It proved yet again the timelessness of Mohiner Ghoraguli’s songs. Gaurab seems keen to continue organizing similar tribute shows in Bengal from time to time. The response was overwhelming, and the songs invoke a feeling of nostalgia in everyone as they all swing or tap along while singing out the familiar lyrics. After all, even today, no high school or college music festival in Bengal is complete without some student band’s power-packed rendition of “Prithibita Naki Chhoto Hote Hote..”

The Collected Songs of Mohiner Ghoraguli 1977-1999 1. Hai Bhalobashi ------------------------------ Maya --------------------------------------------- 4:45 2. Amar Priya CafĂŠ ---------------------------- Jhara Samayer Gaan --------------------------- 5:50 3. Sattola Bari ----------------------------------- Khyapar Gaan ---------------------------------- 3:47 4. Ghore Ferar Gaan --------------------------- Khyapar Gaan ---------------------------------- 5:57 5. Ajaana Udonto Bostu --------------------- Ajaana Udonto Bostu Ba Aw-Oo-Baw ---- 3:17 6. Tomay Dilam ------------------------ -------- Jhara Samayer Gaan --------------------------- 3:48 7. Sangbigna Pakhikul ------------------------ Jhara Samayer Gaan --------------------------- 2:55 8. Telephone ------------------------------------- Maya ----------------------------------------------- 6:25 9. Bangali Koreche Bhagobaan ------------- Khyapar Gaan ---------------------------------- 7:18 10. Dhandhar Thekeo Jatil Tumi ----------- Abar Bochor Kuri Pore ------------------------ 3:43 11. Kato Ki Karar Ache Baki ---------------- Maya ---------------------------------------------- 5:08 12. Prithibita Naki... --------------------------- Abar Bochor Kuri Pore ------------------------ 6:04 All songs in the CD compilation appear courtesy Bharati Records and Asha Recording Studio. Songs performed by Mohiner Ghoraguli featuring Lakkhichara, Subroto Ghosh, Joyjeet Lahiri, Chandrani Bannerjee, Raja, Bonny, Rituparna and Krosswinds.

‘Remembering Mohiner Ghoraguli’ includes one audio CD and one book. None of them should be sold individually without the outer brown jacket. All articles and artwork are original works of the author unless otherwise specified. Artworks in ink are author’s creative interpretation of the band’s songs and photographs. No part of the book or CD may be reproduced in any form, print/ digital, without prior permission from the author. This is a student project undertaken as part of NID’s Graphic Design curriculum. Contact:

Profile for Damayanti Chakravarty

Remembering Mohiner Ghoraguli  

A tribute to Mohiner Ghoraguli (Mohin's Horses), 70s cult rock band from Bengal. This is a final semester publication project with original...

Remembering Mohiner Ghoraguli  

A tribute to Mohiner Ghoraguli (Mohin's Horses), 70s cult rock band from Bengal. This is a final semester publication project with original...

Profile for damayanti