I had once promised you that I will introduce you to your grandson before I even get married. Here’s presenting your first grandson “Tup Tup” in your loving arms. Tell me, is he, too, like me?
These catchy words are on the cover of the audio CD “Tup Tup”, released sometime back in 2009. The music of the eight songs comprising the album has been composed and programmed by Anuraag Saikia, who might just be the youngest music composer Assam has known. If the recent BIG 92.7 FM Award for Best Music Producer and Arrangement that he got is any proof, then this young music prodigy, who has been composing music from as early as when he was just eight years old for a drama, has already made his mark in the music scenario in Assam, and is only going ahead to achieve greater laurels.
Some people spend their whole lives trying to find out what is it that they love doing, and having found it out, trying to figure out how to go about making a living out of it. For the more fortunate ones, the choice is made almost naturally, without any effort at all. Born to academician Dr. Anil Saikia and All India Radio artist and teacher Dipali Saikia, and brought up in that musically enriched family, it was almost like Anuraag was destined to indulge in music himself, a fact that was attested when five year old Anuraag accompanied his parents during “Raas” on the “Taal” for the entire duration of the night. Anuraag grew up in a household where the day started with folk songs being played on the radio, most of which had been sung by his mother; a house where his father had (and still has) a massive collection of twenty-five gramophone players, and a breathtaking anthology of around eight thousand records, featuring music starting from that of Beethoven to Bhupen Hazarika to, yes, even Michael Jackson, as close inspection reveals.
And hence it is no wonder that when I ask Anuraag about how it all started, all he can reply is that he has no idea. Only that by the time he was in the eighth standard, he had started composing music commercially, and was being paid for his work. Already well-versed with Assamese folk music by then, Anuraag started learning Western notations on the keyboard from the time he was in the eighth standard till he was in the tenth.
It was while pursuing his higher secondary in Cotton College that the idea of Tup Tup was conceived. And as Anuraag discloses, it was nothing but pure merriment that led to the album, and that the songs in the album weren’t even composed with the album in mind. The first song that made its way into the album, “Nixa”, was composed by Anuraag for a friend of his who had once commented that she didn’t listen to Assamese music, preferring to listen to only choice music composed by a famous music director. Motivated enough to prove her wrong, and to make her listen to an Assamese song that she would actually like, Anuraag left no stone unturned and even went to Mumbai to get Pramod Nair to play percussions like the Pakhwaz, Matka and Ganzeera, and eventually came up with the song. When I mentioned “Sila”, the first song in the album, all Anuraag had to say was, “Accidental. Pure accidental”. However, to the listener, the definitely ethnic flavors in the song fused with modern elements would sound far from accidental. The title track of the album “Tup-Tup” has two versions, and both of them have indeed humble origins. The “Tup Tup (Boroxun)” version of the song was born when Anuraag and his friends, including Santanu Rowmoriya (who has written some of the lyrics for the album) were traveling by car, and Santanu came up with the first few words of the song. The song was later given its nascent form in a rainy evening in a water-logged room with no power, and the first recording was made by Anuraag and his friends cooped up in that room. The “Tup Tup (Morom)” version came into being when Anuraag met up with singer Mousam Gogoi (of the very recent Coke Studio at MTV fame), and on hearing him (Gogoi) humming a few words, decided on the spot to incorporate them into a song which later found its way into the album. As for the rest of the album, the songs are refreshing, with that “something” in it that I will only call the Anuraag touch. The mood of the album is alternately romantic, and vibrant and youthful, and is bound to appeal to the choosiest listener.
The album was promoted in a unique way, in which Anuraag was helped by his father, Dr. Anil Saikia. Free copies of the album were sent to a multitude of educational institutes in Assam, with letters to the Principal, and a request to send in their feedback about the songs. It was later learnt that some of the colleges had given away CDs as a prize to the Best Singer in the college, and academicians would call up Anuraag’s father with extremely positive response to the album. Music industry in Assam has hardly witnessed such an event, where this many copies were given away free of cost, as part of promotion. But as Anuraag puts it, it was not about the money, but about being heard, and wanting to know how the album was accepted by the public, and the young generation that they accessed through all those colleges happen to be the one who is most receptive of new music.
Tup Tup paved the way for the bigger arena for Anuraag, and in the following years, he composed background score for as many as fourteen Assamese musicals like Janmoni, Anjana, Junbai and other immensely popular movies under the famous banner of NK Productions. Meanwhile, having completed his graduation from Cotton College itself, Anuraag spent some time in Assam before shifting to Chennai last year to enroll into the Swarnabhumi Academy of Music (SAM) in the Diploma Program in Piano. Being in proximity of world-class musicians has not only helped in honing Anuraag’s musical proficiency but also in widening his field. It was in SAM that Anuraag started playing both Blues and Bihu with equal dexterity, and it is Anuraag who introduced musicians out there not hailing from our land, to the beautiful folk music of Assam. And it is, no doubt, without reason, that Anuraag has been just recently rewarded as the “Student Brand Ambassador” from the academy.
But this is not the end of the list of his accomplishments. Rather, it is just the beginning, for Anuraag has already recorded our very own “O Mur Apunar Desh” with the voice of twelve prominent singers, belonging to different eras and generations of Assam, which he says, has been a long time dream for him. The song was recorded for the playback purpose of the Prime News channel, recently launched in Assam. He happens to be the composer for all the jingles and the logo music of the channel, too. Anuraag has also recently composed a song for the drama “Khiriki” to be performed in the legendary Hengool Theatre, and the song has been recorded in Joi Barua’s voice. I was in fact privy to an exclusive listen to the song, and must say that the song left me awestruck. To top it all, Anuraag has arranged music for one of the songs composed by music director Nikhil, and considers it an honor that the song has been recorded in the voice of none other than Asha Bhosle, which is sort of a preamble to his fresh move to Mumbai just a week ago. He is also currently working in the music composition of four Assamese feature films.
I want to talk about a lot of things, except that it is the dead of the night and Anuraag has to get back to work. Next big dream? I ask. The Grammy, Anuraag replies, without wasting a second. I let out a giggle, looking for signs of flippancy, but he assures me he is serious. Oh, okay, so the route? I ask again. He says just two words: hard work. And he says it with a determination that makes me believe this is not something he takes lightly. He also dreams of buying a mountain someday and build a “small” house with fifteen to twenty rooms in it, where the best musicians of the world would come together to jam. Coming from Anuraag, even this seems like a realistic dream.
For someone who considers creating music as a means to everything, whether to uplift the mood of a close friend going through the blues, or to express his gratitude towards his mentor; for someone who finds immense joy in listening to a non-Assamese friend play an Assamese folk song on his guitar just like that; for someone who cannot think of doing anything else in life because music is the only life he knows, Anuraag Saikia is sure one of those fortunate ones destined to dedicate themselves to music right from the start. And we at Fried Eye wish him all the luck to keep adding more feathers to that already colorful cap of his.