In Conversation – Jim Ankan Deka
© Ankit Atreja
When Pramathesh first sent me the contact number of Jim Ankan Deka, asking me to meet him and talk to him while I was in Bangalore, my first feeling was that of nervousness. The reason being that I had fallen in love with Jim Ankan’s music the first day I had heard it, and hence obviously considered myself in risk of being overwhelmed and awed by the person on actually meeting him. Unfortunately though, for my own reasons, I couldn’t meet Jim Ankan Deka in person, and had to remain contended with talking to him through the blessed phone. Nervous I was, but the moment we started talking I couldn’t help wondering how easy it was to talk to this person who single-handedly started the Eastern Fare Music Foundation and made his name as the first Assamese to start a music instruction school in Bangalore.
Jim Ankan Deka was born in Guwahati to a family seeped in culture. His father, Late Prof Bhabananda Deka, an eminent scholar honored by the Assamese community for more reasons than one, and his mother, poet Nalini Prava Deka, inculcated in Jim a respect for Assamese music and culture right from a tender age. Jim had his first music teacher at the age of six, who taught him to play the “khol”. The urge to create music was also something that Jim possessed from that nascent age, with his first composition at the age of eight. At fifteen, Jim Ankan was already a member of the first Assamese rock band “Prahar”, which also managed to release an album, a feat everybody would consider noteworthy at that age.
While Prahar couldn’t make it in the long run, Jim kept pursuing music by performing with another band Voodoo Child while in Guwahati. But the hunger to learn music, precisely to play the piano professionally and the lack of facilities thereof in Guwahati, made Jim shift base to Bangalore. The tryst with music instruction happened when Jim joined “Fuzions Music Academy” as a teacher. However, after being handed over the charge of six schools under the same academy by the owner, Jim realized that there was so much more he wanted to do for the people of Northeast and there was so much he could do, that he came up with the thought of a whole new organization. And that, is how Eastern Fare Music Foundation came to be born.
In Concert: Eastern Fare Band
© Ankit Atreja
The Eastern Fare Music Foundation started in 2009 with 25 students and absolutely no promoting or advertising strategy. But its success can be gauged by the fact that just based on word of mouth, the school had about two hundred students in just two months. Today the foundation operates in four locations spread across Bangalore, with the number of students increasing to nearly 500, including international students and a total staff of over 20 teachers. It is also equipped with a state-of the art jamming room and two semi-acoustic studios, which are also available for commercial services. However, Eastern Fare is not just about the music. Passionate about Northeast that Jim Ankan is, the foundation is also in charge of maintaining the “North-East India” page in Facebook which promotes everything related to this land of “elysian culture and verdure”, that the Northeast is, to quote their very words. Also in the offing is an information centre where people would get to know all about the Northeast, such as places worth visiting out here but not suitably promoted tourism-wise, among other things, all free of cost. On being asked about Eastern Fare the band, Jim mentioned that the focus of the band was to introduce acoustic rock, which is quite popular elsewhere, but not so much in India. With that in aim, the band, with all the members hailing from various fields but connected by a common fervor for music, got together to create music. The band has been performing since in numerous places, and its first album is scheduled to be released sometime in October under Times Now.
I then asked about Veenar, the two-man band that Jim Ankan is a member of. Veenar happened when Jim met prominent Carnatic vocalist and Veena player Suchetan Rangaswamy at a show, and both got to talking about how classical music can be made more popular by fusion. And so they came up with the band, in which Jim Ankan handles the music, with Suchetan Rangaswamy lending his vocals and also playing the veena. Veenar also will be having an album under their name, which is under editing right now, and will be released soon.
So much about the school and the bands, I wanted to know about the music, and I asked Jim what went into making a piece and about his inspiration when coming up with a new song. And his answer was simple. Intuition. Unlike conventional music composers who churn album after album year after year, Jim almost waits for the songs to come to him. And since he believes in creating only music that he likes, he has come up with just four pieces in the past four years. But he is in no hurry, since the heart is in the quality, and not the quantity. All in good time, as they say. No wonder when I hear his music it makes me stop and think. And more so, it makes me feel. Like I can almost see a kaleidoscope of colors, with a million paintings forming and then dissolving inside my mind. When so much goes into making a piece it is bound to have an equally enduring impression.
What next, I eagerly asked him. The visionary that he has already proved himself to be, I was interested in knowing what his dreams for the future are. Do something for the Northeast, came the prompt unhesitant reply. Start up a school in Assam, where music would be taught professionally, where students would learn music and then sit for exams and get appropriate certificates and degrees. Jim also wishes the young generation in Assam would not be so job-oriented, or hesitate to take up music as a full-fledged career. He wishes to do something about this as well; enlighten people out here about the wide scope of music as a profession. His other desire is to bring out those people in Assam who deserve to be known. To portray all our wonderful people whose work and life somehow missed the recognition they were entitled to.
Although I knew Jim Ankan has a very busy schedule, what with so much happening, what struck me was the easy unhurried way in which he entertained my eager questions. There was so much I wanted to know. Like whether he had always thought of taking up music as his profession. And that’s when he corrected me, saying he doesn’t consider himself a professional. After more than two decades of being involved with music, he still considers himself a student, since there is always so much more to learn. And well, I had so much to get inspired from Jim Ankan Deka himself; whether it be his unwavering love for Northeast, and an almost contagious zeal to actually do something for this place, or his extremely humble approach towards music and life in general. I ended the call, awestruck and overwhelmed like I knew I would be, but not before realizing that all of us with a passion for music out here in Northeast should consider ourselves lucky to have such a willing mentor always ready to help us out. With my whole-hearted loyalty, and all the best wishes we at Fried Eye can bring together, we wish that all of Jim Ankan Deka’s visions are brought to life, and his dreams for the Northeast come true.
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