Unidentified flying objects!
The unique life of Moheener Ghoraguli, the original Bangla rock group.By Bharath MurthyThose not tuned into the musical radar will not recognize that the hit song ‘BheegiBheegi’, composed by music director Pritam for the film ‘Gangster’, is a cover version of ‘Prithibi ta naki’, a song by the Bangla collective known as ‘Moheener Ghoraguli’(Mohin’s Horses). Formed in 1976, and led by its charismatic frontman GautamChattopadhyay, Moheener Ghoraguli released three records before disbanding in 1981. Indoing so, they sparked off the musical movement known as Bangla rock, of which theywere the pioneers.I got my first taste of the unique flavour of their music when I came to Kolkata in 2001 tostudy film at the Satyajit Ray Film and TV Institute. There was a bluesy number going onin one of the rooms in the hostel. The lyrics were in Bengali and the only English word init was ‘telephone’. It was some kind of mix (I will not call it ‘fusion’) of Bengali folk and blues. The folk part of it, I later came to know, was Baul music (
). At a time whenIndian English rock musicians are still struggling to find an original voice, here was agroup that had already made modern rock music their own and sung their songs not inEnglish but in their own language Bengali.Phase I : 1976-1981The 70s were a heady time in Bengal, a time of revolutionary spirit sweeping the urbanyouth. The Naxalite movement, the call for armed struggle against the decrepit power structure, resulted in many bright youngsters losing their lives, leaving scars that Bengalis still yet to recover from. Gautam Chattopadhyay, outspoken B.Sc. student of Presidency College Kolkata during the height of the movement, witnessed all of it firsthand. A natural musician, he used to play saxophone with a bunch of Anglo Indians in a band called ‘The Urge’. The music scene at the time was concentrated on Park Street,where live bands played in pubs like Trinca’s and Moulin Rouge. Abraham Mazumdar,one of the members in the original line up, recalls the time. “We used to play Beatles,Crosby, Clapton etc. I played with Louis Banks for a while, and Usha Uthup was alsothere.” The band came together in 1976 during a three-month break that Gautam took dueto a leg injury. The name ‘Moheener Ghoraguli’ is taken from a line of poetry by modernBengali poet, Jibananda Das. Gautam wrote lyrics, sang, and played lead guitar. Theoriginal line up included Pradip Chattopadhyay (brother of Gautam), who played bass/flute, Bishu Chatterjee, another brother (drums), Tapesh Banerjee (vocals), TapasDas (rhythm guitar/vocals), Abraham Mazumdar (violin/piano) and Ranjan Ghosal(cousin), who arranged the music and drew album covers. The division was never strictand they would sometimes interchange instruments on stage.