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  An audience with the Bhojpuri Queen

An audience with the Bhojpuri Queen

Published : Sep 26, 2016, 5:36 am IST
Updated : Sep 26, 2016, 5:36 am IST

Assamese vocalist Kalpana Patowary opens up about Bhojpuri, folk music, Bollywood and more

Assamese vocalist Kalpana Patowary opens up about Bhojpuri, folk music, Bollywood and more

She is the 'Bhojpuri Queen' of folk music and has a strong command over the local dialect. Kalpana Patowary is a recognised vocalist from Assam, armed with special training in regional rich folk traditions of Kamrupiya and Goalpariya lok geet by her father-mentor Sri Bipin Patowary, who is also an accomplished folk artiste. In a freewheeling conversation, she narrates her journey, her firm grip on diverse folk forms, musical copyright issues, dominance of popular Bollywood music and her take on folk fusion

Why do music lovers call you a 'Bhojpuri Queen' How did you develop this affinity for Bhojpuri folk music


Geographically I hail from Assam, one of the seven sisters lying in the North East belt of India. So it feels really great that with no Bhojpuri connection whatsoever, as I am not related to the soil of either Uttar Pradesh or Bihar through any angle, the zonal music just happened to me out of the blue and has struck a deep chord in my heart over time. Normally whenever someone gets identified in any given field, the subject is somehow linked to its object, directly or indirectly. But my case is rather rare. Here, I guess, I am the 'chosen one' to reflect the regional legacy from beyond its domestic periphery. But I've been completely soaked into the native community's musical fold and have never been treated as an outsider. You may say, this is quite an 'out of the box' approach. But that's the beauty of India. There is unity within its variegated fabric.


Now coming to your question about the 'Bhojouri Queen' moniker, I can only say that the term came from my fans and the media-friends. Once there was an interview session happening on a particular channel and the backdrop was like 'Bhojpuri Queen Kalpana Patowary'. Bas from then on, I was reintroduced to myself.

Where did you pick up so many folk forms from Looking at the prism of art today, I could clearly gauge one thing: that many people love to pick up things solely for the use of gimmicks within their scope of work. However, my situation was different. Interestingly, I got my share of name and fame from an unfamiliar direction - from the heartlands of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand, and there was a lot of travelling involved in the process, getting to meet and mingle with a multitude of people from dissimilar backgrounds and notions. Gradually, I was exhorted to follow the route of different folklore and songs from birth till death, in other words, the Sanskara geets. Today it has become my sanskriti to live and breathe like this (smiles), plucking and acquiring several folk philosophies of the human race. It gave me some sleepless nights, yet at the same time, fetched me enough money and loads of accolades that one could dream of. I invested time and effort to seek out indigenous information at each step, plus there was this perpetual hunger to learn more and work towards not only the art form, but also respect its culture, the history and its ancient roots behind, because they are all there not without a reason.


Every kind of state-grown music has its own song elements and regional flavours. What do you like most about each type I would like to be that particular place in itself and its part to survive and thrive with ages. I never criticise or judge why a specific provincial music is like this or say it should be like that. Listen, you have to first love a culture's heritage and understand its ethnicity to grasp its essence inside out. Period. In my case, I just witness and observe its salient features at a given time and space. For me, it's not local or parochial but truly international. It’s after all a component of world music.

What about the awareness of musical copyright Isn't plagiarism a threat to one's creative security Well, earning a living from an artform is what every artiste wants. As a musician you are a creator at the end of the day. Whether you're a composer, lyricist or a performing artiste, you create bona fide, seminal works which need to be patented via a legitimate stamp. It's like your baby and you don't want to lose it. Logically, these works ought to be copyrighted from the moment they are documented; for example by recording or writing down the compositions. Therefore, precise knowledge about the publishing rights is imperative both on the makers' as well as on the part of the industry's open market. Copyright is the most important asset today for a musician and every performer of the craft needs to figure out its legal clauses, benefits and how to turn it towards his advantage in order to maximise his income and strengthen his career as well as earn a good exposure.


Immensely talented artistes with great a range like Ila Arun, Sapna Awasthi, Rekha Bharadwaj, Kailash Kher, Sukhwinder Singh, yourself and the youngster Harshdeep Kaur are very few voices that can be heard across the Bollywood musical boulevard. Do you think folk music and folk artistes are not getting their due in popular Indian music I don't view it like this. Frankly, one has to give time, finance and effort to do independent music in the right manner and spirit. Continuous research and a get-going attitude through one's projects are vital requisites to retain success in the long run. As for me, I am trying to archive every single folk idea or belief that comes my way. And then promoting the concepts is a must to convey what the artiste attempts to say from his heart. If I do nothing and wait for the prevalent music category to knock at my doorstep, then I might be living in a fool's paradise. I simply can't blame or complain without a valid ground. In every sphere, the strugglers have to fight their own battle. Passing the buck is not my game.


Thankfully in my case, apart from the independent stuff I dabble in, I am very much actively and busily involved in Bhojpuri cinema music and interestingly, the Hindi showbiz sector is operated from the commercial capital of Mumbai and not from Patna or Banaras. So I am kind of striding on both the boats — that of popular music scene and my independent musical routine as well. On a satisfactory note, I am even singing eight to nine tracks in a single Bhojpuri film. Please, wish me luck!

What's your take on folk fusion I don't want my folk music to remain trapped within our villages. Yes it's safe there in its raw elements and earthy texture with the original mould, but it is of no use unless we make the entire world hear our very soulful and meditative music and inspire us all to embrace it. Folk music is something that has been equated and acknowledged with India's rich heritage for centuries. Gradually, over a prolonged stretch, with concerted pains put in by some extremely talented voices of the soil, the music from its remote interiors of Indian heartlands is finally finding a world-stage and evolving into a new genre and mode of expression altogether.