Assam is a land full of natural beauty. From the blue hills to the red river to white fluffy clouds, it is a piece of heaven on earth. Assam is also a land full of creative talents. Talk about writers, musicians, dancers, quizzers, painters … the state has over the years seen several stars shining across the country and globe. However there’re also many gems, both old and upcoming, that haven’t got the exposure they deserve. So, here I play the role of a torch – to bring the hidden to light.
Recently, I came across this young and superbly talented band named, Purple Haze. I fell in love with their cover of Naina Thag Lenge; soulful and melodious in true sense. Based out of Jorhat, also known as Assam’s cultural hub, the band, formed in the year 2015, blends Indian music with western contemporary sound, with the aim to keep alive both tradition and modernity. The members include Gauranga Shekhar Sharma on vocals, keyboard, lyrics, compositions, and preliminary audio engineering, Pranab Priyankush Baruah on vocals, minor percussions, lyrics, compositions, and preliminary audio engineering, Bishal Sarmah on vocals, rhtyhm guitar, lyrics, composition, and preliminary audio engineering, Bhaskar Saikia on lead guitars and arrangements, Bedabrat Baruah on bass guitar, Clearence Momin on drums, and Bruce Momin on visual content creation.
In a tête-à-tête with Bishal, I got to know about the band’s inspirations, hardships they faced, genres they like, their favourite pastime, upcoming works, best memories and their thoughts on changing music culture in the state.
1. When and how did you conceive the idea of forming the band? Why “Purple Haze”?
Perhaps we always wanted to choose our careers in music in the back of our minds. And forming a band only seemed fitting when we realised the similarities in our individual ambitions. Therefore we disregarded all the limitations we were facing as individuals and got together during the summer of 2015, in the hope of sharing our dreams and working on them because we knew that we would be so much stronger if we did the same as a team.
And why not Purple Haze? Because just like a drug intoxicates, music does too. Except for that fact that the later doesn’t kill you.
2. What kind of themes your music is based on?
Have you ever stopped and wondered how our mechanical and monotonous routines become exciting? Do you think that what you love doing would be as dear to you without the reason behind it?
We merely mean to highlight the tiniest of things in life that are often overlooked but are actually the things that matter most. Let’s say, a faint smile on your teenage daughter’s lips, or the laughter on your six year old son’s cheeks. Aren’t those the simple reasons why you make an effort to be a better version of yourself?
It’s true that life is mostly unfair. And there is so much chaos where we exist. But there are things worth looking at and pondering upon. Things that bring you joy and excitement. Like the boy or girl sitting across the coffee table right now. Your Play Station partner. Or the friend from far away who never misses your birthday.
3. How do you see your journey so far?
Progress has been made. And we are happy because it hasn’t only been about fame or popularity, or gaining a fan club but also and more about improving ourselves as individual musicians, as a band and more importantly as people.
4. Define your style of music. Genres you love?
Tastes in music may vary to a certain extent, as we all have our favourites and otherwise. But inspiration comes from everywhere. Therefore it wouldn’t be fair if we were to limit ourselves to just one single genre or just our own personal taste. Why not explore?
However, as our band’s signature we pursue modern Indian forms of music with the implementation of Western contemporary sounds. Perhaps our cover of Rahat Fateh Ali Khan’s Naina would be an apt example.
5. How do you keep the group intact? Were you friends before forming the band?
We believe in and practice the importance of enjoying each other’s similarities and also respecting each other’s differences simultaneously to keep our bond strong. And only about half of us were friends before the band, but now it doesn’t even make a difference anymore.
6. What inspires you when you’re composing?
We all have role models, don’t we? You wanna cook like your Mom, dress like the hottest guy on TV, drive like in the movie, whatever you can think of.
There are people who have inspired us and millions more through their work. And those are the pillars we look up to while we make our music. Even with limited resources, wouldn’t hurt to try to sound even a tinsy bit like them. Or at least like a better evolved version of our own band.
There are also people who love us and show their support towards us constantly. Sometimes they surprise us when they don’t get tired when we fail. And trust me, like every other guy we do. On uncountable occasions. But they don’t give up on us. So why on earth would we even dream of giving up on ourselves?
Writing or composing is so much more to us than it usually looks. We believe it ought to be a perfect synchrony of emotions, professionalism, ambitions and expressions. And there are people like Joi Baruah and Ibson Lal Baruah who mentor us with great patience and help us on the path to acquiring the ability for good creation.
7. Purple Haze’s proudest moments so far?
There have been several moments of achievements. But our proudest moment every time so far and always will be when we are up on the stage and we succeed in connecting with the audience. There is no other feeling in the world that can beat that for us. Just imagine a whole crowd going wild and screaming your name, singing along your lyrics and dancing along your beats. Beautiful, isn’t it?
8. Your cover, Naina, has been receiving great responses. Tell us more about it.
It gives us immense joy and happiness when we see the response on our work. And we want to thank you all for keeping us inspired. But what people might not know is that Naina really was a journey of sweat and blood for us. And we certainly couldn’t have done it without our friends Bruce and Abhinav who created the visual content.
We made mistakes and went through unbelievable troubles, like a stinging, red chested Bhaskar because we couldn’t get the final scene right even after over twelve takes. Can you imagine? I won’t even mention how we managed the expenses. Just imagine that you’re a middle class working guy, you’ve had no work for six months and need to plan your daughter’s wedding in the next twenty days. Get the idea?
But we also had fun, even with the shitty food we had to endure during the filming days. And most importantly we learnt a lot of things that is helping us now in our ongoing project.
9. How has the music culture in Assam changed over the years?
Progress has been haphazard, if people don’t mind us saying. And also a tad slow, specially for independent artists. But at the same time we take pride in the fact that it has not been stagnant. People dare to dream, and work to realise.
10. What do you wish people think of when they hear “Purple Haze”?
We hope that someday that feeling is expressed not by sane statements but by screams of awkward groups of utterly excited words like “Oh my f***ing God!!”
11. What do you think is the biggest threat to the music industry?
Threats are quite difficult to categorise these days, as there is so much changing and growing, and at the same time also deteriorating. It’s not only the industry that is facing a threat, but the entire multitude of humanity. But like we always have, we can overcome every obstacle that comes our way if we work together, don’t you agree?
12. What do you do when you are not playing? Do you guys spend a lot of time together on personal level as well?
It’s definitely a big YES. There is a rather massive number of activities that we indulge together in. Like cleaning our shared apartment together. But seriously that’s not fun at all.
We travel together, go on short rides sometimes. Also our favourite place to spend our evenings is “Ajay Babu ki chai ki dukaan”, called Dolly. It’s really small and utterly overcrowded and freakishly noisy. But imagine your voices being on top of the commotion. Victory?
Actually the question you should be asking is what we don’t do together. Answers are, go to the loo, use the same toothbrush, share our underwear, or .., Well, you get the idea (wink)
13. Your upcoming and ongoing projects.
We are currently in the post-production phase of our upcoming music video “Haahi” meaning smile (Like we said, little things.), from our debut album, Parichay.
The story featured in the film is of six young guys and a differently-abled girl. It was written and scripted by our friend Bruce Momin, who’s also the sole visual content creator of the project. Stay tuned.
Your support has inspired us consistently. And we aim to stay worth it.
Listen to their cover of Naina here. Follow them on Instagram and Facebook to keep a tab on their upcoming works and concerts. They perform not only in the Northeast part of India but across the country too.