Assamese musician’s new song on state’s pony racing tradition

New Delhi, June 29 (IANS) Musician Joi Barua, who hails from Digboi in Assam, has released a song titled “Riders of the mist” that focuses on the ponies and the racing tradition in the northeastern state.

The song, a part of his album “PRIDE”, also closes his sister and filmmaker Roopa Barua’s documentary “Riders Of The Mist”.

“We had launched a song ‘Pitol soku’ which was a promo for the documentary about three years ago. The documentary itself took a while to complete. It was only since last year that it started travelling to festivals. It had its run, so now we are bringing the song out,” Joi, now Mumbai-based, told IANS.

For close to 130 years, the ponies from across the Brahmaputra river have come to race at The Gymkhana Club, Jorhat, Assam. It’s a moving story of the solitary ponies, the Mishing riders and the tea plantation owners who have kept the tradition of pony racing alive.

Talking about the song and the video, he said: “This song closes the documentary and this is where the ponies head back to their island across the river. This comes after a carnival of a week, races and glory.

“The ponies are taken to the river, where they slowly swim across to their quiet solitary lives. This was the footage that existed. And it was the perfect untouched video, in my mind. A real look at those final minutes.”

“I had been looking at the footage of the video for nearly three months. It was my sister’s documentary and they were editing from home. During that time and from before, a lot of our conversations were around the ponies, the riders, their minds and all the legends around it. So you could say, I was in the ‘method’ for a while.”

Joi, who often sings in Assamese if he is not working for Bollywood, has sung this particular track in English. Any specific reason?

“Since the documentary was doing a whole round of festivals abroad, we wanted to close this in a language which could connect to a global audience, in a simple way. And also, it was instinctive. Here was a place, and a window, which we could turn into a different thing,” he said.

“I wanted this to be like a very simple soulful hymn, in which I sing to the creator, of love, longing and a desire to see the other side, where some things missing, may dwell. The question also was – Does the horizon bind us? Is it a beautiful deceptive end?”

While he is doing his bit by making a song highlighting the ponies, the musician, who has worked in films like “Margarita With a Straw” and “Udaan”, would like the government to help the ponies and those associated with them.

“They (the horses) have become the mascots of an integral part of Jorhat heritage. The Mishing bareback riders, the real heroes here, could do with the assistance. They have selflessly kept this sport going for generations… even the tea planters community, who have kept this heritage alive. A 130-year-old tradition is not the easiest thing to maintain,” said Joi.

–IANS

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