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|Years active||1975–1981 ; 1995 –1999|
Moheener Ghoraguli (translation: Moheen's Horses) was a Bengali independent music group from Kolkata, established in 1975. It is difficult to classify them into a musical genre, as their music drew from wide variety of influences, including the Baul and folk traditions of Indian music and Jazz. Their style of music can be loosely called Jazz Baul.
Established in the 1970s during a period of stagnation in Bengali music, when commercial film songs were the dominant market force, the lyrics (and to some extent the compositions) of leader Gautam Chattopadhyay were radically new. They were of a very personal or social nature, similar to the urban folk movement led by Bob Dylan in the 60s. Though they were almost unknown in their time, in recent years they have undergone a critical re-evaluation much like the Velvet Underground. In recognition of this renewed interest, Gautam released a compilation of Mohiner Ghoraguli covers by contemporary artists, Aabaar Bochhor Kuri Pore in 1995. They have since come to be considered as the unrecognised pioneers of the jibonmukhi style and ethics, decades ahead of their times.
They are sometimes also credited as the pioneers of the flourishing of Bengali bands in the new millennium. This is debatable as their songwriting was strongly rooted in Bengali folk and also American urban folk, while modern Bengali bands like Fossils and Insomnia are influenced by grunge.
Their signature song is Prithibita Naki (পৃথিবীটা নাকি), a reflection on how television creates urban alienation. It has been covered by many artists.
The group played together until 1981 and was then dissolved. In the late 80's Subrata Ghosh a student of Presidency College, Calcutta, an ardent Music lover, heard a song bhalo lagay jotsnay kash boney chhut tay and came to know about Gautam Chattopadhay. Immediately he became a die-hard fan of Monida and excavated information about him. In a few days, Subrata reached Monida's residence at Naktala. After a few days of jamming with Subrata, the 2nd innings of Monida started. It was days after days, night after night, month after month gradually new generation music lovers, who wanted to break the traditional tide of Bengali music started jamming in at Monida's small drawing room and sometimes they used to gather at Salt Lake BE Park at Salt Lake Welfare Association's tent to create new innovative music. This was the time when the most revolutionary compositions like "Prithibi", "telephone", "bangalee Korechoo" got created. Then in the mid-1990s, a decade and a half after Mohineer Ghoraguli's dissolution, Gautam Chattopadhyay with immense mental support of Subrata & Neel decided to revive the movement of Moheener Ghoraguli. In 1994 Gautam was awarded with an assignment from Kolkata Doordarshan to make 1st ever Bengali Music Video and a budget was allocated to him. As usual the budget was too little to make a quality product, so after the songs got recorded Gautam with the support of Sourish and A. Mukherjee decided to come out with a cassette album Abar Bochhor Kuri poray – compiled by Mohiner Ghoraguli: Mohiner Ghoraguli shompadita Bengali Gaan.
The first album in this phase issued by the new-look Moheener Ghoraguli was a compilation called Abar Bochhor Kuri Porey ("Again, After Twenty Years", a quotation from Jibanananda Das), released at the Kolkata Book Fair. It included a number of original Moheener Ghoraguli classics from the 1970s, as well as songs recorded by select music makers of the 90s. Although listeners were initially slow to catch on, the album proved to be a hit, and it introduced the MG movement to a new generation of music-lovers. Gautam Chattopadhyay finally saw Moheener Ghoraguli music gaining the popularity and critical recognition that had eluded their band in the 1970s. Several other successful compilations have followed since the first one. Both in their native West Bengal and in Bangladesh, Moheener Ghoraguli is now a much-admired movement.
Gautam's death in 1999 was sudden. After returning from a location shooting of his last film Rong Bin, which was never completed, the next day he went to the Indropuri Studio to meet his longtime cinematographer friend and colleague, Vivek Banerjee and there he collapsed and died of a heart attack. An entire generation of budding musicians who had been popularised by Gautam in Kolkata mourned his untimely death and a tribute album "Moni chara shunno laage" was released; it should be noted here that Moni was not Gautam's nickname, but his siblings would call him Moni-da, moni, defining that he was the third of the brothers. His nickname was Manik.
In December 2007, ABP (Anandabazar Patrika Group) organised a concert Abar Bochhor kuri Porey ("Again, After twenty Years") ensemlbing all associates of Mohiner Ghoraguli, singers and musicians associated with Gautam Chattopadhyay. The 3-hour concert was held at Nicco Park and went on to be one of the biggest concert of recent times. Ranjan Ghoshal was the man behind the show and the entire music arrangement was done and conducted by Abraham Mazumdar.
Meaning of the band's name
The literal meaning of Moheen'er Ghora-guli is "Moheen's horses". While this obscure phrase puzzles many of the band's fans, it is actually taken from a poem Ghora ('Horses') from the poetry book Shatti Tarar Timir (Bengali: সাতটি তারার তিমির) by the great modernist Bengali poet Jibanananda Das. The second line of the poem is:
- "মহীনের ঘোড়াগুলো ঘাস খায় কার্তিকের জ্যোৎস্নার প্রান্তরে;"
loosely translated as:
- "Moheen's horses graze on the horizon, in the Autumn moonlight"
One of the band's most popular songs, Bhalobashi Jyotsnay (Bengali: ভালোবাসি জ্যোৎস্নায়), is a tribute to the natural beauty of the Bengali countryside; the influence of Jibanananda's pastoral poetry is evident throughout the song.
There are other parallels: Jibanananda broke with the literary tradition of his time and introduced modernist themes and diction to Bengali poetry. He is often considered the first Bengali poet to truly break free of Rabindranath's imposing presence. To some extent, Moheener Ghoraguli attempted to do the same for Bengali popular music.
- Gautam Chattopadhyay (Manik a.k.a. Moni-da to his younger siblings) – voice, lead guitar, saxophone, lyrics
- Pradip Chatterjee (Bula Chattopadhyay)- bass guitar, flute
- Tapas Das – lyrics, voice, guitar
- Ranjon Ghoshal – lyrics, emcee, visuals, media relations
- Tapesh Bandopadhyay (Vanu) – voice, guitar, lyrics (till 1980)
- Biswanath Bishu Chattopadhyay – drums, bass violin
- Abraham Mazumdar – piano, violin
- Raja Banerjee – (1979 onwards - Guitar, voice)
After Tapesh Bandopadhyay left the band in 1978, he was replaced by Raja Banerjee. Raja went on to record the third Moheen album Drishyomaan Moheener Ghoraguli with the band and performed in numerous concerts till the band was disbanded.
Original studio albums (1977-1979)
- Shongbigno Pakhikul O Kolkata Bishayak (1977)
- Ajaana UDonto bostu ba Aw-Oo-Baw (1978)
- Drishyomaan Moheener Ghoraguli (1979)
This group was formed by a group of Kolkata musicians led by Gautam Chattopadhyay towards the end of 1974. Initially, they called themselves 'Saptarshi', and finally settled on the name 'Moheener Ghoraguli' proposed by Ranjon Ghoshal. The name was borrowed from a poem 'Ghora' by Jibanananda Das.
In such a conservative climate, Moheener Ghoraguli, with its unorthodox musical compositions and strange choice of song themes, failed to gain much of a fan base. Its songs dealt with everyday topics -politics, poverty, injustice, revolution, love, loneliness, even begging and prostitution. Gautam Chattopadhyay had strong political beliefs; in common with many intelligent and idealistic young men of his generation, he was involved in socialist/communist politics during the 1960s and 1970s. (According to former bandmate Abraham Mazumdar, Gautam may have been involved in the Naxalite movement as well.) This political outlook was reflected in the musical output of the band.
The type of music that Moheener Ghoraguli pioneered, though debatably, had the seeds of now very popular Jibonmukhi gaan or 'Songs of ordinary life'. Two decades after Moheen, singers like Kabir Suman, Nochiketa and Anjan Dutt took Jibonmukhi gaan to a new level of popularity, but the origins of the genre can be found in the songs of Moheener Ghoraguli.
The band recorded with Western and Bengali folk instruments and also experimented in a variety of musical styles, some of which must have jarred with the sensibilities of its audience. Today, these compositions sound quite contemporary, leading many to conclude that Moheener Ghoraguli was indeed ahead of its time. The band freely borrowed elements from baul shongeet, the folk music of rural Bengal. It can therefore lay claim to be the original Bengali folk-rock band. Many bands since Moheen have adopted similar innovations.
The original Moheen line-up performed consistently over the period 1976–1981 throughout the city of Kolkata. Some of their notable performances were at:
- Jogesh Mime Academy (1977 and 1978)
- Star Theater (1978)
- Max Mueller Bhavan (1979)
- Rabindra Sadan (1979)
- St. Paul's Cathedral, Kolkata (1980)
- Kolkata International Jazz Festival (1980)
- Calcutta School of Music (1981)
All the new generation musicians who performed in the Abar Bochhor kuri poray album were given the opportunity to perform.... While the singers and musicians were enjoying the stage performing, at the back side, 6 huge canvas was kept and Bengal's one of the most famous contemporary painter was depicting the meaning of the songs live on the canvas.
Each of the Canvas later on was donated to Jadavpur University Student's Union with an autograph of Gautam and Rathin.
In this concert few members of Original Mohineer Ghoraguli was also present like Abraham Majumder with his young students of Kolkata Music Academy, Tapas Das, Pradip Chattopadhyay, and Raja Banerjee.
Monida's last live performance was at Kalyani University in Jan 1999, along with Subrata Ghosh of Garer Math, Neel, Bonny & Dwide of the then Krosswindz and the live sound mixing was done by Chhoton (founder member of Chandrabindo) a die-hard follower and inspirer of Subrata & Monida.
- First Rock Concert - Remembering Mohiner Ghoraguli (2007)
- Abar Bochhor Tirish Pore (2008)
- Monfokira and koushik (Prithibi) - Sangbigno Pakhikul & Nagar Sankirtan (2009). A tribute concert to Mohiner Ghoraguli
- Tribute to Mohiner Ghoraguli by Kolkata musicians 2010 at the Basement, Kolkata
- Bandwood Underground v.03 by News at Bengali Bands. Former Moheener Ghoraguli members Subrata Ghosh, Tapas Bapi Das and Joyjit Lahiri shared the same stage as a tribute to Gautam Chattopadhyay.
- Smarane Gautam A musical tribute to Mohiner Ghoraguli held on 25th December 2017
Moheener Ghoraguli's music is till been covered immensely by Subrata Ghosh (Gorer Math) and also by a number of Bengali artists in the 1990s and 2000s, including Fossils, Chandrabindoo, Bhoomi, Krosswindz, Lakkhichhara and Insomnia and last but not the least Prithibi. Rollywood have recently taken up the initiative to reincarnate the fading tracks of Moheener Ghoraguli in their own flavour of music. Gaurab Chattopadhyay (Gabbu), son of Gautam, is a catalyst member/drummer of the Kolkata band Lakkhichhara. Koushik of Prithibi with Monfokira has organised an experimental concert on Shottorer Sohortolir gaan, an unreleased album of Moheener Ghoraguli, with the aim of taking their music forward.
In 2006, the original Moheener Ghoraguli song Prithibi ta naki was remade as Bheegi Bheegi by the music-director Pritam Chakrabarty for the Hindi film Gangster which went on to become a chartbuster. The song was sung by Bangladeshi singer James of Nagar Baul fame. Prithibi ta naki was sung by Bonnie who is a founder member of Oikyotaan, a baul fusion band based in Chennai. 9 January 2001 and 2002 Jadavpur University AISA organised Dariyay Ailo Tufan where all the contemporary Bengali bands performed in memory of Gautam Chattopadhyay.