Assam’s first all-girls’ rock band Hurrican Gals is making waves in the fusion music scene

Every new Assamese calendar year begins in mid-April with bordoichila (nor’wester) heralding the Rongali Bihu — the spring festival. As Assam awaits the arrival of bordoichila, Hurricane Gals — the State’s first all-girls’ rock band is busy experimenting fusion of Assamese folk music and rock music to sweep this eastern State with a musical cyclone this Rongali Bihu.

The idea to form an all-girls’ rock band germinated in a little-known village Nahira near Mirza town, about 30 km off Guwahati with the lead vocalist, composer and director Mamoni Kalita sharing her dream with her drummer friend Arju Begum. The dream came true in August 2010 with some young instrumentalists coming forward to be part of this initiative. The journey, however, was not smooth.

“As all of us are from middle class backgrounds, mobilising resources needed to buy the instruments and to meet other expenses of the band was one such big hurdle we had to overcome. We took a risk and took a bank loan of Rs. four lakh to buy instruments. We gave our time and energy to achieve perfection for a journey we knew was very challenging but we were always confident of crossing the hurdles,” said Arju Begum, the drummer of Hurricane Gals.

The band’s musical journey began in 2011 performing at a cultural function organised by a coaching institute at Rabindra Bhawan in Guwahati. The crowd was young and the band seized the opportunity to showcase their talent. The members were looking forward to live stage performances during Bihu festivals. However, for the first 10 days of Bohag, the first month of the Assamese calendar, they did not get a single invitation. Having started to worry about the Hurricane Gals’ future, they suddenly got an opportunity for a performance which was telecast live by a local news channel.

“It was a turning point for Hurricane Gals and we were flooded with congratulatory messages and also with our much desired invitations from Bihu celebration committees across the State. Since then there has been no looking back. It took us just five shows to repay the entire loan amount. Now, we buy new musical instruments with our own fund raised from the shows,” adds Arju. The band uses some traditional Assamese musical instruments like dhol, nagara, dotara with keyboard, guitar, drum set and modern percussion instruments to create the musical illusion for crowd pulling.

Apart from Mamoni and Arju, the other five members are Kaberi Saikia (playing djembe, dhol, nagara, dotara, etc.), Mumpi Thakuria (playing the keyboard), Dikishita Kashyap (on bass guitar), Ilene (lead guitarist) and Bobby Hazarika (on percussion).

The band members believe that Assam being a land of colourful tribes and communities is a huge repository of folk music which can be made popular across the globe through innovative style of presentation and their USP is fusion of rock music elements in presentation of Assamese folk music. To achieve their mission, the band has started performing outside Assam. In September 2011, they performed in Kolkata for promotion of a Bollywood movie and in December same year they had a show in Delhi. On March 8, 2012, they were invited to perform in a show in Mumbai on the occasion of International Women’s Day. While in Mumbai, the girls established connection with some international bands which further bolstered their confidence.

Mamoni has put all her earnings from music shows over the past seven years to set up a recording suite in her residence at Nahira village. All the recording of the Hurricane Gals production is done here by Mamoni herself. “I have no formal training in sound recording and I have learnt about the nitty-gritty of a recording suite from the Internet,” she says.

“One reason behind the formation of an all-girls’ rock band was to show music lovers that girls from remote places in Assam have talent and can achieve and we have proven it. We do not want people to like our performance just because ours is an all-girls’ band. We want real appreciation of music lovers,” Arju says, taking a little break from the rigorous preparation for the forthcoming Bihu festival performances as well as for their debut video album titled Vibration.