the hills and The Hillians of Darjeeling, through Kathmandu, to RD
Burman and Bollywood of Bombay, Ranjit Gazmer continues his musical
journey, now spanning more than four decades and marked with diverse
musical styles and forms. And he sums up his checkered career with,
â€œIt's all about time. No one knows what happens when and where.â€
in Darjeeling to mother Manmaya and father Lachhuman Singh Gazmer on
October 3, 1942, Ranjit fell in love with music through the beats of
the tabala. He grew up listening to his elder brother Arjun Gazmer and
brother-in-law Hira Singh play the instrument, and later learned the
craft from them.
his days at Turnbull High School, Ranjit became close friends with
Sharan Pradhan and Lalit Tamang. Ranjit used to play tabala and drums
to Sharan's banjo and mandolin, and both had gained popularity through
various musical programs. Ranjit then caught the eyes of maestro Amber
Gurung and became a part of his group at Art Academy of Music. The
other disciples there included the likes of Karma and Gopal Yonzon,
Aruna Lama, Sharan Pradhan, Jitendra Bardewa, Prakash Gahatraj, Ajay
Gurung, and contemporaries such as Rudra Mani Gurung, Kapil Raj Subba,
Nayan Subba, Kishore Sotang, and Gagan Gurung. As it was to happen
later, Gurung had to have Ranjit in all his rehearsals, recordings and
programs â€” on tabala as well as madal.
was also part of Gurung's epoch-making Nau lakha tara. However, here is
one little known interesting fact. He had produced the madal's sound in
the song, and later in A Kanchha as well, from tabala because of the
lack of madal during their recordings.
gave great importance to Nepaliness, and our folk instruments in
Darjeeling those days. So we used to give prominence to madal also,â€
enough, he recalls one big musical program organized in Darjeeling in
1963. Indra Thapaliya was looking for a madal player, but others used
to feel shy about playing madal on stage. He then sought help from
Amber Gurung, who then inducted Ranjit and Ajay Gurung for the not so
popular job, but the show turned out to be a huge success.
were lucky to meet Amber dai. We got to learn both eastern and western
music from him,â€ he says. â€œHe was very strict about discipline,
punctuality, and even dress. However, he never took classes in the
conventional pattern. He would play songs to us, and we would learn
everything from there itself. It was also through him that we came to
know about western master composers. Probably that's why our songs
sound sweet despite having western flairs.â€
about the musical environment of that period, Ranjit shares, â€œWe used
to do music from our heart and for our identity, not for money. During
Dashain and Tihar, we raised money to record songs in the winter,
organize programs and meet senior artistes, too. We felt proud of
being Nepalis. If the Bengalis took pride in their music, why shouldn't
Amber Gurung left the Academy for government service at West Bengal's
Folk Entertainment Unit, things became difficult for them, says Ranjit.
â€œAfter his departure, we tried to run the Academy but we didn't have
the commanding ability like his. We also lacked musically as the number
of programs and compositions started decreasing.â€
the Yonzon siblings Karma and Gopal joined the Himalayan Kala Mandir.
Meanwhile, Sharan and Ranjit formed their Sangam group along with Aruna
Lama and Jitendra Bardewa. Starting with Yahan phool na khilechha in
Aruna Lama's voice, Sharan-Ranjit gained popularity as a composer duo
with their songs.
the same time, Peter J Karthak, who was also part of Sangam formed the
first indigenous rock-n-roll band of Darjeeling, The Hillians. Along
with Peter, it had his brother Mark, Ranjit, KK Gurung and his cousin
Lalit Tamang. Peter and Ranjit also worked in Louis Bank's quartet
during that time.
was very popular and his songs were in big demand in Darjeeling then.
After Louis left his band to work in Soaltee Hotel in Kathmandu, we
decided to form a band ourselves, and Peter named it The Hillians,â€
Ranjit explains. Their song Mayalu was first sung by Peter at North
Point College and was a huge hit. â€œIt was a fusion of eastern and
western styles.â€ That was the band's creative side in modern Nepali
was close to Peter and his family since very early, and both were to
work together till much later. He shares, â€œWe were from different
castes and religions, but we were very close. His mother used to love
me a lot, and I almost always was with them.â€
recalls that though he did not attend classes, Peter and Mark would
take him to their college and its canteen. Father Burns was also fond
of him and used to include him in the college programs.
1966, Peter, Ranjit and Phurba (another Hillians member) came to
Birgunj to manage a school along with Anuradha Gurung (now Koirala, of
Maiti Nepal). After about four months, they came to Kathmandu. They
worked in a school in Baneshwor during the day and at Radio Nepal as
musicians in the evenings.
the same time, Peter and Phurba joined the casino training at Soaltee
Hotel where Louis Banks was playing. Ranjit, too, joined, but didn't
like it. He then formed a local band with Mark, Madan Pariyar and Shyam
Raj, and they played at the Park Restaurant in the evenings. Later, he
joined the then Royal Nepal Academy on Ram Sharan Darnal's invitation.
the time Ranjit came to Kathmandu, he was already married and had two
daughters. He says that he had a hard time during those early days. He
used to get about Rs 120 from the Academy, Rs 125 from the school and
Rs 200 from the band every month, and he had a whole family to support
on that. The family responsibility also forced him to think more about
surviving that composing, says Ranjit. However, he fondly remembers his
friend Norbu Yonzon and his parents who gave them his home to live in
during those difficult times.
Amber Gurung came to Kathmandu on King Mahendra's invitation, Ranjit
got to work with him once again as his assistant at the Academy. Later,
Prakash Thapa requested Gurung to compose music for his film called
Mero Desh. So, Gurung along with Ranjit, Phatteman and Nirmala Shrestha
went to Bombay for the recording and returned after two weeks. Veteran
musician Manohari Singh had arranged everything for them then. However,
the film and its songs were never released.
about four months, Manohari Singh came to Kathmandu with his family,
and Ranjit expressed his desire to go to Bombay with him. He assured to
help, provided Ranjit managed his food and board by himself.
coincidence, actor and director Dev Anand was looking for a Nepali
flavored song in his film Hare Rama Hare Krishna when Manohari Singh
took Ranjit to meet RD Burman. â€œWhen I played Kanchha re kanchha re,
Dev Anand was overjoyed and instantly put me in his team,â€ he
says that no one had seen anyone play the madal in Bombay till then,
and everyone used to watch him startled when he played it. Well, the
song was a big hit, Ranjit got the name Kanchha from RD Burman, and
madal entered big time in Hindi film music.
Ranjit worked with RD Burman in numerous films right till his last
project, 1942 A Love Story. Besides, he also worked with him in the
Durga Puja special albums, which were very popular.
describes Burman as the â€œRhythm Kingâ€. â€œHe was very fond of pahadi
tunes and folk songs, and he would often ask me to play them. He was
very frank and used to visit our home often. And he was very fond of
momos,â€ says Ranjit, who was recently felicitated with the Chhinnalata
Geet Puraskar in Kathmandu. â€œMany musicians still call me because of
his name. I'm going to a tribute program on RD Burman in Singapore on
after Burman, musicians like Ismail Durbar and Jatin-Lalit call him for
the original sound of madal. He has also worked with directors like
Yash Chopra, Ramesh Sippy and Romesh Sharma in various films and
initial phase in Bombay was difficult for Ranjit, but everyone regarded
him due to his association with Manohari Singh. Also, he found the
company of many Nepalis like Shambhu Pradhan, Tulsi Ghimire, Udit
Narayan, Deepa Narayan, Bhuwan KC, Tripti, Danny Denzongpa, Louis
Banks, and Banni Pradhan in later days.
has also given us many melodious numbers in nearly two dozen Nepali
films that include Bansuri, Kusume Rumal, Lahure, Saino, Darpan
Chhayan, Samjhana, Trishna, Mayalu and Dui Thopa Aansu.
present, Ranjit works as a freelance musician in Mumbai. His son
Satyajit is into film direction and editing and had done assistant
direction in recent Hindi films including Chocolate and Goal, whereas
his two daughters live in Kalimpong.
visits Darjeeling once every two years. He says he had wanted to open a
studio in Siliguri but it could not materialize as his son is in a
different profession, and he alone would not be able to run it. The
sexagenarian maestro, though, has one more desire: to make a quality
film that will be remembered for a long time to come.
has been an eventful journey of life for Ranjit so far. Many of his
creative companions in music have long been gone while others, too, are
scattered in different places and different fields. How does he take
like they are playing carom up there,â€ is his answer, as he points to
the heavens above. True, with Karma Yonzon, Ranjit is the only creative
and practicing Nepali musician left of his generation.