Situated on the border of India and Bhutan, the state of Assam is home to a cultural concoction of South Asian and East Asian traditions. In addition to providing the world with the famous Assamese tea, its rich musical heritage has formed the heartbeat of the region’s history for many centuries.
While many may assume that Assam is synonymous with Indian classical music, one of the region’s prodigal daughters, Parijoon Immy, has taken it upon herself to change the world’s view of the Assamese by striking a chord with modern audiences.
The singer-songwriter, who now lives in Boston, USA, is hitting all the right notes by injecting a refreshing modern twist to the traditional classics with her band Immy and the Mahoots. Her unique take embraces current trends while simultaneously paying homage to her proud Assamese heritage, offering an inspired twist on traditional classics and breathing new life into the music of her homeland.
East Meets West
Having relocated to the United States of America over a decade ago, the singer has continued to honor her roots by placing a significant emphasis on Assamese music throughout her highly successful career.
Since the age of six, she has enjoyed the fortune of professional training in Indian classical music under the guidance of Gurus, Ustads, and Pandits of different Gharanas. Despite her background and exceptional talents, Immy’s early performances on American soil quickly highlighted a lack of awareness from Western audiences – while the majority were familiar with Indian classical music, very few knew of the music from her region. Instead, knowledge of Assam remained largely restricted to the region’s world-famous tea.
Immy’s mission in the years since has been to show the world that Assam has more to offer than tea. She wants to put the region’s music on the world map, by introducing Western audiences to the music of her people through her unique interpretation that incorporates elements of popular contemporary styles to bring the classic Indian songs into the modern age.
Despite initially performing to small audiences that barely reached three figures, her most popular covers to date have been performed in front of large Northern American audiences, while additionally reaching thousands of new fans via digital channels. Her biggest covers to date include Dipali Barthakur’s Xunor Kharu Nelage Muk, Dr Bhupen Hazarika’s Axom Amar Rupohi, and Zubeen Garg’s Mayabini. Each rendition brings a distinct, modern flavour while remaining true to the DNA of their originals.
Blending the heritage of classical Indian music with Western genres has garnered widespread plaudits from audiences and event organisers alike. At the same time, even the name of her band celebrates her region’s history, as Mahoots are elephant riders from the small local town of Goalpara. Her music sets out to present the style of her region through the utilisation of genres that her audiences are more accustomed to. At the same time, the content of her songs, such as Hostir Konya, which is about a lady waiting for her husband who is an elephant rider, explore narratives that are true to her region.
Parijoon Immy’s authenticity extends to her music. While her refreshing modern takes make traditional Indian music more accessible to Western audiences, the covers stay true to the artistic merits of the distinct Assamese culture. By presenting the narratives and melodies in a more attractive fashion, her music enhances the original while simultaneously creating a smoother transition for new listeners as they open their ears to the beautiful sound of Assam.
What’s Next For Immy?
Parijoon Immy has already established herself as a purveyor of her Assamese culture to Western audiences, hitting the headlines with a standout performance at Crashfest 2020, turning an audience of just 150 into an audience of over 1,000 during the course of an incredible set that truly captured the atmosphere of the global cultural celebration through the distinct mix of Indian heritage and Western traditions.
The vocalist, who is also a talented composer, was subsequently supposed to perform at a prominent music festival in Sweden – in addition to various shows in the USA – before the Covid-19 pandemic put an end to all live performances. However, Immy continues to promote her music online, develop new music (both covers and originals) and plot her next steps for growing the popularity of her music as well as the music of her people.
Her intentions to give further credit to the original singers frequently works in the favour of the classic versions, bringing a new and refreshing vibe as well as a new perspective to the original song. Rather than detracting from the beauty of the traditional Assamese music, Immy’s interpretations actually enhance the classic, both commercially and artistically as Western listeners are able to appreciate aspects of the original songs that may have previously gone unnoticed.
Parijoon Immy is perhaps the only musicians to introduce Assamese music to the masses internationally. Her covers continue to help Western audiences discover the music of her heritage for themselves while her distinct approach ensures that the originals maintain their appeal for audiences both sides of the North-Pacific Ocean. Crucially, her Western-friendly introduction to Indian classical music makes the transition far smoother for audiences.
Like many singers around the world, Immy’s plans for the future are somewhat on hold due to the fallout of Covid-19. Inspired by this, however, she is bringing a song of her own, “Hori Hey,” which is a prayer from Mother Nature asking Lord Krishna to help save her and to bring people together. Through this new single, fans can expect her fresh take on Indian music to keep spreading the culture of Assam to the masses.