Tripura being a state of overtone of Rabindranath Tagore and Kazi Najrul Islam – the two pioneers of Bengali music – had a delayed entry of English music. Youths have just learned pepping to the tunes of pop bands Boyzone, Westside and Backstreet Boys, when the alternate rock Linkin Park made its entry and almost instantly, “In The End” and “Numb” were in everyone’s CD collection.
We are talking year 2000 and Linkin Park had made its debut with Hybrid Theory. Back then, internet was alien to people there, and CD shops (mostly the tape cassette shops upgraded to keeping CDs when the former went out of fashion) were the only places to get those. But Linkin Park, with all of its Chester Bennington’s rawness, Mike Shinoda’s rap and lyrics that screamed 21st-century-teen-spirit louder than any other, has found its way into the hearts of the youths rather fast. And so, the grief on the death of the genre-bending band’s vocalist Chester Bennington, the man who first taught them rock music, had hit this region harder than expected.
“We never went through the anthology of rock music. It wasn’t like we started with Beatles, graduated to Rolling Stones and went on exploring through Motorhead and Iron Maiden. For us, Linkin Park was it. That was the first rock music we’ve heard. Song’s lyrics weren’t very handy back then. But we heard the songs over and over until we learnt all the lyrics of all the songs; half understanding, more head-banging. Even now I hear to their song and wonder, how wrong we thought the lyrics were back then,” Subhrajit Nath, a self-employed youth from Tripura’s Dharmanagar said.
“That’s why the death of Bennington hit us harder than several others. He was the one who introduced us to the sweet world of rock music. Not John Lennon, not Mick Jagger, not even Axl Rose or Bon Jovi. In fact, it was after Linkin Park that we started learning about those bands. As long as rock music is alive, Bennington will remain alive within us,” Nath said.
Back in 2000, except for the capital cities, getting original CDs was not very easy. People, mostly had to rely on the CD shops that sold pirated CDs of various albums. In Northeast, these CDs used to come mostly from Bangladesh.
“We all wanted to purchase Hybrid Theory, but those CDs used to have more than 150 songs of other bands. That’s how we came to know about Bryan Adams, Limp Bizkit, System of a Down etc. Bennington’s voice had a magic. He could sing low scale and high scale equally good and was very good in the switch too,” Shouhardya Chakraborty, a Tripura civil servant living in Agartala, said.
Rest, of the Northeast, isn’t that far off Tripura, either. Even though a few people of Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram and upper Assam had followed English songs and rock culture way back in the 1950s, but several parts of Northeast, still remained in oblivion, thanks to the region’s remoteness.
“After nursery rhymes in kindergarten, we did not have much exposure of English music as I grew up. During the cassette generation, we hardly used to get a supply of English cassettes. Even those that came, they were costly while we were busy collecting the more popular Hindi songs. English music channels weren’t available, so very less exposure. So, yes, Linkin Park was the first rock band that I heard and enjoyed,” Deep Majumdar, an IAS aspirant in Bongaigaon said.