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Raaj Jyoti Konwar On His 25 Years Of Musical Journey

June 21, 2021

What is the first image that comes to your mind when I mention the name Raaj Jyoti Konwar aka Raaj J Konwar in front of you?

Well, as I am penning down these words, the image that flashes right before my eyes is that of Kunal Khemu holding a retro stage microphone and singing Ajnabi Khwaab Mein with a few background dancers on a stage behind.

It was Konwar's mesmerising voice, which was largely responsible for making this 2008 Bollywood song from the movie Superstar starring Kunal Khemu in double roles one of the biggest hits of the year.

Over the years, his fan base has only grown and Konwar's mesmerising voice always casts an inexplicable musical spell on his listeners.

Being the first generation musician from his family, Konwar's journey has been a journey of dedication, devotion and extreme diligence.

"We used to have two record players back in our home when we were young along with a lot of record players- most of which were Hindi movies. We used to play with the players as it were toys," says Konwar during a candid chat over the phone.

"I was in Class 6 or 7 when I, along with my elder brother, received my first guitar lessons from a boy named Arun from the neighbourhood. He was a master musician and knew to play almost all the instruments I could name then," he added.

"Then, I used to sing a few Hindi songs and sang it whenever I could. Once there was a Hindi singing competition in school and I bagged the first prize there. When my mother came to know about it she asked me to sing the same song in front of her and after listening to my performance, she was impressed and praised my singing and she encouraged me to take singing lessons in a proper manner," Konwar adds on.

Raaj Jyoti Konwar

"And when I entered my teenage, my inclination towards rock music increased. While I was studying at JB College in Jorhat, I was a part of a band named Dynasty. We used to play covers of The Beatles and Cliff Richard. The band continued till I came to Cotton College for my graduation," the singer further added.

He was a member of another band named The Just while he was in Cotton College and the band used to perform in colleges and shows.

By this time Raaj Jyoti Konwar was getting popularised as a rock singer and he was even called by the Assam Engineering College to judge their rock music competitions while he was in graduation second and third year.

The craze to do something with rock music grew by manifolds when he heard the commercial record labels of the popular rock band Rock Machine, which was later rechristened as Indus Creed.

"Even though the rock music scene of Northeast was awesome, there was a complete lack of commercial production of rock music in the region and it was Indus Creed that produced rock music albums commercially. I was inspired a lot by this and I decided to go to Mumbai and try my luck there in producing rock music. A friend-Jayanta Pathak- who was working as a musician in Mumbai asked me to come over," says Konwar while speaking about his journey from Assam to Mumbai.

"Coming from a family of non-musicians, I knew it would be difficult to convince them in allowing me to come to Mumbai to pursuing music. As my father was a renowned lawyer, I always had an emotional connection with the subject. So, I told my family that I would study law in Mumbai and it was only then when I got the required permission and thus, I landed in Mumbai. I was studying as well as pursuing my musical dream," he said.

The year was 1996 when Raaj Jyoti Konwar brought out his first musical album in Assamese and to do so he took loans from friends and families. And even though the songs are loved and adored today, 26 years ago when it was released the album was not appreciated by a majority.

"Those who loved the album said it was ahead of its time as no one used to sing Assamese songs in the rock format. So technically, it was not successfully commercially," he said.

But it did not bog him down and Konwar's tryst with music continued.

While he was studying, he continued to work on random musical projects that helped him to earn a few bucks, even though it was his elder brother who supported him financially during most of his initial years.

He, along with his few musician friends, formed a band and they used to sing rock songs at concerts, which were again far and few between then.

The decision to switch over to Hindi music came when during a show, someone from the audience asked them to sing a Daler Mahendi song.

"This was the moment of harsh realisation. English songs won't help us surviving and so I decided to switch over to Hindi songs," Konwar said.

"Initial days were not to my expectations as I was mostly rejected. Some said my Hindi diction was bad, while some said my voice is not suitable to sing Hindi romantic songs and rock-style songs in Hindi were not popular then. So, I was mostly used in jingles and backing vocals," he added.

"A musician friend Babli Haque was working on a project with music director Shamir Tandon and he had asked me to do some backing vocals. I was in the recording studio when Shamir Tandon arrived there and enquired Babli about me. Babli told him that apart from being a singer, I also knew a bit of everything. The next day I was called by Shamir Tandon at his office and asked if I would be interested to work with him, to which I readily agreed. You don't say no to work when it comes to you when you are facing a drought," he said with a chuckle.

And the rest, as they say, is history... Making his debut with Superstar's Ajnabi... song, Raaj Jyoti Knowar went on to win several accolades later on.

For his songs in Assamese movies Rishang and Akash Suboloi Mon, Konwar was also awarded the Best Playback Singer (Male) at the Prag Cine Awards 2013.

"I never expected to win, to be honest. I was in Assam for some personal work, so I decided to attend the award ceremony and when my name was called out, I just could not believe it for the first few seconds. I get goosebumps even today when I think of that moment," he further added.

Even though Raaj Jyoti Knowar has a unique voice and many listeners consider him as a better singer than several of his contemporaries, he is not much heard in Bollywood apart from selective films and jingles.

On being asked the reason behind it, he said, "I am bad at maintaining public relationships and following up. I always feel that by repeatedly calling up or following up, I am disturbing the person. But this is not the case. In Bollywood, the more you keep following up more are the chances that you will get work."

"Moreover, I don't have a manager as I am wary of hiring a manager. Finding a good manager is the key and if the manager is not good, then it will be more harmful rather being helpful," he quickly added.

"After the release of Ajnabi, there were a few more songs in the pipeline starring some big names and I thought after the release of the next few songs people will know more about me and then I will look for a manager and a PR Team. But the release of the movies got delayed and this had an impact on my growth as well," he said.

Raaj Jyoti Konwar is in love with his musical profession and he enjoys every single bit of it.

On being asked about the pluses and the minuses of being a musician, he said that there are only pluses and no minuses.

"Being a singer, composer, and lyricists have helped me to understand music better and improve myself," he added.

He feels that the Hindi music industry and the Assamese music industry is at par when it comes to talent and skill, however, the former is a bit more professional.

"It is not that the Assamese industry is not professional, all I am saying is that the Hindi music industry is a little more disciplined," he was quick to add.

One of the extremely popular Assamese song sung by Raaj Jyoti Konwar, which is available on YouTube is Xixu.

The song is written by Manash Mahanta with Ambar Das producing, mixing and mastering the music and the song has been composed by Kalparanjan Hazarika.

"It was a wonderful collaboration I had and I am looking forward to many more such collaborations in the future," he said while speaking about the song.

Konwar has started his personal YouTube channel where he has been regularly uploading his latest compositions.

And to all the budding musicians reading this article, the talented musician has only one thing to say- "Success may take time in coming, but for those who are dedicated and keep developing their skills, success is not elusive. Nothing comes fast and one has to sustain to succeed. Moreover, always maintain a good PR as it is also important for success, apart from the talent you have."

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