Papon Mahanta, Abhishruti Bezboruah and Sunita Bhuyan Khaund, three rising new-generation stars from Assam rocked the music city of Nashville, Tennessee (USA) for two and a half day long annual community festival on July 2-4. The attending Assam origin residents of Canada and the US with their guests, friends, second generation children and youth were overwhelmed with glittering presentations of Assamese and Indian musical and dancing art and culture side by side American folk culture. The opening of the convention started with the national anthems of the US, led by Nashville singing star Ms. Jennie Williamson, and of India, led by Krishanu Kaushik and Mitali Sarma.. Jayanta and Gina Barua, the local hosts, welcomed the gathering into their city of Nashville. The theme of the Convention was ‘bridging of the generation’. Reflecting on that, Samantha Deka welcomed all on behalf of the next generation with a message of commitment towards continuity of the tradition set forth by the first incoming-generation. The opening number was the traditional Borgett by Ranjana Datta, next Assamese Satriya dance presented by Ms. Lalita Das of Illinois. This was followed by a half hour long American country music performed by Nashville Opryland celebrity duo, Becca Hadzor and Michael Krejci. The first and second generation Assam origin artistic talents added continuous flavor and color of Assamese culture in various sessions dedicated to the adult, youth and children’s programs. In singing, Canadian resident Mitali Sarma, US residents Ranjana Datta, Krishanu Kaushik, Chitralehka Deka, Shrilekha Deka and many others provided breaks to Papon, Abhishruti and Sunita’s entertainment. Tablist Babul Borah and young guitarist Chiranjit Bordoloi accompanied most of the artists tirelessly at all times. Rekha Kalita, Sneha Hazarika, Swapnalee Sarma, Babita Baruwati and Piyalee Das-Sarma presented various traditional Assamese and Indian classical dances.
Parvez Hussain and his daughter Neeshan from Minnesota thrilled the gathering with their fusion dance, whereas American youth, Wes Nowell, aroused the crowd with his bollywood dancing. The high-lights of dancing segment were the flawless presentations of two second generation sister duos, born, brought up and trained in the US : Meghna and Devika Kataki’s Bharat Natyam, and Elina and Raina Sarmah’s fusion Indian classical dances were enchanting memories of the convention. (Elina and Raina continue to be in the NBC’s national program, ‘America got talents’, currently being telecasted in the US). Indeed, every night there were ‘Assamese National’ events, Bihu singing and massive community dancing. The Michigan group won the ‘Annual Anima Bhattacharjya-Chakravarty Memorial Trophy’ for chorus competition of the year. The leadership for the cultural show was borne by Ajanta Phookan with enduring support from Khira Barua, who organized the thrilling events for two colorful evenings. Santanu Borah, Maitreyee Angelo, and Jhula Barua added colors to the convention cultural events acting brilliantly as the masters of ceremony throughout all cultural sessions each day. There were a special children’s cultural program and various shows, competitions, games and sports for youth and children which was widely attended and enjoyed by all. The spectacular fashion show, the discussion panel and exhibition on Assamese life/arts and crafts by Assamese artists were other popular attractions of the convention. ‘Bridging the Assamese generation’ was vivid all through. Our young guest artists from Assam gave a new aura to the Assamese music building on the foundation laid by the ‘greats’ of the preceding generation. That culture is dynamic was so well reflected in the music of Abhishruti, Sunita and Papon. From tenor to tune to the vocabulary and composition, the evolving jingle was mesmerizing – keeping all, young and adult alike, spellbound. It was continuity and transition from old days to the new age built on the bricks of same tradition. That the bridge was built could not be more sensed than watching the DJ session. The Assamese DJ, Samantha, kept young and old together enthralled by her numbers that continued well until the early hours – none wanted to leave the floor. Writes Ajanta Phookan : “ The chidren, teens and the youth adults were all excited and energized – ‘wow Assam convention is great fun’. They did not leave the auditorium, till the wee hours of the morning. They loved hanging out with the DJ and our overseas guest artists. For the first time they could connect with artists from Assam! The old filks likewise were all excited – ‘We like the new age music, we love the new face of ASSAM’. Even the grandparents from India did not want to leave the auditorium till the cultural programs were over.” It is now clear that there is an unbroken tie of continuity between the generations. We are rest assured that our next generation will keep our dreams alive. The 2010 31st Assam Convention, sponsored by the Assam Association of North America (AANA), the Assam Foundation of North America Inc (AFNA), and the Assam Sahitya Sabha – North America chapter (ASSNA), was hosted by the Assam origin residents of the lower mid-West of the US living in the states of Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Alabama with help and support from some of the residents of the neighboring states. The venue of the celebration was at the Marriott Hotel and Resort at America’s Civil war heritage city, Franklin, Tennessee in the suburb of Nashville, the nucleus of America’s folk culture. The host community converted the hotel and the resort into an Assamese gala festival with abundant authentic Assamese food & snacks and reception for the participants from Canada, the US, UK, a few from India and Assam, and ever-curious American guests. Credit goes to the food committee led by Anee Deka, Eva Sarma and Gina Barua who coordinated and mobilized the entire host and neighboring families to pitch in variety of Assamese Pithas and snacks which could not be finished by participants even after the convention. The sumptuous dinners, the décor, the presentation with very personal touch will be remembered for a long time to come. ASSNA published its annual publication, ‘Luitor Pora Mississippi’, during its routine annual meeting. AANA and AFNA paid rich tribute to the illustrious economist of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund and reputed community leader, Dr. Jitendra Gopal Borpujari who passed away late last year in Washington, DC. In addition, the gathering recalled and mourned the recent demise of two members of the community, Madhab Deka of Texas and Indrajit Goswami of Vancouver, Canada with prayer and condolences to the members of the bereaved families. The activities were conducted smoothly by the host subcommittees: Children’s program led by Joyee Dutt; Youth program led by Gaurab Sarma and Aabir Das; Website management-invitation and communication led by Anup Ojah; Accounting management and registration led by Navaneet Dutt; Cultural Programs led by Ajanta Goswami- Phookan and Khira Barua; Food Services led by Anee Deka, Eva Sarma & Gina Barua; Reception and guest services led by Sharmi Bhattacharjee; Seminars and essential services by Raj Bhattacharjee, Bhaskar Sarmah and Himanshu Ojah; Logistic support by Jayantalal Baruah, the General Secretary; Time management and program control by Gautam Phookan. Chairnman Atul Sarma and Vice Chairman Ranjan Deka oversaw the activities with advisory assistance from Manoranjan Bezboruah (Washington, DC), Gautam Phookan (Indiana), Krishanu Kaushik (Michigan), Nirmali Barua (Columbus, Ohio) and Ranu Dutta (Texas). The professional Sound & Audio-visual engineer, Brian Williamson, provided un-interrupted services for running the events flawlessly. The ‘YOUTUBE” transmission has been provided by Gautam Phookan ; and the FACEBOOK coverage by Gaurab Sarma. The host committee is humbled by comments from the community that it was one of the finest conventions ever held. The success of the 31st Assam Convention has contributed to the institution of the Assam Convention of North America that continues to serve the causes and interest of Assam in North America.