Article on Sadin, Assamese weekly on Feb 5, 2016

An article on Jim Ankan Deka published on Sadin, an Assamese weekly from Guwahati, on February 5, 2016.

Flashback - The Assam Tribune

Published in The Assam Tribune on January 21, 2016
"Jim Ankan Deka is an Assamese musician, documentary filmmaker, photographer and director of a Bengaluru-based music institute and production house. He has won multiple awards for his music."

When I was young, my parents introduced me to Borgeet and the Khol. As time passed, I picked up
other instruments, including the guitar, piano, tabla, etc. I was so inclined towards music that I was sure of becoming a musician once I grew up. But taking birth in India, where people respect art, but seldom encourage children to focus on anything but studies, it was not easy to convince my family that there can be a career in music, too.

After completing my studies (simultaneously learning music), I headed towards Bengaluru in 2006, where I took up different jobs to survive. Well, I was not happy in the corporate world. I was looking for various options in music at the same time. There weren't many though. After six months of struggle, I got into a music school as a guitar tutor. And later, with the help of certain friends, I opened my first music school - Eastern Fare Music Foundation. This was the first music institute to be established by an Assamese in Bengaluru. As the months passed, we opened a couple more branches, teaching music to over 200 students. By 2009, the institute opened five branches all over Bengaluru, a recording studio, a production house and a philanthropic initiative called 'Count Your Blessings'. The music institute now has branches in Guwahati and Shillong, apart from Bengaluru, giving music education to more than 300 students every month.

I would urge every young person to have a dream. While an aim will help in choosing the right path, a dream will help to overcome the obstacles in life and encourage one to walk everyday in that path without fear. The other thing I want to share is, please stay away from drugs or any other intoxicat-ing stuff. Life can be happy without those substances. Pick an activity like music, dance or any other art form. Life is beautiful and it is up to us how we keep it that way.

Anuron - an Assamese music video from the ChaiTunes series

Anuron - Queen Hazarika, Rupam Bhuyan, Jim Ankan Deka
Anuron - a music video from the ChaiTunes series is the fifth Assamese music video by Jim Ankan Deka. Singers from Assam Queen Hazarika and Rupam Bhuyan have rendered their voices for the song. The post production on the song in underway.

Produced by Eastern Fare Music Foundation and powered by Music Malt, Bangalore, the song is recorded at Eastern Fare Studios in Bangalore, Zero DB Studio, Guwahati, and mixed and mastered at Eastern Fare Studios, Umium.

North East India through my eyes - Meghalaya

It took me almost four years to come out of my mundane, humdrum existence and start my five months journey in the North-east of India on June 12, 2015. I always believed in a quote by English writer and philosopher Gilbert K. Chesterton - "The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see." After visiting many places as a tourist, I wanted to see the world through a traveller's eyes. Yes, today I travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape me.

My journey began in Meghalaya, a state in the North eastern region of India.

Living Root Bridges in Mawlynnong, Asia's cleanest village (photo: Jim Ankan Deka)
Khasi Heritage Village in Mawphlang (photo: Jim Ankan Deka)
The Sacred Forest in Mawphlang (photo: Jim Ankan Deka)
View of  the city of Shillong from the Shillong Peak (photo: Jim Ankan Deka | camera: Samsung Galaxy S4)
A view from the Nongsder village (photo: Jim Ankan Deka | camera: Samsung Galaxy S4)
Morning view in summer near Umium Lake (photo: Jim Ankan Deka | camera: Samsung Galaxy S4)
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The face of new age Assamese music | Eclectic Northeast

(An article by Jadeed Hussain published on Eclectic Northeast magazine on June 1, 2015)

Musician Jim Ankan Deka's love for the music of his native land has prompted him to take Assamese music to the global stage

Jim had moved to Bangalore from Guwahati to do his Masters in Psychology. After completing his studies, made his foray into the corporate world, but after a series of job changes, he realized that music was his only true calling. He joined a music school and slowly offers started to trickle from the film and television industry of Karnataka.

He started off with a Kannada TV series in 2007 where he arranged the music for four songs. He admits that the language barrier was very much there but working with a director who was free to take inputs from him helped him deliver his best. He also teamed up with Carnatic classical musician and playback singer Suchethan Rangaswamy to form a band called 'Veenar'; they released their first song in Kannada called Eesha Ninna. He recalls, 'That was the first time I actually worked on the fusion music genre. Later, we released a couple of other instrumental tracks combined with the veena and guitar, blending in jazz elements as well'. Now, he rarely finds time to work for others, although he still plays the guitar for Kannada films and albums sometimes.

It was in 2008 that Jim's life radically changed. While chatting with his student Anand Pilakkat one day, the idea of forming his own music school came up and since then there has been no looking back; with ample support from his wife Parmita Borah and Anand himself, Eastern Fare Music Foundation was formed. The school followed the syllabus of Trinity College, London which worked in its favour as the number of students started increasing day-by-day. Later, the trio met more like minded people such as Suchin Ravi, Harish Marappa and Vinod M Singh from Bangalore, Prakash Rajagopalan from Chennai, Victor Logidasan from Sri Lanka, Ashok Singha from Silchar and Girish Sood from Chandigarh who joined the school as music teachers and became part of the vibrant Eastern Fare Music Foundation team.

With time, it got bigger and better and different branches of the school were opened in Bangalore. Now, Eastern Fare has a studio, a practice room and a production house apart from other branches of the institute. In 2013, Eastern Fare collaborated with another music company Music Malt to come up with a music project called the ChaiTunes with an aim to promote the folk music of India as well as Northeast, and provide a platform to unknown but talented musicians. Also, Eastern Fare has been trying to promote Northeast India through its Facebook and Twitter pages as well as a dedicated Northeast portal.

A strong social media presence also has its share in making his music popular among the younger generation. Jim had been a social media specialist for three national and international organisations, and that has without a doubt helped him conned with netizens better. He shares, "This medium is the best possible way to showcase my work. People share almost everything about their daily lives regularly on Facebook or Twitter. I mostly share my creative work. And with almost 1,70,000 fans on my Facebook pages, I can safely say it has been a successful endeavour. When we can afford the technology, why not use it to the fullest?"

'Xaare Aasu' is the latest track by Jim featuring Queen Hazarika, and was released as a music video on Youtube on lst May 2015. On the very same day, it got close to 5000 views and in just 5 days, it had crossed the 15000 views mark. It is going strong and has got a great response; people who have watched the video have appreciated the jazz elements incorporated with Assamese lyrics. The lyrics were based on poems written by Jim's departed parents Prof Bhabananda Deka and poet Nalini Prava Deka. It is the first video under the ChaiTunes project and collaboration between actors and musicians of Assam and Karnataka. This was his second collaboration with Queen Hazarika, the earlier song he had worked with her on was 'Awaaz —Speak Up Against Sexual Violence'.

Jim is now working on a tribute album which would probably be released by the end of this year. His brother Ankur Deka and popular singer Mayukh Hazarika have joined him in this venture. Another song, Niyoror Xur, with Mayukh Hazarika which is again based on the poetry of his parents is currently in progress.

Anil CJ, a noted music producer and director of Kannada films, albums and serials says, "Jim is a very well-known musician in the Northeast and he is well-known in Kannada industry too for his versatility in playing different musical instruments and his strongest zone is when he is playing the guitar. He has collaborated with me in most of my projects and his own projects on women empowerment have been phenomenal."

Quick Q's
Hobbies other than music - photography, reading, travelling and watching movies
Favourite song - Many. Specially songs of Bhupen Hazarika, Bob Dylan and Nirvana.
Favorite song from your composition - Amvaz - speak up against sexual violence and Nixobdo Nilim
Favourite band from the Northeast - Many. I love Soulmate from Shillong, Voodoo Child from Guwahati (although I had been a part of that), The Vinyl Records from Arunachal Pradesh and Boomerang among others.

Aakaxok Subo Khojo - an Assamese music video by Jim Ankan Deka and Antara Nandy

Aakaxok Subo Khojo - Jim Ankan Deka feat. Antara Nandy
ChaiTunes, the music series powered by Music Malt, released the second Assamese music video 'Aakaxok Subo Khojo' (আকাশক চুব খোজো) featuring Jim Ankan Deka and 'Sa Re Ga Ma Pa 2009' finalist 16 yr old Antara Nandy.

The song was recorded in Eastern Fare Studio and Madcat Studios in Bangalore under the guidance of Kannada music producer Anil CJ. The video is directed by Parmita Borah and was shot at Innerspace Studios, Bangalore. The lyrics of the song is penned by Assamese journalist Raj Dweep.

Produced by Eastern Fare Music Foundation, the video was released on June 5, 2015.


Antara Nandy and Jim Ankan Deka (a shot from Aakaxok Subo Khojo)
Antara Nandy and Jim Ankan Deka (a shot from Aakaxok Subo Khojo) | photo: Nishal Lama

Chador-mekhela, drums, keyboard, guitar, cultural activists, bihu and Being Assamese

Courtesy: Raul de la Nuez
Recently, in one of the Bihu functions (April, 2015), one of the leading female singers of Assam was not allowed to sing for not wearing Chador Mekhela by the committee members. (Chador-mekhela is the traditional Assamese dress worn by women.) What I feel personally in that case, even the male singers, including Papon, Zubben, should be asked to wear Dhoti-Kurta or ban them too. Why this unfairly prejudiced view? And all the committee members also should be wearing Dhoti-Kurta or Chador-Mekhela all the time. Do they? Embarrassing moment for Assam and Assamese culture. This is not culture, This is not Bihu.

I understand that cloths are integral part of any culture; but cloths alone can't defy culture. If one has to follow one of the cultural aspects with full devotion, he has to follow everything with complete honesty and sincerity. That means, if one has to wear mekhela-chador to defy bihu, she can't actually use keyboard, guitar or drums in bihu functions, because these instruments are not integral part of bihu or any Assamese culture. Infact, one should not even go to the stage to perform, as, bihu is supposed to be celebrated in the open field. Also, on the day of the first bihu, one should eat only doi-shira and pitha-pona, not burger or sandwich.

But, as we have adopted many things over the time, we have changed our style of celebrating the festivals. So, my point is, if we have brought in the things which were never part of our tradition and culture, what is the problem with cloths? That's just one of the aspects of a culture.

And lastly, if mekhela-chador is something a lady artist has to wear, even the male artists should wear their traditional attire in the bihu functions. As many of you say that 'there is a relation of our dress with our tradition', I would urge you to boycott any of Zubeen, Papon or any of the male or female artists if they are not in traditional attire. Also, make sure that their instrumentalists (musicians) should be wearing traditional dresses and play only traditional instruments. All the organisers should be in traditional dresses too. There should not be any kind of alcohol in the green rooms, behind the stage which is not traditional.

So, if you can actually take care of these small things, I don't mind people shouting about women's traditional cloths. Let's not make our tradition, culture a comic affair.

News on Assamese music video 'Xaare Aasu'

Xaare Aasu is An Assamese music video featuring singer Queen Hazarika and composer Jim Ankan Deka. It is the first of ChaiTunes series of music videos. Powered by Music Malt, a Bangalore based music house, the song is based on poems by Assamese writer duo Prof. Bhabananda Deka and Nalini Prava Deka. The video is directed by Parmita Borah and produced by Eastern Fare Foundation, Bangalore.

Read more at ReviewNE and Merinews. | Watch the video Here. | Download Xaare Aasu Here

News Clippings
Eastern Chronicle, May 12, 2015

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Bharti Airtel CEO's e-mail on Net Neutrality and response from the people


Few days back I posted Mahesh Murthy's take on anti #net neutrality and Airtel's 'Airtel Zero' plan. After a huge outcry (over 800,000 emails to the Government) and Flipkart's final decision of backing out of Airtel Zero, Bharti Airtel's CEO Gopal Vittal wrote to customers on April 19, 2015, explaining why they love net neutrality and why Airtel Zero is benign and just some "technology platform". Below is the email.

Dear Customer

Over the last few days you may have seen a lot of conversation on our toll free platform Airtel Zero. It has been painted as a move that violates net neutrality and we have been very concerned at the incorrect information that has been carried by some quarters in the media as well as in social media. I wanted to take this opportunity to clear the air and reiterate that we are completely committed to net neutrality. Let me clarify.

Our vision is to have every Indian on the internet. There are millions of Indians who think that the internet is expensive and do not know what it can do for them. We believe that every Indian has the right to be on the internet. We know that if we allow them to experience the joys of the internet they will join the digital revolution.

Airtel Zero is a technology platform that connects application providers to their customers for free. The platform allows any content or application provider to enroll on it so that their customers can visit these sites for free. Instead of charging customers we charge the providers who choose to get on to the platform.

Our platform is open to all application developers, content providers and internet sites on an equal basis. The same rate card is offered to all these providers on a totally non discriminatory basis.

There is no difference between this and toll free voice such as 1-800. When a company selling an insurance product enrols into the toll free voice platform, customers who call the number are not charged but when they call a normal number they are charged. Calls are not blocked or given preferential treatment else our whole business would be jeopardized. Toll free voice helps the business owner engage with their customer. At the same time it provides the customer the benefit of reaching the business for free. Toll free voice is not a product or a tariff plan, it is merely a technology platform. We are simply taking the same concept of toll free voice to the world of data. As a result it is for the application developer and their customer to decide how data charges will be paid for. If the application developer is on the platform they pay for the data and their customer does not. If the developer is not on the platform the customer pays for data as they do now. Companies are free to choose whether they want to be on the platform or not. This does not change access to the content in any way whatsoever. Customers are free to choose which web site they want to visit, whether it is toll free or not. If they visit a toll free site they are not charged for data. If they visit any other site normal data charges apply.

Finally every web site, content or application will always be given the same treatment on our network whether they are on the toll free platform or not. As a company we do not ever block, throttle or provide any differential speeds to any web site. We have never done it and will never do it. We believe customers are the reason we are in business. As a result we will always do what is right for our customers.
There has been a deliberate effort by some quarters to confuse people that we will offer differential speeds or differential access for different sites. This is untrue. After all we earn revenues from data. If there are more customers who are on the Internet the better it is for our business. Our revenues are not dependent on which sites they visit because we charge on the basis of consumption of mega bytes not which site they visited.

In sum our platform is a technology platform and is open to all application developers and their customers. Our platform only provides a choice of how the data that is consumed is paid for by any of the two - the application provider or their customer. Whether any application provider enrolls on the platform or not is entirely their choice. All we have is a technology. We do not have a product or tariff plan that we have launched. We simply have a platform. And every application developer and their customer is free to choose in an entirely neutral way what they want to do.

In conclusion, we stand fully committed to net neutrality to ensure the goals of the Prime Minister`s vision of digital India are met.

Regards,
Gopal Vittal
MD & CEO
Bharti Airtel Ltd.
India & South Asia

In response to Gopal Vittal's e-mail, venture capitalist, marketing consultant and corporate speaker Mahesh Murthy writes -

Here's how I suggest you reply to him at ceo.airtel@airtelupdate.com or gopal.vittal@in.airtel.com

Subject: Dear Mr. Airtel CEO, my concepts are right. Perhaps you have a misconception.

Dear Mr. Vittal,

Thank you for writing to me. It’s a refreshing change from seeing some operator’s association fronting for you.

I’d like to correct some serious misconceptions you have about the internet, the role it plays in my life and how I’d like it to be.

1. First, the internet is critical to my life, my future, and that of my family. As you’ve heard our Prime Minister say, a Digital India is essential for this country to develop. And core to a digital India is equal and unfettered access to the Internet. The internet is a global collection of interlinked sites and there is only one internet. For my future and for all our futures, this one internet has to be freely accessible and open to all. This one internet cannot be broken into separate collections of sites available on separate payment plans. So I am most concerned when someone tries to sell parts of the internet separately, at different price plans, including some at a price called ‘free’. This breaks the internet, and I do not wish that to happen.

2. Second, I’m glad to see you say that you support net neutrality. I understand your company may have conducted tests in the past where you’ve deliberately throttled down video and audio bytes to give a bad user experience on those, so that you have the opportunity in the future to charge more for these as separate services. Given your stated support of net neutrality now, I hope that will never happen again. I am aware what happened in the US between Comcast and Netflix, and I hope, with your statement, that something like this will never ever happen on any Airtel network.

3. I also hope you understand that there’s nothing special or different between a byte of video, a byte of audio and a byte of text going through your network. They’re all the same, and they all go through at the same speed. I am happy to pay a competitive price for the amount of bandwidth I consume regardless of whether it’s audio, video or text – and I take your statement as a commitment that you will never have a separately priced YouTube pack, or a specially priced WhatsApp pack or Facebook pack or whatever.

4. I appreciate your acceptance clearly that you’re an internet bandwidth provider and the applications I use on this bandwidth that you provide are not your concern – as long as you charge for the data consumed. I understand that your commitment is that all data from all applications that I use will now be delivered equally promptly with no discrimination and separate pricing, either based on the type of data I am using, or the application it is emanating from. I thank you for your new stand and clarity on this issue.

5. While that is a welcome step, that is just one part of net neutrality. I am sure you have read the news that the government’s TRAI believes that zero-rating plans like Airtel Zero and Facebook Internet Dot Org both violate net neutrality. Here is a link to that - http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2015-04-16/news/61217927_1_net-neutrality-app-makers-open-internet.

6. But even if you were not to take the government’s word for it, you’ve probably seen that over 800,000 email have gone from concerned users like me to the Government to ask them to ensure net neutrality and to ban all kind of zero-rating plans. That should give you an idea of the number of people who have a clear concept about what exactly they expect from licensed internet providers in India. I have no opposition to only your plan, it’s nothing personal – I also oppose all other zero-rating plans including what Facebook is pushing via something called Internet Dot Org on the Reliance network. If you stop this Airtel Zero plan on my network and never bring back anything like it ever again, and I’ll be your fan again.

7. I now hear you say that your commitment is to bring the internet to everybody in the country and that is why you wanted to cordon off one section of the internet, get it subsidized and sponsored by the sites in that cordon, and offer that at no bandwidth cost to the users because you can't afford to do it yourself, even though you declared over Rs.7,800 crores in profit last year. This is interesting, because the reason quoted so far by your representative at your association has been that “you spent a lot of money and hence you want to make more money”. Good to know of your altruism, even though it is in the form of making others pay for the charity and developmental work that you say you want to do

8. Let me tell you other reasons why I am opposed to any sort of zero-rating plan. There are new things that happen every day, somewhere in the world, and the internet helps me discover these. I discovered long-lost contacts on WhatsApp through this digital word of mouth, I discovered new parts of the internet via Google this way, I discovered my friends on Facebook this way, I discovered new jobs on Naukri this way, and I also discovered your offerings and services this way. Now if you cordon off one part of the internet, no one in that restricted zone will ever be able to discover or experience anything new – all they can see are the few and limited sites of the rich companies who have paid you to be placed on that so-called free channel, and the users can’t go anywhere else. Many of these new offerings will come from start-ups and young companies who have no money for subsidizing Airtel bandwidth and hence the users of your cordoned-off service will never discover them. Innovation – especially as driven by our Prime Minister’s Made In India drive, will die as a result. And the worst affected will be the people that you apparently are doing this for – at the bottom of the pyramid. That is why Airtel Zero is such a bad idea. I understand people at the bottom of the pyramid have a huge hunger for knowledge and information – but it is horrible to feed them just a limited tiny diet from wealthy companies who can sponsor your bandwidth and who are looking to recover the money they paid you by exploiting these poor and needy folks. That’s a tragedy, and don’t you think it’s somewhat shameful that your firm is a part of it? Let’s not exploit the unwired and the poor.

9. I appreciate this new view from you that your vision is to get every Indian online, and that it’s not about making more money, unlike what your association has been saying so far. But if you truly, sincerely, really look at getting this bottom of the pyramid online, you’ll see that bandwidth cost is the least of the issues. Bandwidth can cost Rs. 49 a month or even less – but people first have to get a Rs. 2,000 phone or device, and learn English to use it. Then they have to have good coverage where they live. The challenges are many and difficult.

10. I can see that you have a huge issue delivering even regular telephone calls without dropping them multiple times in urban areas, or even delivering the stated bandwidth to paying customers - how many of your paying 3G users actually get 3G speeds? How many of your paying 2G users actually get 2G speeds? I for sure don’t get what I pay for from you – and perhaps that’s a good place for you to start, if you really want to help develop our country. Why not start by catering to your paying customers and not short-changing them? I am unclear how you’ll deliver bandwidth that even paying customers like me pay for – let alone the free customers who are spread all across India where your networks probably don’t even reach. The challenges as we agree, are many, and bandwidth affordability is not among the key ones.

11. Further, if your objective is to bring these folks online – why not just offer a cheaper plan that all can access, where the entire internet is open to them – and not just the elite and closed-garden neighbourhood of rich sites who are paying you? Why not a Rs.5 a month, open Internet access plan? I’m sure you can do it – bandwidth prices are falling the world over.

12. I also want to ask you this: I don’t know if you and others in your management team have growing children. But if you do, would you send them to a cordoned-off part of the internet sponsored and run by wealthy sites where they can’t go anywhere else? Or would want them to enjoy the full internet at a low cost, where there is no bias just to sites owned by wealthy corporations who can sponsor the bandwidth? I am sure your answer will be that you’d never wish that your children – or even the children of your maids and drivers - should ever be on a broken internet limited to sites sponsored by rich, exploitative companies.

13. One more thing: I keep noticing your mention of toll-free numbers. I know that is not an appropriate analogy. Toll free numbers work when people have phones – and can easily get to all the other numbers they want to call. That is not the case here – to state the equivalent here: people have no phones and no coverage, and what’s stopping them from making calls is not some high cost of calling. In reality too in India, toll-free hasn’t been important because the cost of phone calls was always affordable to all. Maybe that’s the lesson here for all of us. Give us a more affordable open internet. Not an internet broken into pieces with one elite area paid for by rich companies only to exploit poor people. So let’s leave this toll-free analogy aside – it’s not relevant to the point.

14. I want to end with one remark. I do know that your service, and that of other telecom companies, runs on bandwidth and airwaves owned by the Government and people of India. You merely have a license to use it, that too in a way as prescribed by the Government. Under all these circumstances, I hope you will agree with me that any kind of restrictive Internet plan that blockades poor people to seeing sites only owned by wealthy companies does not promote India’s development or that of my fellow citizens. I appreciate your altruism and desire to help develop India in an inclusive and meaningful way. To that end I request you consider offering better service across the board to paying customers, to lowering your cost of internet access for all, and yes, to withdrawing your Airtel Zero plan.

That will help clear all misconceptions about the good you want to do for our nation.
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