Ashim Giri’s full name is Ashim Kumar Bandyopadhyay. He was born in a Corporation Hospital in Chetla in Kolkata. Sometime in his childhood, his grandma called him by the name Giri ! Since then his name became Giri. He is known more as Ashim Giri than Ashim Bandyopadhyay ! His father Kanailal Bandyopadhyay mother Hena Devi.
His grand father Barada Charan Bhuttacharya played the string instrument Esraj and his mother Hena devi had a very melodious voice. Thus he grew up in a musical atmosphere. But playing the Harmonium was prohibited as traditionally vocal had to be always accompanied by Tanpura (An Indian string instrument. All foreign instruments were banned!). That is the cause for his discomfiture even today.
He passed his schooling from Dhakuria Ramakrishna Vidyapith in Kolkata and joined Ashutosh College in 1974. He impressed everyone by clearing the Higher Secondary exam at a very early age! Poverty at home forced him to take Arts instead of Science in College, but could not stop his urge to educate himself. He cleared M.A. B.Ed. from prestigious Jadavpur University and took up a reporter’s job for a brief period. Then he joined an elite English Medium school of Kolkata as a teacher in Bengali Language.
He was attracted to the political scenario of West Bengal as early as 70’s even though he was much too young for it ! The bifurcation of the Communist Party (from CPIM to CPIML) confused him. But soon was fascinated by the radicals and started singing mass movement songs under Suresh Biswas.
In 1974, the then Prime Minister of India Smt Indira Gandhi declared Internal Emergency. Even though in his teens, he too courted arrest along with most other opposition leaders and party workers all over the country. He has been constantly singing for various movements since 1974. His performance from Folk (Baul-Fakir), Tagore, Nazrul's songs made him a popular performing artist.
Unfortunately being always a rebel, never put him into the good books of any political party.
In an endeavor to collect rural Folk songs of various movements such as Kanoria, Rajarhat etc, he got himself dragged into Agrarian politics. He later on met Suman Chattopadhyay the famous singer, who now goes by the name Kabir Suman. Ashim was a constant companion of Kabir Suman during the Singur Nandigram movement.
During the Singur Nandigram movement (2006 ~ 2008), He accompanied the leader Mamata Bandyopadhyay where ever she went, as the Star Singer of that movement. During Mamata’s Hunger strike lasting 26 days at Metro Channel, Kolkata, Ashim sang for at least 24 days from that stage.
We remember that during any meeting of the Singur Nandigram movement, all other performers, orators, singers etc used to carry out their part before Mamata stood up to speak. During the course of her speech she would ask Ashim to sing a song! Ashim would then take the mike and sing to a thunderous applause! After that Mamata would speak again and conclude the program. Such had become the protocol of that movement!
Those who were the opposition then, are now the ruling party! But we do not see Ashim Giri any more in their programmes! As if he has suddenly become an untouchable ! Many of the singers and performers that we see on the Ruling party sponsored programmes are those people who were comfortably making money through their sycophancy of the previous ruling party! Many of them were signatories to general declarations in Ganashakti, the mouthpiece of CPI(M) and left minded papers like Aajkaal, thereby expressing their solidarity with the govt of that time! Some of them even went on to condemn the Singur Nandigram movement and their leader Mamata Banerjee. (Click here to read some of those declarations and their signatories!)
Well, getting all these spineless, greedy and sycophant turncoats and cats-on-fences on board is nothing bad. In fact that shows how generous Mamata Banerjee is! But that is not what we are asking! We simply want know what was wrong with the likes of singers like Kabir Suman, Ashim Giri, Debashis Roy and many others who joined the movement in return for nothing? Why were they so unceremoniously and quickly forgotten ? Is it a disqualification to be honest and not seek any obvious rewards? Is it a disqualification to maintain one’s freedom of thought and expression and still be a part of a movement? Is it a disqualification to speak out when you see blatant misuse of the trust and love the people have showered upon the movement? Why did they have to stop people from playing their songs by telling people to play only Rabindra Sangeet ? What was wrong with the songs they were singing? Were they anti national? Were they inciting communal disharmony? Many of these songs even were in the praise of the movement, and Mamata herself.
By this order of playing only Rabindra Sangeet a general Censorship was clamped upon them. The supporters of the movement who used to play the songs stopped playing them. Stopping any song in the pretext of playing some other type of song is very unethical and immoral form of censorship.
No where in the history of mankind do we come across a situation where the songs, poetry, literature that came out of a movement was shunned and forcibly stopped by the same people after coming in to power.
Ashim Giri is such a character who even inspired novelists like Manik Mandal to write novels which had his character. In fact not one but two of Manik Mandal’s novels “Bhalo Nei” and “Jal Jomi Jangal” have Ashim in them. Kabir Suman has dedicated his book “Nishaner naam Tapasi Malik” to Ashim Giri.
Two of his albums have been published till date. “Nandigram to Megacity” and “Rasta Theke”. We are grateful and pleased to say that he has permitted us to keep all his songs in our site for free download.