How Dubai made an impact on this soulful musician from India

Nilotpal Bora, who recently performed live in Dubai, on his musical heroes and how he fell in love with the city


Rituraj Borkakoty

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Published: Tue 28 May 2024, 12:04 AM

Having come from a small town in Assam, the north-eastern state in India, Nilotpal Bora has made a name for himself in the big world of Mumbai's music industry.

He is still not churning out the chartbusters in big-budget Bollywood flicks, but his soulful tracks have been resonating with music lovers.

Nilotpal's compositions have featured in Yeh Meri Family (Netflix), Aspirants (YouTube) and Taaza Khabar (Hotstar) — three of the 50 most popular Indian web series of all time, according to a list published by IMDb.

In an exclusive interview with the City Times, Nilotpal opened up on his musical heroes and how he fell in love with Dubai.

Recently you were in Dubai to perform at a live concert. How was your experience?

It was wonderful. Dubai is my first trip abroad; I had never stepped out of India before. I didn't know what to expect. Of course, the show was amazing. There were a lot of people from my state, Assam, at the concert in Dubai. It was truly incredible to perform in front of them. But what I loved about this place was the people I met everywhere. It’s a city full of life and full of amazing people. Also, this place is very respectful of people of all faiths. I am normally not a city person, but I loved Dubai. I think when you think of an ideal city, Dubai is the first one that would come to your mind.

Not many musicians from Assam have established themselves in Mumbai. It was a brave decision from you to come to Mumbai for work...

My musical journey started in Assam, I had worked a bit in Guwahati. Then in 2012, I came to Mumbai for one of my Assamese albums. I liked the atmosphere and the professionalism there in Mumbai. So one year later, without any solid plans, I just boarded a train and came to Mumbai for work! Luckily I met people from TVF, who admired my Assamese song Majuli. This song was my tribute to the resilient people of Majuli, the river island in Assam that has been enduring a never-ending battle with devastating floods and erosion every summer. The song earned a cult status in Assam, and gave me recognition. When the TVF people heard it, they liked it so much that they wanted me to make a Hindi version of it for their web series, Yeh Meri Family. But I refused because the Majuli song was very close to my heart, it had a social theme. They still wanted me to compose something similar. That's how the song Dhaaga was created for Aspirants. They liked the song and gave me another web series, Tripling. The music was appreciated again by everyone. After that I got a lot of work in Mumbai.

Assam is the land of Bhupen Hazarika. As a singer-composer, this iconic musician must have inspired you in your journey?

When you are from Assam, everybody asks you about Bhupen Hazarika. Of course, I was inspired by his genius. But I have been a huge fan of his younger brother, Jayanta Hazarika who died at the age of 33. Very few people outside of Assam have heard of Jayanta Hazarika, but he is a legendary figure in Assam. His magical compositions have always fascinated me. Then there is Zubeen Garg. People outside of Assam knows him as the Ya Ali singer, but his body of work in Assam is so inspiring. He has had a huge influence on my generation. Then, of course, in Bollywood, I admire Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy and A.R. Rahman. I am also a huge fan of David Foster and Yanni.

If you get to compose for a big Bollywood movie in future, which are the big singers you would like to get on board?

One of my biggest dreams was to get KK to sing for me. That can never happen now! But yes, I would love to work with Hariharan. This legend lending his voice to my composition would be magical for me.

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