Assamese – a bright spot in Indian regional languages scene

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By Harshmeet Singh

There aren’t many better examples of India’s diverse culture than its linguistic diversity. The country is home to 780 languages with over 120 of them holding the ‘official’ status. But the other side of the story is that India currently heads the list of UNESCO’s world’s languages in danger.

The constitution, in its eighth schedule, lists 22 languages as the official regional languages in the country. This series of articles is an attempt to focus on these 22 languages, their pasts and present, and cherish our linguistic diversity. We start the series today with Assamese.

The official language of the state of Assam, Assamese has more than 13 million native speakers. Apart from Assam, it also finds a considerable number of speakers in Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and even Bangladesh and Bhutan. It is widely regarded as the easternmost language of the Indo-Aryan family.

Unlike most other Indian languages, Assamese doesn’t trace its origins to Sanskrit. But due to the migration of people in large numbers from north India to the northeastern parts of the country, the language came under the influence of Sanskrit. The script of the language is very similar to the scripts of Maithili and Bengali languages.

The northeast region boasts of a strong literary history and tradition. Archeologists have recovered a number of copper plates and edicts dating back to the medieval times. In Assam, ancient religious texts were usually written on saanchi tree’s bark. Since then, the language has evolved considerably. A number of spellings in the Assamese language don’t follow the rules of phonetics. Hemkosh, an Assamese dictionary based on the Sanskrit spellings of words, was compiled by Hemchandra Barua in the year 1900. It has come to be known as the standard reference for the language.

Assamese remains one of the few regional languages in the country which has managed to hold its own over the centuries. Just earlier this week, the famous Tezpur University, in collaboration with the century old Asomia Club, decided to teach Assamese language to the students, researchers and officials coming to the state from different parts of the country. It would help break the linguistic barriers between the locals and the outside people residing in the state.

One of the organizers behind the initiative, Hemanta Lahkar, told TOI, “Our aim is to popularize Assamese among the people who are spending time in the state and will go to other parts of the country in the years to come. Learning Assamese will certainly bridge a lot of gaps. We believe this would act as a bond among people in this diverse country.”

Initiatives such as these combined with a sustained pride of the Assamese people in their mother tongue would ensure that Assamese thrives further in the times to come.

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“Jazz: The Music of Freedom, Human Rights and Liberation”, According to UNESCO

April 30 is marked as the International Jazz Day

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International Jass Day is coming up. Pixabay

Terming Jazz “the music of freedom, human rights and liberation”, UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay has given a call to turn to jazz now more than ever; to get closer to one another on this ninth International Jazz Day, marked on April 30.

Established by the General Conference of UNESCO in 2011 and recognised by the United Nations General Assembly, International Jazz Day brings together countries and communities worldwide every April 30, to celebrate jazz and highlight its role in encouraging dialogue, combating discrimination and promoting human dignity. International Jazz Day has become a global movement, reaching billions of people annually.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s annual International Jazz Day global celebration and the event’s flagship Global Concert, initially scheduled to take place in South Africa’s Cape Town will take place online. This will also be the case with the many other events planned around the world for the day.

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Herbie Hancock will be hosting the Global Concert this year. Wikimedia Commons

UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Intercultural Dialogue Herbie Hancock, is the host of the Global Concert this year, which features artists from across the globe, and will be streamed live on the Organisation’s site. Artists scheduled to perform at the concert include John McLaughlin, Jane Monheit, Alune Wade, John Beasley, Ben Williams, Lizz Wright, John Scofield, Igor Butman, Evgeny Pobozhiy, Youn Sun Nah, A Bu, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Dianne Reeves and Joey DeFrancesco, among others.

Closer home, the popularity of jazz seems to be growing in India, as does its active listenership and practice.

NCR-based The Piano Man Jazz Club founder and Fulbright music scholar Arjun Sagar Gupta believes that Jazz, like another other form of art and culture, needs exposure to grow and gain popularity.

“The last five-six years has seen a renewed push towards the promotion of jazz in India, which is creating an ever increasing base of patrons and lovers of theart form. We hope that in the years to come this continues to grow, spurred on by more and more artists performing the music and more people supporting and listening to it,” Gupta told IANSlife.

During the lockdown, The Piano Man is also live streaming an online six-artiste concert to mark the occasion. Featured artistes are Bhavya Raj, Vatsal Bakhda, Manta Sidhu, Tatyana Shandrakova, Arjun Sagar Gupta and Elena Friedrich. “Jazz, for me, is at a point in India, where it is growing and we have people who want to explore this art form, both as musicians and as listeners,” Bakhda said.

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Jazz as a genre has been in the spotlight, thanks to endorsements by music’s biggest stars like Kendrick Lamar, whose album “To Pimp a Butterfly” prominently featured contemporary names from the new-age jazz world.

In celebration of the International Jazz Day, social music streaming app Resso has added a station to their latest song tab channel eQuaranTunes’ called eJazz At Home’. In addition to that, they will launch 10 mood-based playlists for every hour curated as per the vibe and time of the day. The station covers the pioneers as well as new age artists in the genre that include Nina Simone, Miles Davis, Wes Montgomery to Kamasi Washington, Snarky Puppy and Flying Lotus among others. (IANS)

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COVID-19 Crisis Affects Cultural Industry Negatively: UNESCO

People need culture more than ever: UNESCO

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As per the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the closure of heritage sites, museums, theatres and cinemas and other cultural institutions is jeopardizing funding for artists and creative industries. Pixabay

BY SIDDHI JAIN

The COVID-19 crisis is hitting the culture sector hard, says UNESCO, which has launched initiatives to support cultural industries and cultural heritage as billions of people around the world turn to culture for comfort and to overcome social isolation.

As per the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the closure of heritage sites, museums, theatres and cinemas and other cultural institutions is jeopardizing funding for artists and creative industries. It is also jeopardizing funding for the conservation of extraordinary places and the livelihoods of local communities and cultural professionals.

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COVID-19 has put many intangible cultural heritage practices, including rituals and ceremonies, on hold, impacting communities everywhere. It has also cost many jobs and across the globe, artists, most of whom rely on ancillary activities to supplement income from their art, are now unable to make ends meet.

“The global nature of the COVID-19 crisis is a call for the international community to reinvest in international cooperation and intergovernmental dialogue. UNESCO is committed to leading a global discussion on how best to support artists and cultural institutions during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, and ensure everyone can stay in touch with the heritage and culture that connects them to their humanity,” UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay said in a statement.

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The COVID-19 crisis is hitting the culture sector hard, says UNESCO. Pixabay

“Now, more than ever, people need culture. Culture makes us resilient. It gives us hope. It reminds us that we are not alone. That is why UNESCO is doing all it can to support culture, to safeguard our heritage and empower artists and creators, now and after this crisis has passed,” said Ernesto Ottone R., Assistant UNESCO Director-General for Culture.

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This week, UNESCO has launched a global social media campaign, #ShareOurHeritage to promote access to culture and education around cultural heritage during this time of mass confinement. It will also launch an online exhibition of dozens of heritage properties across the globe with technical support from Google Arts and Culture.

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The Organisation said that it will also make available information on the impact of, and responses to, COVID-19 on World Heritage sites, which are partly or fully closed to visitors in 89 percent of countries due to the pandemic.

On April 15, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Jean Michel Jarre, and the Organisation itself, will host the ResiliArt Debate online, bringing together artists and key industry actors to sound the alarm on COVID-19 impact on the livelihoods of artists and cultural professionals. (IANS)

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Snapchat Unveils New Feature To Support 5 Additional Indian Languages

Snap recently teamed up with Reliance Jio for a first of its kind "Jio's Got Talent" creative AR challenge

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Snapchat which has an average of 218 million daily users is trying to build a local product for India where Facebook-owned Instagram is very popular. Pixabay

Snap, the parent company of photo-sharing app Snapchat, on Thursday rolled out support for five additional Indian languages Bengali, Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu.

Snapchat currently supports Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati and Punjabi, which were introduced last year, bringing the total to nine, the company said in a statement.

“We continue to roll out new features and experiences that reflect the culture and values of our community in India. We are excited by the growth we’ve seen here as we have almost doubled our daily users over the past year,” said Nana Murugesan, Managing Director, International Markets at Snap Inc.

Snapchat which has an average of 218 million daily users is trying to build a local product for India where Facebook-owned Instagram is very popular.

The company opened its first office in Mumbai last year and established a team focused on expanding local partnerships, building an engaged community of creators and users and supporting local advertisers.

The company has so far announced partnerships with TSeries, NDTV and WWM Times Group.

In addition, it launched aLandmarkers’ a”Augmented Reality (AR) experiences – for the Taj Mahal and the Gateway of India, as well as AR Lenses, Filters and Stickers during Indian festivals.

Snap recently teamed up with Reliance Jio for a first of its kind “Jio’s Got Talent” creative AR challenge.

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Snapchat currently supports Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati and Punjabi, which were introduced last year, bringing the total to nine, the company said in a statement. Pixabay

“India is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world, and we want our platform to be accessible to as many people as possible,” said Murugesan.

The average number of Snaps created every day has grown to more than 3.5 billion while the average time spent per user is 30 minutes per day.

On average, 2 in 5 Snapchatters watch Discover feed content every day that offers more than 450 premium content channels worldwide.

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Snapchat recently launched a unique form of personalised entertainment with Bitmoji TV, featuring the Snapchatter and last snapped friend in a 10-episode series. (IANS)