From Village Life to Virality: The Incredible Journey of ‘Kacha Badam’ Hitmaker Bhuban Badyakar
The man behind the unforgettable tune speaks of his musical origins, his simple life philosophy and what listeners can expect next
Kacha badam is a peanut, not an almond. That’s the first thing Bhuban Badyakar, the “Kacha Badam” hit-maker, clarifies when we meet. Peanuts are referred to as kacha badam in his native West Bengal, where the 52-year-old former dry-fruit seller hails from Kuraljuri village. A simple, salt-of-the-earth chap, Badyakar has worked a motley assortment of jobs – from farming on other people’s land to selling vegetables. It’s only in the last decade or so that the musician began selling the nut that would make him a sensation on the Internet.
Did he expect one of the songs he used to sing as a hawker to go viral? “I’ve no clue how or when it became famous,” says Badyakar, who recalls the people in his village asking for an encore of his tunes as he went about selling his wares. The locals would whip out their camera phones and record his daily performance that comprised Badyakar stitching together words on the uses of peanuts, how to cook and eat them and so on, all hummed to a simple melody. One such video went viral earlier this year in January, and was followed by digital creators remixing the song on Instagram reels (they even added a dancing flourish to the tune). To Badyakar’s earnest surprise, “Kacha Badam” soon took the Internet by storm.
When we meet Badyakar in Mumbai, he’s filming for a JioSaavn ad campaign in a quaint villa in Madh Island. Ordinarily dressed in a modest shirt-and-pants ensemble, the quinquagenarian now dons a pink silk button-down blouse and a black suit bedazzled with glitter. He has a trio of gold chains looming large around his neck and his fingers are studded with gold rings. His wrists too are adorned with aurum bracelets. He blows a kiss to the camera as the director yells, “Cut!”, then promptly begins to laugh at the absurdity of his reality. This is not a setting Badyakar is comfortable in, but he’s slowly accepting the glitz and glamour of showbiz, even as he itches to change into the no-frills clothing he arrived in on set.
“If you don’t think about tomorrow, you’re happy,” says Badyakar about his creative mantra, “That’s when the music comes out, the song comes out… When you’re not thinking about what you’ll do tomorrow, what you’ll eat, whether you will earn enough money or not… You just start humming and if you’re happy, the music works.” Reflecting on the wildfire popularity of “Kacha Badam,” the musician reminisces about when he first discovered and practiced his art. Flashing a smile laced with memory, Badyakar’s eyes sparkle as he speaks of a childhood when at the age of six, he would go to a farm and work, particularly leading the cows to harvest grain. At the time, he and his fellow hands would hum and sum up what they were doing as they reaped the crops. He would carry this habit of singing songs well into his adult years when he worked as a farmer and a vegetable vendor (two professions he gave up due to the lack of liveable profits) before he became a peanut seller.
Speaking about how he created his songs, Badyakar says, “It’s all experiential. When I was selling peanuts, the song was about what the nut is, what its uses are and how one can cook it. On the other hand, when I bought a car recently and met with a minor accident, I wrote a song [the upcoming “Amar Notun Gari”] about how I banged into a wall while driving it. I’ve now returned the car!” The musician maintains that his artistry is a lot like writing a diary; he takes note of daily affairs and turns them into music. What makes a tune popular in his opinion? “It should bring a smile to your face. That makes a song viral,” says Badyakar.
The musician who found fame on the Internet views the medium as a boon. It has opened the gates for financial prosperity and the opportunity to provide a better life for his family. About the unexpected turn his fifties took, Badyakar shares, “I used to have some issues with my earning and making a livelihood, but I didn’t have too much of stress in my mind about what is going to happen next because Lord Govind is there and he takes care of everything. So, I always go with the flow.”
Now that Badyakar is a popular musician signed to a local label in Kolkata (Godhuli Bela Music), he wants to remain an artist so that he can sing for Bengali cinema’s most illustrious names including Jeet, Dev and Prosenjit. He also has a few songs in the pipeline but he maintains secrecy about them. He’s getting late for his flight back home and fighting anxiety about Mumbai’s traffic, yet Badyakar breaks into a grin as he tells us what fans can expect next. “I want to give my listeners songs at regular intervals,” he says.