We have all grown up in our own way. We all have developed a thought process that makes us perceive one idea in our own ways. And that is perhaps how we all perceive that one little idea. It might have 10 different interpretations to 10 different people.
..And so does Rabindranath Tagore find different interpretations, newer forms in this present generation.
How many of us have heard this statement – “This generation children do not like Rabindranath Tagore”?
We just cannot complain that this generation is not inclined towards Tagore. Most of them are. I belong to this generation. I am inclined towards Tagore and wish to read more of him. The question is – are they getting the right amount of motivation and mentoring? If they wish to take a step forward, will their surrounding be supportive enough? Most of my friends, cannot even read Bengali properly. When I decided to learn Rabindrasangeet from Dakshinee, many of them supported me. Few of them wanted to listen from me and at times asked for translation. Even I started reading Tagore in Bengali from late 2011… inspired and motivated by Shekhar Gupta.
And perhaps, there lies a significant difference between inclination and practising orthodoxy. One might just wish to stick to the note arrangement of the swara-bitan, one might just wish to twist few of its notes to suit his ways. One might just wish to do away with the Harmonium and play one Rabindrasangeet of his choice sitting in a dark room with his acoustic guitar. Or like my music teacher does – write Bandish and sing them along with his chosen Rabindrasangeet.
What I would look forward to, in any rendition… Are the audience enjoying it? Are the powerful lyrics prominent, clearly heard, understood or comprehended? Are the lyrics relevant to the audience?
Personally speaking, I liked A R Rahman’s “Jagao mere desh” which is a translation of the Bengali poem – “Chitto jetha bhoye shunyo” (Where the mind is without fear). I have liked Q’s “Tasher desh’s” music tracks. I have liked many such fusions.
But not all fusions are as good. As one of my friend Agnivo Niyogi points out, “The lyrics must not be lost in the heavy music.” A class 12 child Pushpak points out, “I would obviously not like a Rabindrasangeet being transformed into a skrillex or metal version.” I would be disheartened if anyone wishes to surpass the essence of Tagore ie his lyrics and play foul with it. Like Sounak Chattopadhyay says, “If they want to show they calibre let them do before or after the song. I love Rabindrasangeet. I am classically trained. This does not mean, I will twist and include into the words unnecessary ornamentations. I can do that very well and people will hear it when I sing one Indian classical song.”
There had been many “experiments” which I did not like. But why do we need to necessarily restrict them? Is Tagore not universal? Is Tagore not of all? Tagore is as much as theirs as he is mine.
Let us present Tagore our way. If people can connect to it, they connect to Tagore. That is the ultimate aim, right? We need to shred inhibitions, take Tagore out of the shelves and make him available to the mass. While in a discussion, Agnivo said, “…we should not take Tagore to the level of pedestrians”, in one of the interviews the principal of Dakshinee once said, “Tagore should not be available to every Tom Dick and Harry.” Agnivo and Shekhar Gupta, both hate popular Bollywood singers or singers of other genres singing Rabindrasangeet with broken accent. They feel Tagore is cheaply commercialised for a short term goal.
I’ll share my story. From childhood, I knew there was a Tagore and my grandmother is a huge fan of his work. She used to sing his songs / quote him in numerous occasions and I used to look at her amazed wondering her capability to remember. Tagore lived in her veins. But with her death and my increasing pressure of school studies, Tagore got restricted to the translated verses in my syllabus. And I hated it. I had to understand, comprehend a lot, at times exactly the way my teacher wanted me to comprehend and explain it, or else they gave less marks. My objective was to get marks then.
Later when I bought computer, I downloaded and borrowed pirated Rabindrasangeet music files to stay in the good books of my father. Weird, yes.
So when did I get interested? It was the film “Aalo”, suggested by my Bengali tuition teacher. Later, during 150th birthday celebration there was a rush of musicians trying to do something with Tagore music. I started following and collecting different fusions. I never were a fan of loud music, so most of the experiments I collected, I could follow the lyrics properly. Slowly, I started listening to the old recordings. Call it a coincidence, I got to hear “Dibosho rojoni ami jeno tar ashaye ashaye thaaki”, at a time when it seemed so relevant and I could connect to it. Later inspired by Rituparno Ghosh’s “Gaaner Opare”. My decision to join Dakshinee was enlightening. And now I am a student of Sounak Chattopadhyay. …and I should admit, I am in love with Tagore’s work and I do read his work in Bengali. Little and late, yes. But I do.
So what led me to Tagore? My grandmother? Saikat Sengupta (first a colleague and then my teacher in Dakshinee)? Rituparno Ghosh, whose films I admire the most? Sounak Chattopadhyay, who is more like an elder brother to me? Or the rush of fusions and experiments that happened with Tagore music?
Perhaps all. Experiments should continue. Popular singers should also sing. I am a very general person, hailing from an extremely humble and middle class background. I am still one of the “Tom Dick or Harry, a pedestrian” as Agnivo mentions. If I get inspired, a lot like me will get to feel Tagore. We all, whatever we know of him, however we know of him… let us shred inhibition, present Tagore our own way. People, younger people who love us, will start knowing, appreciating and loving Tagore. Who knows, we will have more like me writing and urging their friends to know Tagore.
Tagore is relevant. He is relevant to this generation as he was a 100 years back. He shall be relevant for the next multiple centuries and as long as the human race survives on earth. He speaks of nature and of human emotions. He is eternal.
Shall leave you with three videos. Check them if you have time.
NDTV: Amor Tagore – Tagore in Spain
NDTV: Tagore reloaded – Tagore music experiments
..and A R Rahman’s “Jagao mere Desh”
No, Tagore is not for every Tom, Dick, and Harry. But the mind that appreciates him is not connected to a particular income level or family pedigree. It is those who do not connect, do not respect his work to do it justice, those who do not strive to understand despite the complexity, who his work is not for. And I should know as I am grasping so little of the meaning but am ever striving forward to learn more and understand more. Perhaps he is not for me, but I want to merit it.
As far as experiments and modernity, I think people try too hard to experiment. We will bring novelty to Tagore’s works simply by living in the 21st century and imbibing the world around us; no need to think hard to experiment with rap versions or dubstep. It is precisely those who would make the quick buck off Tagore, who would thoughtlessly remix his words and music just to release a Pujo album, who Tagore is not for.
There is a compilation called E Jibon Punnyo Karo that is filled with modern and transcendent renditions of Rabindrasangeet. It doesn’t try too hard to be hip or edgy; it is just musicians doing what they naturally do best. I find this very authentic; the notations are respected but a fresh take on the songs is still there. I have not listened to any other contemporary Rsbindrasangeet album that has come close.
EXPERIMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME. BUT THE VERY FACT THAT WE HAVE ALL CHOSEN TO EXPERIMENT WITH TAGORE GOES TO PROVE THAT WE WANT TO CHOSE OUR “SAMPLES” IN THE EASIEST POSSIBLE WAY . IF ONE TALKS ABOUT BENGALI MUSIC, ONE CAN SURELY RECOLLECT THE GOLDEN ERA OF THE 1950s and 1960s when rabindrasangeet co-existed with bengali adhunikl songs of masterminds like salil chowdhury, hemanta , nachiketa ghosh, sudhin dasgupta , sachin dev, r d burman and many others. Each song was an experiment, each puja number was a revelation in its lyrics, tune and rendition by stalwarts like Hemanta, Manna, shyamal, Lata, Sandhya, Asha, Arati, Satinath, Dhananjoy or Manabendra. Equally prominent was folk songs by Nirmalendu Chowdhury, basic songs by Manju Gupta and Krishna Chatterjee and even parody songs like Mintu Dasgupta. Rabindrasangeet artistes like Hemanta, Kanika, Suchitra, Chinmoy and Debabrata were equally popular and was accepted in the market in a similar way as the modern bengali singers. There were no encroachments of territory as it is happening now.
where is experiment will bangla basic song today ? why films have to use only Rabindrasangeet if they are not liked by the younger generation ? Can khoka babu jaye , heavy lagche coexist with amaro porano jaha chaye ?
tagore….. i think when the word bengal is pronounced tagore is one of the most common person you would get connected with…… we have grown that way right from our birth…. n bengal because of ts rich cultural interest the attachment is more here…. but!!!!!!! wait…… ask a boy or a girl in their teens today in kolkata to sing a rabindrasangeet or recite a poem of tagore… well half will laugh at you, some will ignore you and some will term u as “typical geo bangali”…. there will be very few who will take interest in the said subject…. but my story is very differnt my upbringing has been through tagore… cause it is so much in my family… from celebrating rabindrajayanti every yr at our home through a musical function where everyone from my grandpa to me(the smallest in family) would participate… evn my father n cousins…. we took pride … n evn today we take pride wen we are told to say that i know rabindrasangeet…… know the irony??? my sister did her PHD in rabindrasangeet… she never got recognition here in kolkata… n now she teaches rabindrasangeet in delhi n even non bengalis come to learn from her…. as its often said ghar ka murgi daal barabar…… how many modern families listen to rabindrasangeet??? but why???? i never understood the same but yes i am proud that i know rabindrasangeet n i take pride in singing
our generation thinks disliking tagore, disliking bengali authors is a sign of ‘swag’ you know one thing… i was also a part of this trend till 9th… porar boi er bengali golpo was weird.. ar amar to west bengal board (aro chap)… kintu later bujhlam jinis gulo to besh bhalo… tagore’s first song which touched my heart (with the lyrics) was “sokhi bhabona kahare bole”… and yes… ‘gaaner opare’ was a turning point… as of other authors amar bengali tutor Michael Madhushudhan Datta r lekha word by word bujhiye poralo… bhalo laglo… 🙂
all the comments are interesting. each makes an important point. so, i guess the fact that u have stayed with what you feel deeply and passionately about, shows in the comments also..the first speaks of creating fresh things..more and more variety and depth..and the risks of just sticking-to-one..the second, about his family’s legacy and carrying it forward, the third about vast, deep and natural and the risks of doing stuff just for the money 🙂 the fourth comment is about interpreting, fresh 🙂
overall, the idea is, dnt be thoughtless. think thru what you do 🙂 which again is about going deep, taai na? happy journeying..be more in amour, generally..respect individual tastes..read more..go deep 🙂 “Little and late” there’s no such concept :p when the man himself began painting at a ‘late’ age :).. keep learning and growing without bringing down others growing in their own ways (i dnt think u’ll, tho..tagore’s works are mostly about including, growing, seeing deeper and wider..i say mostly cos simply from the ones i’ve read) stay passionate.
though i cant sing at all & cant read bengali either (wat a shame )… yet tagore songs gives me goosebum each time i hear them –
be it cd – be it gaane adda in shantiniketan
be it – 7 toi poush er prabhat pheri…watever…
i started hearing him as a infant i may say..(my sisters are pass out from Viswa Bharati, so it gave me a closer & deeper look in to it…)
he is a genius – uni 100 bachor aage ja karechen – i guess 100 bachor pareo keu karte parben ki na…
u name a occasion/emotion/situation – he has a song for it …. he was -is- n will remain the best music composer/lyricist
…. mine fav is “tomaro ashime” –