Wednesday, 18 May 2011


Volume of artistic productions is not independent of patronization by sponsors. They are in the continual hunt for a larger market. Larger market means more money. If artistic productions are converted to entertainment for the mass the market becomes strong. Hence producers are not interested in matters that are not easily recognizable or that contain classical ingredients.
So the low grade music with lots of fun and excitement hits the market. Feeling them as more digestible the unsuspecting common people starts swallowing them not realizing the fact that they are being fed with slow poison. The chaos that is called music is meant for one dimensional entertainment only.
Slowly they get habituated to this form of music, losing all the capacity to think and concentrate, and an addiction follows. They tend to lose the taste of serious music even subjected to inferiority complex, rendering those are for selected people only. Finally an eerie restlessness prevails everywhere.
Compelled by the market force producers are encouraged to produce more and more insubstantial music and the effect of restlessness is cascaded. There is no way-out till the market is left to drive the quality of an art form.
It is no wonder that Rabindra Sangeet too has fallen to such booby trap. Only a handful of songs, may be two hundred or so are repeatedly sung, recorded and rerecorded among two thousand songs to choose from. Gimmicks galore in most of the presentations. Accompaniment especially the rhythm portion is made to dominate the song ignoring its literal, musical and philosophical values. Sound engineering of the recent times has been able to renovate a noise to a pleasant-sounding one by adding some acoustic values. Obliged by these productions the audience is fascinated for being a part of the ‘Modern Rabindra Sangeet’ fan club. They are in fact deceived.
Rabindra Sangeet has to be included in the list of National Heritage art forms. Then a suitable committee of knowledgeable people should be empowered so as to ensure that the proper quality is maintained while public performance. Some time-bound program for quality performances should be scheduled and be sponsored by the committee. Demonstration of the recordings of Rabindra Sangeet exponents is to be made mandatory at certain levels and gatherings. Finally the objectionable and inauspicious recordings are to be banned.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Breaking Traditions

Aged people are always on the traditional side. But the younger generation in general tends to break rules. They are in constant search of alternate ways. To do something new is what they persistently nurture in their mind. This has undoubtedly a good effect on the society. The young people are left with lots of imagination, and also the society is benefited from those newer perspectives. But too much of separation from tradition means swaying from origin. That is called perversion and is most undesirable.
One has to know the rules in order to break it. It is noticeable that a section of self styled music lovers have started experimenting on Rabindra Sangeet. Lyrics being altered, tunes converted, shattering the original meter along with the rhythm… they say they are modernizing Rabindra Sangeet. Once the great music director, Sri Salil Chowdhury had started experimenting with Rabindra Sangeet. After numerous attempts he had rubbished his idea. According to him a tune for the songs better than the original were just impractical. But the performers not only have their experiments done, but also they bring those spoiled songs to the market. To me all these ‘modernizing’ works should stop immediately as it only helps them to make some quick money.
Another important question is whether at all Rabindra Sangeet needs a face-lift. If the songs are really backdated why people stick to them, they can write their own verses and do whatever they feel like! That is the easiest way to put up a strong competition against the Old Man, and I am sure that one would be very comfortably placed in the market too.
It Is always a better option to learn a song technically as well as philosophically before one might be able to present the verse as if personal feelings. The background of the song may be very important for an influential presentation. May be some historical or mythological information needed to be browsed. It may also require acquiring a little conception on Sanskrit language. Even musical arrangements in Carnatic and Western systems along with the basic system of Hindustani Classical system would be needed. Some of songs have Punjabi, Gujarati even Marathi backgrounds. They are to be treated accordingly. Well, Rabindranath himself was a tradition breaker; he declared that in different conversations. But he did never agree that his followers should take the same route while singing Rabindra Sangeet.
Yet I personally believe that there is ample scope for experimentation with Rabindra Sangeet. One has to have a fine taste for musical delicacy in order to cherish that. There is no scope for gimmick whatsoever. Any attempt for a crude renovation of the songs would not help anyone as far as our tradition is concerned.
One of my friends has some posts on similar topics. Click here to read ... 

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Rabindra Sangeet

A Tradition
Training is a must for anybody who wishes to learn something. Hence training is an integral part of human life from the childhood. The excellence of a person depends on the richness of the training he is subjected to. The mode of training may differ with the change of language spoken in, geographical boundaries and various other factors, but from our experience it is certain that people would select him who is better trained. We call this tradition.
In Bengal a child is never encouraged for the first time to recite ‘Jete pari kintu keno jabo…’ at the age of four. ‘Kumor parar gorur gari…’ seems more appropriate for that age. Why? Mainly because we are habituated to that. That has been our tradition since a long time.
The richness of a tradition depends on mainly on two factors, how efficient is the tradition and how old is that. An efficient tradition gains with the time it has been practiced. It even may earn the classical status after a considerable time period, say two hundred years. On every sphere of culture one can notice the level of maturity of traditions being enhanced. Hence in music, literature, dance what is called classical are all not only beneficial, they are being practiced for a long time. In fact they are the basis of all the things that are in force in recent times.
Songs of Rabindranath are our tradition that is being cherished for about sixty to seventy years. It is not too long, but for class they reflect a very degree of philosophical, lyrical and musical excellence and also their application. Those are the wonders which in fact elevated the position of Bengali music and literature to National as well as to the global level. The unfathomable depths of the verses along with the musical interpretations have mesmerized everyone who had wished to gauge the distinctiveness of Rabindra Sangeet. We need to protect it, protect it from siltation, protect it from being adulterated. The dream of the legend must be carried forward with its full grandeur, exception and valor. We need to promote Rabindra Sangeet to the classical level.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Protecting Originality of Rabindra Sangeet

Rabindranath had once exchanged his thoughts on the reasons behind holding the right alter his creations, especially the musical compositions of Rabindra Sangeet. Quite a arguments were exchanged between the two on the subject where Sri Roy argued in favor of liberalizing a singer. Rabindranath was determined to maintain originality.

Viswa Bharati University had taken over the responsibility to protect Rabindra Sangeet from being hacked and done so efficiently until the last decade when it had lost the right. A music board was in charge of the productions those were about to hit the market or queued for airing through All India Radio or the Doordarshan. Qualified experts endorsed the song that was in its purest form in all means. Notations were vividly followed, lyrics checked, styles assessed and the accompaniments were seen that they complied with the known style. The system was not free from errors and complaints against the institution raised often, yet it guarded the qualitative downfall of Rabindra Sangeet at least.

Rabindranath Tagore

Debates were at a high note whether or not to extend the copyright on Rabindranath Tagore’s works should be granted to Viswa Bharati once again. After the death of the great exponent in 1941 the copyright went to Viswa Bharati for 50 years. It also enjoyed an extension of another 10 years from 1991. Expectation for another period of extension crept in with the assurance from the then Prime Minister Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee on 2001, but may be people from other corners were more active against the move – the copyright exhausted on 1st January 2002.
Some people were enthralled just like one would rejoice after being free from the bondage. Market was immediately filled with books from other publishers that were no longer rendered as counterfeit and priced at even less than one fifth of that from Viswa Bharati. Collections of different works even edited by Rabindranath himself were severely compromised. Yes people had more access to these books.

It was more damaging when singers tried to modernize Rabindra Sangeet. Some even argued that songs written close to a century ago needs massive overhaul. This is a shock to any Rabindra Sangeet lover. In the last decade we have seen lyrics of some well known songs to have been adopted for some other songs that have no connection with Rabindra Sangeet. Compositions broken at will, tunes altered…, sometimes I think all these were done deliberately to tarnish the image of Rabindranath. Even some singers of repute are seen to advocate and practice Rabindra Sangeet with hard accompaniment and that is non-compliant with the notations. Not to mention about the styles they follow, as they are far from what we are accustomed to hear. Part of a song sometimes being added to one’s own composition. This is a disgraceful act.
This is to be stopped with immediate effect. I have got no idea how it can be done but a university or an authentic institution should be brought in so that they can guide the rest. An act in the name of heritage or something like that should be brought in force so that these unethical acts are checked.
Just think of somebody Austria trying to challenge the compositions of Mozart. I have no doubt that he would end up behind the bars.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Use of Harmonium

It is a custom in a Bengali family to procure a Harmonium and start coaching a little girl with Rabindra Sangeet. The first mistake is done. The music that is based on the traditional Hindustani Classical music ought not to be handled by a simple instrument. The instrument is western in origin and it is worth observing that people of the West have disapproved the idea of using Harmonium as a tonal guide for children.

In Hindustani Classical slides (Mid) and short slides (Gamaka) are of immense importance. From days unknown singers have been using instruments that support the music with a standing note (or notes) or that can reproduce the effects of slides and short slides. Tanpura, Sarod. Sitar, Flute etc are used as comfortable accompanying instruments. Harmonium in contrast can provide standing notes but as following instrument it has been a failure, at least for a person who is young enough to master the Touch Notes that are responsible for reproduction of a certain Raaga. Although it has been observed that after acquiring the delicate idea about the construction of raaga one may be able to punch in - that too I think with the help of some Chords and combination of notes.

Rabindranath was exposed to a rich treasure of Dhrupadi Classical music from his very childhood. Dhrupad is considered as the forms that existed prior to the modern form of Classical music. Unlike the modern form Dhrupad does not recommend anything except the Veena and Mridangam for accompaniment. Many songs among those composed by Rabindranath are considered as "Dhrupad -bhanga gaan" (derivatives of Dhrupad).

Bonafide Rabindra Sangeet singers who have educated themselves in Shantiniketan in presence of Gurudev himself have never dared to use an instrument other that the Esraj and the Tanpura. The inclusion of harmonium crept in after his demise. Sri Shantidev Ghosh was found to advocate in support of using the instrument as an accompaniment. Although he never asked a beginner to start with a harmonium. He indicated the use of it only by them who have a mature education behind their musical skills.

None other than the people of Bengal in India does ever think of a harmonium for a child being exposed to system of serious music. So why should we? Let me make it a bit clearer, I am not in favor of 'following a Rabindra Sangeet with a harmonium, if it is used to create an ambiance that is a different question altogether.

A harmonium is a much costlier than a Tanpura. A good harmonium in Kolkata is priced at not less than Rs 20,000, while a Tanpura is obtained at Rs 6,000 to Rs 7.000. So, why go for the costlier proposition?