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.


  1. I completely agree with your concern about protecting the purity of Rabindrasangeet in the midst of this cacophony. But still you will agree that none of the attempts to modify his immortal songs were accepted by masses.Whenever any of his songs reaches our ears form any nooks and corners it is in its purest forms (almost) singed by renowned artists.You will also agree that today our tests are determined by markets and vice-versa.So when there will be no market demand for this experimental Rabindrasangeet people will stop shoughting to modify the creations of this grand old man.I have noticed a decline in such attempts already albeit some revived it during his 150th year celebration to make some money cheaply.This will die down soon and only originality will prevail. I have no doubt about it.
    Another point to be considered is that quality and price go hand in hand.So we must stop buying cheap duplicate CD's and books and lend our support to the attempts to preserve the purity by buying the original ones.This in turn will determine the market demand and preserve originality. ---Parijat Roy Choudhury