November , 2018
Rabindrasangeet stands the test of time
13:52 pm

Kaushik Chattapadhyay

There can be no comparison between a Rose and a Lily, or Jasmine and Orchids; but one should always adhere to a comparative study of their fields of choice.Through sadness and the benevolence ofhappiness. Samir Bhattacharya spelled out his well opinions to BE's correspondent Kaushik Chattapadhyay.

In spite of being a specific genre, the songs of Tagore, are versatile, unique, and rich in content. The scanning of the songs, i.e. the way the song progresses, and the compatibility between the lyrics and the music, the proper applications of rhyming words, and breaks, etc., the technical standards are obviously brilliant.  But the main concern of this essay is the content, the philosophy of his songs. If we say that, Rabindranath Tagore surpassed legends like Tansen, BaijuBawra, and GopalUre in creative perspective, it is certainly not hyperbolic. There were some poetic elements in the works of Tansen, but that cannot be considered marvelous; although there is no doubt about his excellence in singing. Among almost the three hundred songs of Tansen that has been identified till date, the ragas which are scheduled to be performed at night, are the most notable. As far as known to us, there are almost twenty songs of Tansen that are mostly popular. At early stages each song was performed separately, or considered as unique scores. But over time, as music evolved, these songs became a specific style or raga and generated a grammatical structure of the ragas, and their corresponding Bandish. Thus, Tansen’s creations cannot be considered highly versatile, whereas, on the other hand, Rabindranath composed over thousands of songs in his lifetime; diversely spread over different genres and lyrical approaches.  Even though his compositions are not considered traditional Indian classical songs, he is considered one of the greatest Indian music composers, till date.

At early stages, Tagore’s songs were mainly Brahmasangeet, songs which were based on the philosophy of monotheism (Brahmasamaj - a contemporary elite religious subculture within the Hindus). These songs spoke of prayer, description of the divinity in nature, etc. These songs were very simple, appealing, partly similar in respect of music to the Dhrupadas, and devoid of grammatical complexities of classical music.

Tagore experimented with mixing in varieties of culture, foreign inspirations, and classical, tribal and indigenous music of India into his compositions for almost over forty years. There are at least a hundred and half songs composed in Vairabiragini, over forty songs in Malhar, and thirty in Purvi raga. The more important fact here is the mixing of different ragas of the same temperament merging them into a song.  He has blended Vairabi with Baul and Kirtana, which are not evolved from a classical background. Purvi has been mixed with Yaman and had given birth to Yamanpurvi. Apart from this amalgamating Tori, with ragas like Ashavari, Desh and Vilaskhani are notable endeavours.

One more point to be noted here is the choice of the appropriate raga or genre according to the lyrics. Each and every song Tagore composed has a unique appeal due to the perfect combination of the lyrical emotion with the tune. To achieve this perfectly he incorporated in his music ideas from Europe, and China, and Japan, and various other country’s music; PadavaliKirtana, various regional folk music, instrumental pieces. His compositions are also part of the numerous musicals (Geetinatya), Nrityanatya, and the dramas he wrote.

Though one can argue that each and every song of Tagoremay not be unique and one different from the other, this can be partially blamed on the count of over two thousandsongs he composed. Indian classical music is certainly very rich and noteworthy; and maybe that is the reason it is unpopular with common people. But ‘Rabindrasangeet’ being extremely rich in content, has a general appeal, and was able to reach out to people in a time-tested paradigm, for over a hundred years now.



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