Rabindranath Tagore jazzed up? A young artist has outraged purists by singing a Tagore number by fusing rock and jazz. A battle is raging about Maqsudul Haq and his recent experiment with one of the subcontinent's biggest cultural icons.
Tagore's lyrics and music haunt both traditionalists and new-generation rockers. It's 139 years since he was born and about 49 since he died. When Gitanjali won the Nobel prize in 1913, he entered history, but his gifts of lyricism had already been established in Kari O Kamal and Manshi. Many say his talent reached its finest splendour in Chitra.
Tagore's music draws from Indian classical as well as folk music. He had formal training in Indian classical music, but rebelled against its constraints. He attempted variations that were largely influenced by the music of the Baul singers -- mendicants who were never afraid to challenge convention -- and the Bhatuyali singers. His first visit to England saw
him gain some training in European music, and he set some of his songs to the tunes of Border ballads and Irish melodies. Which is one aspect people supporting Maq emphasise -- Tagore was an experimenter himself.
Tagore said, "My poems without their melodies are like butterflies without wings". Poetry and
music entered a sacred alliance in Tagore's songs, which is why even the more liberal admirers or Tagore's music and poetry are aghast that someone could tamper with them. Needless to say, West Bengal and Bangladesh remain captivated by Tagore's Bengali lyricism and musicality.
Sangeet has developed into a distinctive school of music, with its
own celebrity practitioners. Many argue that the duty of a singer
stops at rendering what the creator has fashioned, and does not extend to making changes in its basic structure. Maq's experiments brought Bangladesh TV also down on him -- the authorities initiated "necessary action" against him for presenting Rabindra Sangeet in "a distorted manner".
Maq says he wants to make Tagore accessible to young people. Some have called for a ban on his music, and he has defended his philosophy in a recent interview.
Meanwhile, the Calcutta Foundation (CFO), a non-profit organization founded with the objective of assisting talented artistes, has recently started a different kind of experiment with Rabindra Sangeet. It plans to infuse Tagore songs with European musical forms to create what it calls Rabindra Symphonies. CFO has its own orchestra which performs in India and abroad. Dr Partha Ghose is in charge of this experiment.
Whatever the controversy, Tagore was aware of the timelessness of his gifts. He wrote these lines about death confronting a poet:
"Ah poet, the evening is drawing near; your hair is turning grey.
you in your lonely musings hear the message of the
"It is evening," the poet
said, "and I am listening because someone may call from the village,
late though it be.
I watch if young straying
hearts meet together, and two pairs of eager
eyes beg for music to break their silence and speak for them.
is there to weave their passionate songs if I sit on the shore of
and contemplate death and the beyond?
It is a trifle that my hair is turning grey.
I am ever as young or
as old as the youngest or the oldest in the village...
They all have need for me, and I have no time to brood over the after-life.
I am of an age with each; what matter if my hair turns grey?"'
Write to the
Write to the editor
Want updates on The Music Magazine's latest
stories? Send us your e-mail ID, details of genres you are
interested in, and any other information you
think is relevant. We plan to alert you to new stuff
on your favourite magazine
Top | Home
Press Ctrl D to bookmark The Music
*For fans of Indian music, there is
no better resource on the Web --
*Well researched -- India
*Fantastic site -- Hitbox
*Web's best --
*Superb coverage... worth tuning in to --
*Classy -- Deccan Herald