The beauty of Raag Ahir Bhairav in the morning, melodies of Tagore at midday, funky fusion to perk up the lazy afternoon and a bit of moody blues to mirror the state of mind in the evening.
This isn’t your average Calcuttan’s playlist or an advertisement for a world music concert coming soon to an auditorium near you.
Transport lifeline Metro Railway has added five genres of instrumental music to the comfort of an air-conditioned ride, the snatches of sounds familiar and unfamiliar between station announcements leaving as many commuters amused as those that have been entertained.
“I boarded a train last week with my earphones plugged in when a colleague asked me to take them off. To my surprise, I found one of my favourite Louis Armstrong compositions playing on the PA system. I loved the idea of music on the Metro,” said Sanhati Naskar, a trainee fashion designer with an export firm.
But not everyone is in tune with the concept of staccato bursts of music on the Metro. “I prefer enjoying my favourite songs on my iPod. Continuity is an essential component of listening to music. You don’t want to listen to Tagore in five parts, each interspersed with a voice cutting in to announce that the platform is on the right hand side,” said graphic design student Swati Ganguly.
Ambient music on the Metro is apparently part of a deal-in-the-making between Metro Railway and HMV Saregama. Once the deal is finalised, there would be advertisements between the music, sources said.
“The music company had contacted us earlier this year with a proposal to play different genres of songs. We asked them to play instrumental music instead and they submitted a new proposal along with a playlist,” said Protyush Ghosh, deputy general manager (general) of Metro Railway.
Ghosh, also a singer with four albums to his name, listened to the CDs provided by the company many times over and selected a playlist from among the available options.
The playlist for the first one-and-a-half hours of the day exclusively features Hindustani classical music — Ali Akbar Khan’s sarod, Ravi Shankar’s sitar, Hari Prasad Chaurasia’s flute, Shivkumar Sharma’s santoor and Zakir Hussain’s tabla.
Ahir Bhairav is usually played after sunrise, between 6 and 9am. But connoisseurs say playing it till 10am isn’t classical music sacrilege.
Between 8.30am and 11.30am, which is the office rush hour, there are instrumental versions of Tagore’s music on loop to ease the struggle to stand without someone stamping on your feet.
In the afternoon, there is a three-hour slot for fusion music, including compositions by Bickram Ghosh, Rahul Sharma, Richard Clayderman and Kadri Gopalnath. The next couple of hours before the evening rush from 5pm are dedicated to Tagore tunes, followed by an eclectic mix of western classical and world music till 8.30pm.
The world music playlist ranges from Mozart and Beethoven to new-age musicians such as Mike Portnoy, Paco de Lucia, Kenny G and Richard Clayderman.
The last two hours of the day are dedicated to spiritual and wellness music — a total of 17 instrumental numbers by German instrumentalist George Deuter, English composer Terry Oldfield and the electronic music band Banco de Gaia.
Many might fault the concept but not the choice of tunes. Deputy general manager Ghosh, the man who compiled it, takes his music seriously.
He has a YouTube channel with 19 videos under the name Pratyush Krishna.
The songs range from Tagore’s Ektuku chhoa laage to Mohammad Rafi’s Badan pe sitaare lapete hue.There are also two videos that show him signing devotional songs against the backdrop of mountains and waterfalls.
“Music is my passion. I underwent formal training in Hindustani classical music for a year in 1988. Then I was transferred and could not continue the training, though I still do riyaz every morning,” said Ghosh.
Of the 13 AC rakes in Metro Railway’s fleet, 11 currently have music playing through the day. “There is a software problem in one of the rakes and an electrical malfunction in another,” Ghosh said.
Saregama is happy to be Metro’s partner in music. “The music we have supplied is instrumental and meant for relaxation. After doing ambient music for star hotels and banks, we are having a trial run on the Metro,” a company representative said.
After a fortnight of music, some like daily commuter Santanu Banerjee wish Metro Railway would also work to solve overcrowding. “You can’t expect me to be in the mood to appreciate a classic composition while I am trying to stave off a fellow traveller’s bulky backpack,” he said.
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