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By Aveek Sen
  • Published 15.09.07

Dakshinee presented six of its most promising young ex-students in an evening of Rabindrasangeet on September 12 at the G.D. Birla Sabhagar. Shreya Guha Thakurta, Amit Ghosh Dastidar, Debangana Sarkar, Shamik Pal, Kamalini Mukherjee and Saikat Shekhareswar Roy sang four songs each. Together they covered the three main sections of Tagore’s Gitabitan: Puja, Prem and Bichitro. This neatness of structure, the absence of synthesized musical accompaniment and the seriousness with which the singers took their craft gave to the concert an academic sobriety that was its appeal as well as its limitation.

Was it really all that difficult for these accomplished and considerably experienced singers to memorize the words of the four songs that each of them had chosen to sing? Rabindrasangeet demands a disciplined yet generous giving of oneself to the song that combines the intensely inward and the freely expressive. It is impossible to explore the depths and nuances of this generosity unless the songs are freed from what’s written on the little white slips of paper held and flapped about in the hand while the singer’s body moves naturally, as it must, with the music. It is only in the singer’s memory that melody, meaning and emotion converge in a lyric subjectivity that is as much the singer’s and the listener’s as the poet’s.

A precise tunefulness has been, and remains, the hallmark of the Dakshinee gayaki. It would have been difficult to catch any of the singers — except Amit Ghosh Dastidar in Chiroshokha hey, chherona morey — singing out of tune. Yet, with songs like Shreya Guha Thakurta’s E moho abaran, Debangana Sarkar’s O chand, chokher joley or Shamik Pal’s Hai go, byathay katha jai, all of them faultlessly sung in a strict, academic sense, one missed a sense of the singer’s understanding of the song’s intellectual/emotional resonances and profundity, of the complex relations between part and whole, private and public, between thinking and feeling, or feeling and singing, that lie at the core of Tagore’s music and poetry. The best (or the loudest) esraj or the most sophisticated ‘reverb’ technology cannot make up for the lack of this inward quality in the singer.

Yet a musical and humane understanding of the whole life and shape of a song came unmistakably through in the con- trolled devastation of Kamalini Mukherjee’s Tori amar hothat dubey jai or the finely modulated and varied liveliness of Saikat Shekhareswar Roy’s Krishnakali. The singer must become a different person with each song, and sometimes be many persons at once within the same song. This is what Tagorean boichitro demands, and what Kamalini and Saikat often came admirably close to realizing. But why did they cling on to their little slips of paper?