'I want to keep folk music safe'

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By NAMITA PANDA
  • Published 2.06.12
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Singer Jitendriya Haripal

When Sambalpuri singer Jitendriya Haripal hit the stage recently at a festival dedicated to western Odisha’s music and dance, the 65-year-old was welcomed with huge rounds of applause by thousands of fans gathered at the venue to see him perform. The voice behind the cult song Rangabati rangabati kanakalata was as energetic as ever. Haripal spoke exclusively to The Telegraph about life, music, the reason behind his passion for the stage even at this age and more.

How did you feel performing in front of such a huge gathering of your fans in Bhubaneswar?

I keep coming to the city to perform for college functions and have always been touched by the overwhelming response of today’s young crowd. But at this festival, which was focused on the folk traditions in music and dance, it was stunning to see the huge gathering.

More than 30 years after it was first performed, what do you think makes your cult hit Rangabati so popular even today?

First of all, it was not just my song but also my co-singer Krishna Patel’s. I think it was the pure folk base of the music that has a strong effect on people. The energetic beats and the simple folk words used in the lyrics make it a perfect combination to keep up the popularity of the song even after 34 years.

Haripal sings folk songs of western Odisha at the Rangabati festival in Bhubaneswar. Telegraph pictures

From being sung all over the country to abroad, what do you think is the high point of Rangabati?

Every time the music is played at wedding processions anywhere in the country, people simply break into a dance and that is the magic of the song. But the best and most memorable thing for me that happened to the song was when the BBC London Radio broadcasted it.

Having sung over 1,000 songs and performed at almost as many stage events, is there anything you still wish to achieve?

Many felicitations and praises have come my way from listeners over the years. But honestly, I’m sad that mostly people remember me for just one song whereas I have composed many other varieties of songs including patriotic albums. The new Sambalpuri songs use crude and indecent expressions and the pure folk we used to create have taken a backseat. I want to keep folk music safe and promote it.

Your family is also into music. You must be a proud father.

My youngest son Prabhat is a well-known percussionist while his wife Minu is a popular singer. Their daughter Ghungroo seems more inclined towards folk dances. (Smiles) I lost my eldest son Paras in an accident though. But I am happy to have carried on the legacy of my father Mandhata Haripal who had trained many artistes.

You always wear a cap while performing. Tell us the secret of your cap.

(Laughs) It is my logo actually! To be honest, the reason I started wearing a cap was Rangabati. This song became so popular, we used to be invited on stage shows regularly but air-conditioned facilities hampered my health. So I started protecting my head from the cold wearing this cap! Now it protects my bald head! I do take it out while singing bhajans.

How was your experience being a brand ambassador for Western Samurai, Rourkela T-20 team for the Odisha Premier League?

It was memorable. While the ambassadors included film stars for almost all teams, I don’t know how I was chosen. But the response of the crowd was great wherever I went with the team. It was really a special experience.