Tagore for the times

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By Staff Reporter
  • Published 28.01.09

Do not speak. Keep singing.

The audience response on Saturday when after more than two hours of music, vocalist Sandip Sen asked diffidently if he had taken up too much of the listeners’ time.

The evening at CIMA Gallery was special as the theme was an uncommon one — Rabindranath Tagore’s adapted songs (bhanga gaan) and the corresponding songs he was inspired by (mool gaan). More uncommon was the attempt by a single singer to essay both songs.

The attempt was praiseworthy because of the startling variety of songs that the poet drew from in composing his bhanga gaan. This meant Sen had to start with the pure classical, go on to the semi-classical, dabble in popular strains, fiddle with folk and wrap up with a Scottish ballad.

The audience thus got to hear the lilting thumri Aaj shaam mohe, which inspired the equally pleasing Tomari dehe palito snehe. The rhythm of the splash of oars came alive as the sari gaan O majhi samal samal gave way to Ebar tor mora gangey.

One revelation was Hama de palay, a song written and composed by theatre doyen Girish Chandra Ghosh, for a play called Jona. Tagore’s lyrics in Bhalobeshe shokhi nibhrite jatane, inspired by the tune, though veered completely away from Ghosh’s, which dealt with a baby moving on all fours and then learning how to toddle.

“If a person can sing just the bhanga gaan and not the mool gaan, and that too of just one kind, he will never have grasp of the subject. This means he cannot pass on the knowledge,” said Sen after his recital. He was accompanied by Subhayu Sen Majumdar on the esraj, Shatiprasad Chakraborty on the tabla and Pranab Banerjee on the keyboard.

A teacher of Visva-Bharati’s music unit at Sriniketan, Sen said he learnt most of the songs from Arupratan Bandyopadhyay, a colleague in Santiniketan. “I had to look around for the rest. A Persian tarana, which inspired Sukhodin nishidin, took a lot of time to trace.”

This is the second time Sen has sung at CIMA Gallery in five years. “This time I was asked to sing to soothe the soul in these troubled times.” That, he sure did.