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Elevating fare at Tagore memorial

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The Economic Times, August 21, 1988

Gurudev Tagore had a world view of life. His genius therefore spanned a truly phenomenal range in creativity. And that is what rightly made him the most celebrated pioneer of creative music in modern times.

Though Tagore’s music did fall outside the rigid traditional domain, it was certainly not wholly non-classical. What he conceived and achieved was a mind-boggling synthesis in which different idioms of the Orient and the Occident were subtly blended so as to evolve Rabindra Sangeet as a viable art – a new channel of creative endeavour.

Thoughts such as these came crowding, once again, to my mind as I kept listening to a 90-minute concert of Tagore’s music which was sponsored by the NCPA in observance of his 47th death anniversary, which fell on August 7. The programme featured a seven-member team of singers, led by Balwant Madgavkar, who belongs to Maharashtra.

It was a delectable fare of 21 songs which came from, besides Madgavkar himself, Nalinee Madgavkar, Hansa Dabke, Anjali Huta, Ramesh Raval, Ashok Choudhary and Gayatri Guha. Significantly, except the two last-mentioned singers, the group displayed an all-India character. This was indeed heartwarming in that Rabindra Sangeet, a basically regional genre, had now begun to attract ardent votaries outside Bengal.

If it is rightly said that Rabindra Sangeet, by its universality, transcended boundaries of language and region, here indeed was the ideal example that symbolized the spirit of Tagore’s bequest to our cultural heritage.

The fare revealed an utterly thoughtful selection. Rich and varied, the group treated the audience to nine solo ditties, eight choral numbers and four duets. There were prayerful numbers seasonal themes, songs depicting love and patriotism. Many of them had typical Bengali folk airs. There were others which had the hue and character of Hindustani melodies like Des, and Tilak Kamod and a Carnatic raga like Simhendramadhyama.

The song “Tomor holo shuru,” for instance, showed Tagore’s genuius for blending Indian and Western singing vogues. So was the case with the number “Purano shi dinner” which the poet composed and set to tune when he was only 17. Then again, the number ”Ei lobhinu shongo” was set to a rhythmic cycle of five mantras, which was the poet’s own innovation.

Detailed comment on individual items is certainly not possible within the limited space of this column. Suffice it to say that all the artistes sang their pieces with great unction, and fervor. One was also happy to discern exemplary team-work in the choral and duet presentations. One may have, no doubt, missed an element of tonality in the performance of one or two artistes. But this did not detract in the least from the overall impact of the programme, which was truly elevating.

Praise is also due to the artistes who lent ideal support to the singers on their instruments. The ensemble comprised Bharat Shah (violin), Vinayak Mama (flute), Manoj Thakur (tabla) and Deepak Shah (manjira).

It was equally thoughtful of the sponsors to have arranged for fine compereship by enlisting the popular English commentator, Luku Sanyal. Her commentary, written by Nalinee Madgavkar, was fluent and communicative.


1 Comment

  1. Mohan Nadkarni’s elegant prose in yhe English language, and deep immersion in the culture of Hindustani Raag Sangeet made him a rare critic of this performing art form. The world lacks a critic of his class today, and one hopes that our modern milieu will throw up a Mohan Nadkarni type aficionado of Indian Classical Music soon.

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