It is ironic that the man who had once claimed among all his works, his music will stand the test of time, be dragged into controversies for the same – music. Music is the opium of the masses, and Tagore skillfully intoxicates us with its seduction. Tagore had no knowledge of “traditional” notations and always relied on his elder brother “Dinu Dada” (Dinendranath Tagore) for preserving his creations in writing.
Ahead of times, Tagore archived them all and laid down conditions for his songs to be performed. He wanted the songs to bear his signature – a caveat that led to copyright raj after his death. Vishwa Bharti University held all reigns of approving any recreation of the Bard’s songs. Unwillingly, the poet who stood for freedom got caged in his own strictures.
There has always been a clash between tradition and experimentation whenever it came to Rabinda Sangeet. Those who tended to infuse “modernism” into His music killed the exclusivity of Tagore. (What modernism I sometimes wonder, for the Bard was, is and will always be modern). The traditionalists refused to acknowledge any change that tried to reinvent Tagore (thus defeating Tagore’s own quest to break free from the shackles of conservatism). This has often led us, who worship Tagore as one of our own, as our beau, to confusion.
Is Tagore archaic? Or is he so contemporary that innovation cannot lay a hand on him?
Why am I suddenly so perturbed about Tagore’s music, you might ponder. We have enough problems already facing the nation. But few months ago while watching a movie, a girl who was sitting behind me in the theatre, made a comment which drove me to thoughts on this subject. This girl I talk about, attributed a song (which although composed by Tagore, but recreated by the composer with hard rock instrumentation) to the composer of the film and was shocked to realize that it was originally written by Rabindranath (“He wrote such beautiful songs too?” was her remark).
Every year channels break into discussions of copyright, tradition vs modernism, legacy of Tagore in the month of May and August and forget the bard on other days of the year.
Has Tagore been alienated from the masses through the “dadagiri” of Vishwa Bharti?
That tradition and innovation can coexist has been proven many a times by composers like Bikram Ghosh, Tanmoy Bose. Kabir Suman had breathed in a new life into Tagore with his two albums of the bard’s songs in the 90’s. Filmmakers like Anjan Dutt have always reinvented Rabindranath’s songs. A recent soap in the television attempted to take Tagore to the masses. New age singers like Sasha, Kamalini or Shounak have been able to bear the mantle and take the legacy of tradition forward – with a touch of the times, of course. Hence, hope remains. Misunderstood forever, hope the sun never sets on Tagore’s music.