The Journey of Soul – Srabanti Sen

We’re all going on a summer holiday

No more working for a week or two..

Fun and laughter on our summer holiday,

No more worries for me or you.

Whenever we hear this famous Cliff Richards song, we visualize the four youths out on a fun-trip from London, in a bus converted to caravan, across Europe with music in their lips and dream in their eyes. The foot-tapping numbers helped the audience to flow smoothly across their lives and through the places they travelled, themselves humming the tunes by the time it ends. The music itself was supreme but the journey attached with it enhanced the dynamism of simple tunes to something worth remembering.

A Buddhist guardian deity with a musical instrument in ana ancient Thangka painting

Music is an absolutely dynamic creation. It generates from the soul of a place and travel across the globe through human voice, ears and heart and many a times the different souls meet and mingle to create universal masterpieces.

The journey of music can very well be ascertained in the country pops of John Denver in the 1970’s. The ‘Country Roads’ has beautifully portrayed West Virginia with Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah River. Similarly the record breaking musical, ‘The Sound of Music’ has made every nook and corner of Austria popular worldwide. So much so that people visiting Austria, even today, look for the gazebo for ‘You’re 16’ song or the lake and the castle or the church and of course the meadows and Swiss Alps slopes related to all the super-hit numbers of ‘Do-Re-Mi’, ‘Edelweiss’, ‘Maria’ or ‘Climb every mountain’. The ‘Jamaica Farewell’ by Harry Belafonte gives a sweet melancholy depiction of the West Indian island and the lifestyle of residents therein. Any father, anywhere in the world could connect with, “My heart is down, my head is turning around, I had to leave a little girl in Kingston town”.

With the same song let us enter the indigenous scene. Jamaica Farewell in Bengali..

‘Aha pother prante oi sudoor gnay/ jethai somoi thomke thame boter chhai

Aha sondhya deep jwole tarar tip/ koto fuler gondhye mor mon mataye..’

The same tunes fits just in place to describe a village, this time, somewhere in Bengal. Jamaican Calypso travels over 15000 km to touch its Bengal counterpart with ease and elan. Music is such a journey which easily transcends any barrier of language, country, caste and religion – being the only true carrier of tolerance and humanity. Like Fakir Lalon said..

Lalon bole jaat er ki rup, Dekhlam na ei nojore / Shob loke koy Lalon ki jaat shongshare 

……………….    Jawa kingba ashar kale, Jater chinnho roy kishe

(Lalon says everybody asks about his religion but he is unable to find how does a religion look? Does anyone born with a religion imprinted on him or takes it with him when he leaves the world?)

The Bauls of Khwai, Santiniketan have always attracted national and international music enthusiasts

Over the ages, the Fakirs, Bauls(named as wandering minstrels of Bengal), Gypsies, Banjaras have developed their own philosophies of life, that they have picked up in bits from people of different cultures, lifestyle and belief, as they wander around from place to place, which is reflected in their music, very earthy and exclusive in true sense and style. In this way, certain Rajasthani folk/tribal dialects find their similarity in Romani gypsy songs! Such is the extent and flavor of music – vast, rich and liberal.

Many of the Indian Classical ragas, too, have developed, transformed and modified under the influence of regional and folk music. Mountains, especially the Himalayas, have a very sweet tune of their own, reflecting in their folk songs, as colourful, lively and fresh as the places and people are. Pahadi is such a majestic raga, which has an influence of such tunes though it is difficult to say, whether the Raga originates from the folk or the opposite. Raga Darbari Kanada is believed to have a Kanada origin, a Carnatic raga to have traveled all the way to Akbar’s court (Darbar) with Tansen, thus achieving the new nomenclature later. Ragas like Bhopali, Marwa, Multani have originated, as their name suggested from the places of Bhopal, Marwa and Multan respectively and has influences of regional music/folk in their formation. Bhopali is believed to be inspired from the pentatonic Buddhist chant. Similarly many of the Kirtans, Bhajans, Tappa, sung in different parts of the country, have mingled to give birth to the Raga Kafi.

A terracottah panel in a temple in Bolpur showing people playing musical instruments. Such panels serve as sources of historical evidence of the types of instruments in use during the era

 Journey evolves a man and so does music. Music flourishes from nature and reforms and transforms with each change of terrain. The gushing stream water, the flowing river, drizzles of rain, rustling leaves, blowing of wind, waterfalls in the hills, the birds’ chirping, the forest, mountains, desert, oceans – all have the tunes of ethereal melody within, that none of the most famous musicians have fully mastered yet. One only needs to be present and soak in the surrealism with all his nerves and senses.  In India, as one travels from the Himalayas via fertile Eastern part to the rugged West, the tunes of flute melts into rustic emotional Ektara to the robust Ravanahatta. The land and lifestyle, people and prayers, dreams and demands generate the ethnic music of the soil, so unique and distinct in nature, yet so connected with its distant counterparts.

Nawab Wajid Ali Shah..the last Nawab of Awadh and a very creative and musical man himself had to spend his final years in exile at Kolkata. As he travelled from Lucknow to Kolkata, which is still marked by his famous composition, ‘Jab Chhor Chale Lucknow Nagari…Kaho Haal Adam Par Kya Guzari’, the practice of classical music, dance & instruments, travelled all through to enter the households of Kolkata.

Lucknawi Thumri meets the soul of Bengal….

Nawab Wajid Ali Shah and his musical instruments in an artist’s imagination

‘Kato kal robe bolo Bharat re..sudhu dal bhat jol pothyo kore…,’ a satirical composition by the Man of our heart & Poet of the World, Rabindranath Tagore, for the play ‘Chirokumar Sabha’, was inspired from the Thumri. Tagore had always projected and encouraged the vitality of travel and exploration through several of his compositions. Songs like, ‘Jaboi Ami Jaboi’, ‘Amader Jatra Holo Suru’, ‘Choli Go Choli Go Jaigo Choli’ and several others have ignited wanderlust and adventure in search of new in the minds of listeners, many a times. The poet, himself an avid traveler and a world musician in true sense have listened and absorbed tunes from the world to give a number of his songs a new dimension.  Just after his first visit to Europe, The ‘Balmiki Protibha’, composed in European Opera style had a number of songs with Western influence, most famous, perhaps, being the ‘Kali Kali bolo re aaj’ from the English Ballad Nancy Lee. The folk tunes of Scotland, Ireland, Cuba have found their places in his famous compositions too. In this way, Scottish poet Robert Burns’ Auld Lang Syne, a traditional Highland folk bidding farewell to the old year melts into “Purano sei diner kotha”.  ‘Pathik’, the eternal Traveler, has merged easily with the Nature and the Creator, together forming the central theme in numerous of his creations.

Hope is the thing with feathers, That perches in the soul, And sings the tune without the words, And never stops at all……

Music travels with Man from one place to another and at other time Man travels with Music. Either way the ultimate gainer is the Soul – of the Human or of the Music, which is enriched by treasures of the wandering tunes.

So, with the traveler’s hats, exploring ears and a tuneful heart, let’s set on sail in this soulful journey of Music. And as the song goes…

“…..I know he’d be a poorer man if he never saw an eagle fly….”

[Rocky Mountain High, John Denver]

The rustling of the leaves, the gushing Water falling on the stones create such natural music – mellifluous and intoxicating at the same time

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