Friday, June 19, 2009

I sing the going home song

I sing the going home song--a translation of Gautam Chattopadhyay's (Mohine-r Ghoragulir) famous song Ami Gai Ghore Ferar Gaan
by Barnali Saha

I sing the going home song

My distressed soul calls me incessantly, asks me

Despite being miles afar

Why, why the bond is still so strong?

Thus my indefatigable body

Peregrinates day and night

Startled, I stop short

I think I hear that same old tune from somewhere

Rusty, yet scintillating in my mind

I cannot go back if I want

I have traversed countries and eons

Untraveled roads still lie ahead of me

Roads that cannot be tricked for sure

I wish I could go back to that village

To that shady bower of the Bunyan tree once more

That same old creek

The soft murmur of the breeze

Can you bid adeu to the to the grim and gay memories lying in the crevasses of your heart

Many a times I search for the lost country

I know there is no ending

The mirage flashes a thousand vague dreams

I cannot return to the idyllic childhood anymore, the road has vanished, the land is lost

I cannot go back if I want

I have traversed countries and eons

Untraveled roads still lie ahead of me

Roads that cannot be tricked for sure

Gautam Chattopadhyay is an iconic figure in the history of modern Bengali Music. He was perhaps the first Bengali singer and musician who begot the contemporary Bengali Band culture. Gautam Chatterjee founded Mohiner Ghoraguli in the 1970's when Bengali music was facing a sudden hiatus due to commercial film music taking over the market. Gautam's approach to the musically vacuum situation was new and creative. With Mohiner Ghoraghuli's advent we encountered a new genre of musical overture. Chattopadyay broke once in for all the contemporary notions of music and started singing and writing songs that have a more realistic, everyday value. Much like Wordsworth's poetry which is dedicated to nature and to common people, Gautam Chattopadhyay's songs ushered in a new movement in Bengali music where everyday life became an indelible part. Devoid of flashy rhetoric or any kind of ostentation, Gautam Chattopadyay's songs were fresh and close to the heart. The Jibonmukhi Movement, of which Gautam Chattopadhyay was an active proponent, opened a whole new world for listeners in Bengal and elsewhere. The modernization of Bengali music was once an improbability but with Chattopadyay's masterful melody the once vague dream now materialized. His compositions were an amalgamation of Baul , Jazz with a dash of English jargon to top it all. The subjects of the songs included unorthodox dealings of myriad themes ranging from poverty to politics, prostitution to love. The mentor's strong political and radical views were reflected in the music he and his group composed. Mohiner Ghoraguli borrowed certain tunes and tones from Western Classical music and for the first time used instruments like saxophone, guitar and drums in Bengali music thus proving to the audience than any kind of music can be played accompanied with only a guitar. But Mohiner Ghoraghuli failed to find its path to glory in the turbulent era of the 1960's and 1970's. The people found Gautam's modern renditions lackadaisical and fuzzy. Thus, the group disintegrated in 1981, and with time their innovative music, creative talent and new instrumental techniques became nebulous. However, the stir created by the experimental music of Gautam Chattopadyay introduced nearly two decades later new musicians like Kabir Suman, Anjan Dutta, Nachiketa and others who metamorphosed the singing traditions of Bengali Music. With them the Jibon Mukhi Movement reached its zenith of popularity. The seeds that once Gautam Chattopadyay sowed through his fascinating musical talent now became a part and parcel of Bangali music. Gautam Chattopadhyay revived his music in the late 1990's with the release of a new album, Abar Bachar kuri Pore ("Again, After Twenty Years", a quotation from Jibonanondo Das), the album critically compiled a series of fantastic songs. His musical group was now rejuvenated with young talents. The fascinating lyrics of some of Mohiner Ghoraguli's songs are sure to strike the chords. The song Television which declares in blatant colloquial language the effects of technology on Man will surely make you think over it. Mohiner Ghoraguli won its deserved accolade this time and it glued more and more listeners to its melodious notes. And Gautam Chattopadhyay played on. A series of new albums came into the 90's market thus revolutionizing the genre. Following the zeitgeist other artists and bands also came into existence. But a serious blow came with Gautam Chattopadhyay's demise in 1999; the Bob Dylan of Calcutta left his followers in a silent cradle. But the music he created continued to live on through Mohiner Ghoraguli's newer renditions and through innovations in Bengali music.

Kolkata mourned the death of the musical legend through the album Moni Chara Sunno Lage (We are lonely without Moni) Moni was Gautam Chattopadhyay's nickname and indeed he was the "Mani," the jewel, of Bengali Music.

On his death anniversary, let us take a moment and think about Mani. Let us close our eyes and sing with him, "I sing the going home song ..."

picture by Barnali Saha.

Gautam Chattopadhyay's picture is from Wikipedia

Dear God, A Translation of Amitava Nag's Hey Ishwar

Picture by Barnali Saha

Hey Ishwar by Amitava Nag

Mati ekhon bali hoye jaay, dekho
Manusher kannar o seema tana thakey ,
Aar paaR bhangtey thakey -- tumi
Tokhono mepe nao jholmoley alo aar bypass er hawa
Hey Ishwar,
Ekbarer jonyo amar sathey paltey nao
Santir odhikar ||

Dear God, A Translation of Amitava Nag's Hey Ishwar

When mud is distorted to sand, see
Human sorrow is also unveiled
Breaking the bounds—you
Then consider the flickering bypass lights and soft murmuring breeze
Dear God,
For once transform with me
The right to peace.