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Sound Recording In India: Rabindranath, Rabindrasangeet (1904-1941)

May 8, 2016 | By

Rabindranath Tagore’s association with the recording industry began in 1904. An exploration of the sound recordings of Tagore and Rabindra Sangeet by Sounak Gupta.

Sashimukhi New

Shashimukhi

The history of sound recording in India takes us back to the 8th of November, 1902, when Fredrick Gaisberg, the American-born musician and recording engineer brought in two young girls barely in their teens, to the Great Eastern Hotel, where he had set up a makeshift studio. A nasal voice sang into the horn – ‘Ami ki sajani kusumeri’ (E 1001) while another rendered, ‘Saral mone, saral prane’ (E 1002). Gaisberg remembered the girls as ‘two little nautch girls aged fourteen and sixteen with miserable voices’.

Whatsoever, the little girls, namely Sashimukhi and Fanibala, created history, being the first recording artistes of the country. Rabindranath Tagore’s association with the recording industry began in 1904. No, it wasn’t the poet who came in to record his voice. An artiste of fame, Dwijendranath Bagchi sang for record, ‘Keno jamini na jete jagale na’, which was the first of Tagore’s compositions to be recorded.

One could note the lyrics of the song:

as heard in Bagchi’s record –

Jamini na jete jagale na keno,
Bela holo mori laaje.
Shorome jorito charon-dukhani,
Kemone jaibo pother majhe.
Nibiya banchilo nishar pradeep,
Ushar batas laagi.
Gaganer kole sharater chand,
Roilo sharan magi.
Pakhi dake bole ‘gelo bibhabari’,
Bodhu chole jale loiya gagari.
Ami e sithil kabori abori,
Kemone jaibo potheri majhe.

Goes without saying, this is way different from the original lyrics by Tagore which is presented below:

Original

Keno jamini na jete jagale na, *
Bela holo mori laje.
Sharame jorito charane,
Kemone cholibo patheri majhe.
Alok-parashe marame moriya,
Hero go shefali porichhe jhoriya,
Konomate achhe paran dhoriya,
Kamini sithil saaje.
Nibiya banchilo nishar pradeep,
Ushar batas lagi,
Rajanir sashi gaganer kole,
Lukay sharan magi.
Pakhi baki bole ‘gelo bibhabari’,
Bodhu chole jale loiya gagari.
Ami e akul kabori abori,
Kemone jaibo kaaje.

*The first line reads ‘Jamini na jete jagale na keno’ in the version of the song published in ‘Shefali’ (1900)

It could be noted that Bagchi left out an entire stanza, besides singing several other lines as per his wish, paying least attention to the original lyrics. Though he sticks to the ‘ektaal’, he doesn’t follow the notations of the song as available in the fiftieth volume of ‘Swarabitan’ published from Vishwabharati. Also, Bagchi adds some musical ornamentation (murkis) towards the end of the song (which he doesn’t repeat the second time he starts from the antara).

Manadasundari Dasi

Manadasundari Dasi

The very next year, we have Manadasundari recording ‘Majhe majhe taba dekha pai’. An artiste from the Bettiah schooling, Manada’s rendering follows more of the techniques of her gharana, than any style which could be termed ‘Rabindrik’ or Tagorean. The song, tuned in Kafi, has been rendered by the artiste in Sindhu. This again, is a clear indication to the freedom taken by the early recording artistes of Tagore’s songs.

The original lyrics of the song, and the words sung by Manada, are being presented for a comparison –

Manadasundari’s version

Majhe majhe tabo dekha pai,
Chirodin keno paina.
Ogo keno megh ashe e hridoy-akashe,
Tomare dekhite daey na.
Kshonik aloke e ankhir paloke,
Ogo tomare jobe pai go dekhite,
Harai-harai sada bhoy hoy,
Haraiya feli chokite.

Original

Majhe majhe tabo dekha pai,
Chirodin keno paina.
Keno megh ashe hridoy-akashe,
Tomare dekhite daey na.
Kshonik aloke e ankhir paloke,
Tomare jobe pai dekhite,
Harai-harai sada hoy bhoy,
Haraiya feli chokite.
Ki korile bolo paibo tomare,
Rakhibo ankhite ankhite.
Eto prem ami kotha pabo nath,
Tomare hridoye rakhite?
Aar karo pane chahibo na aar,
Koribo he ami praanpon –
Tumi jodi bolo ekhoni koribo,
Bishoybasona bisarjan.

The same year, we get Purnakumari’s record of ‘Ami chini go chini tomare’. The artiste here clearly takes liberty in changing the lyrics at several points. Also, the song originally tuned in Jhinjhit (as published in ‘Bangalir Gaan’ in 1904, and Khammaj, as in the fiftieth volume of ‘Swarabitan’, from Vishwabharati) has been sung in Sindhu by Purnakumari.

Tagore’s lyric, could again be compared with that in Purnakumari’s version,

Purnakumari’s version

Tomay chini go chini tomare,
Ogo bideshini.
Tumi thako sindhupare,
Ogo bideshini.
Ajike madhobi raate,
Tomay dekhechhi sharod-prate,
Tomay dekhechhi hridoy-majhare.
Akashe patiye kan,
Shunechhi shunechhi tomari gaan.
Ami tomare sonpechhi pran.
Bhubon bhromiya seshe,
Esechhi tomari deshe.
Ami tomare sonpinu pran.
Ami atithi tomari dware.

Original

Ami chini go chini tomare,
Ogo bideshini.
Tumi thako sindhupare,
Ogo bideshini.
Tomay dekhechhi sharad-prate,
Tomay dekhechhi madhobi raate,
Tomay dekhechhi hridi-majhare,
Ogo bideshini.
Ami akashe patiya kan,
Shunechhi shunechhi tomari gaan,
Ami tomare sonpechhi pran.
Bhuban bhromiya seshe,
Ami esechhi nutan deshe,
Ami atithi tomari dware.

Purnakumari’s record of ‘Purano sei diner kotha’, released in the same year, again shows signs of the liberty taken by the artiste. Purnakumari sings the song, originally tuned in Bhupali Mishra, in Behag-Khammaj, besides changing the lyrics at various points.

The original lyrics and the words sung by Purnakumari are being presented for a comparison, again,

Purnakumari’s version

Sei purano diner kotha,
Bhulbi kire hay.
Chokher dekha praner kotha,
Bhola kire jay.
Arektibar aay re sakha,
Praner majhe aay.
Sukher dukkher kotha kono,
Pran jurabo tay.
Bhorer bela phul tulechhi,
Dulechhi dola.
Bajiye banshi gaan geyechhi,
Bokul tola.
Majhe holo chharachhari,
Gelam ke kothay.
Abar jodi dekha holo tobe,
Praner majhe aay.

Original

Purano sei diner kotha,
Bhulbi ki re hay.
O sei chokher dekha, praner kotha,
Se ki bhola jay.
Aay aar-ektibar aay re sakha,
Praner majhe aay.
Mora sukher dukher kotha kobo,
Pran jurabe tay.
Mora bhorer bela phul tulechhi,
Dulechhi dolay –
Bajiye banshi gaan geyechhi,
Bokuler tolay.
Hay majhe holo chharachhari,
Gelem ke kothay –
Abar dekha jodi holo, sakha,
Praner majhe aay.

Pathe Vandemataram

‘Pathe’ introduced Tagore as a recording artiste in their catalogue (1906), while the recording of ‘Vandemataram’ saw the light of the day.

It is unknown if, at this point of time, Tagore had been aware of the fact that his compositions were being recorded. Rabindranath’s direct association with the recording industry began in 1905. Those were the stormy days around the time of the Partition of Bengal, when Hemendranath Bose, thought of recording nationalist songs in Tagore’s voice, as a way to awaken the nationalist spirit in common men. It is known from one of Devendramohan Bose’s (Hemendranath’s cousin) documented lectures that Hemendranath had made several phonograph records of nationalist songs in Tagore’s voice, at Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose’s residence, none of which, unfortunately, could survive for long. The earliest surviving recording of Tagore’s voice is a two minute forty-six second-long snippet of Bankim Chandra Chatterjee’s ‘Vandemataram’, tuned by Tagore (in the recorded version) published from ‘Pathe’. Several songs and recitations in Tagore’s voice were supposedly recorded during this time, however, none of those, probably exists any longer. ‘Pathe’ introduced Tagore as a recording artiste in their catalogue (1906), while the recording of ‘Vandemataram’ saw the light of the day.

Pathe Record

Tagore’s record of Vandemataram

The catalogue read, “The famous and undoubtedly the best poet, the melodious-voiced Rabindranath, needs no introduction. Everyone in Bengal is aware of the genius in him. Once, people would run to listen to him if he sang a song or two on any occasion. It’s our fortune that we have been able to give permanence to this singing, through the recording technology. Who wouldn’t take the opportunity to listen to him singing, sitting at home? We have just two of his records now.”

 

Amal Holme writes, ‘…Rabindranath had rendered ‘Vandemataram’ on record. It is sad that most listeners are unaware of how his voice was, during those early days, as most of the early recordings no more exist. If they did, one would have known, Tagore’s voice was nowhere close to feminine, but bold and spirited.’ Holme’s saying does prove true, that now, Tagore’s recording of ‘Vandemataram’ has been found (thanks to the ‘Genius Rabindranath Tagore’ album, published from AIR in 1999).

Pathe Rabindranath

An advertisement from ‘The Bengali’ (February, 1906), referring to Rabindranath’s voice recordings, could be presented in this context –

NEW MODEL PHONOGRAPH
WITH
H.BOSE’S RECORDS
And you will know what a taking machine can do.
Bose’s Records
are very loud, very clear and very natural.
They reproduce the human voice in its perfection. No hissing, no screeching, no metallic or foreign-sound and you don’t change the needle every time. When you hear H. Bose’s Records you no longer hear a machine but the singer himself appears to be singing before you.

We have much pleasure in informing the public that highly respectable gentlemen like
Babu Rabindranath Tagore
“Dwijendralal Roy”
“Satyabhusan Gupta”
have very kindly allowed us to record their voices and this is a privilege which has not been conferred upon any one else.
PLEASE COME AND HEAR THEM, YOU NEED NOT BUY.

As no other recording by Tagore made during the early 1900s is available with me, my possibilities to throw light his early recordings is largely limited. However, we could easily conclude, from the only sample available, is that, his voice was forceful and emphatic. That Tagore would often appear onstage to enact his plays while singing the songs himself, and publicly sing on various occasions is clear from his full-throated rendition.

Amala Das New

The early phase of recording Tagore’s compositions leaves one dissatisfied, with several recording artistes taking too much of liberty while singing. However, there was one artiste of this phase, whose recordings sound credible. She was Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das’ sister, Amala Das. Amala had been a close associate of the Tagore family, and a close friend of Tagore’s better half, Mrinalini Devi. She was no less than a family member to Rabindranath, and had received musical training from legendary Radhikaprasad Goswami, one of the eminent family-tutors of the Tagores. The well-trained dulcet-voiced Amala, would regularly sing before her ‘Rabikaka’ (Uncle Rabi/Rabindranath). As Sahana Devi, another of Tagore’s associates, recalled, the poet had composed ‘Chirosakha he’, keeping in mind, Amala Das’ voice. A record featuring ‘Chirosakha he’ in Amala’s voice, was released in 1910, and is a treat to hear!

Several artistes besides Amala Das had recorded Tagore’s songs during the two decade-period between 1905 and 1925. A list, if made, would include Satyabhushan Gupta, Kunalchandra Sen, Radhikaprasad Goswami, K. Mullick, M. N. Ghosh (Monta), Gopeshwar Banerjee, Bedana Dasi, Miss Krishnabhamini, Miss Ascharyamoyee, Miss Angurbala, and others. However, detailed discussion on their recordings isn’t quite relevant in this essay, as those are far from being identified as Tagore songs! Tagore had himself been extremely displeased when he came across those records in the 1920s, and learned about the liberty the artistes had taken at rendering his compositions.

Pic_1

1926 marked the inauguration of electrical recording, at the studio of the Gramophone Company, then in Beliaghata. On the very day of inauguration, Tagore’s voice was recorded. That was the second time the poet came into the recording scenario.  He recorded two songs, ‘Andhajane deho alo’ (P 8367), ‘Ami sangsare mon diyechhinu’ (P 8367), and four poetry recitations, ‘Aji hote shatobarsho pore’ (P 8366), ‘Abirbhav’ (P 8366), ‘Readings from Gitanjali’ (P 8368), ‘Readings from Crescent Moon’ (P 8368), and the history of electrical recording in India began.

The record catalogue of the July, 1927, referring to these records, mentions something interesting – ‘The two records of poetry recitation, played at 78 RPM speed, and the record of songs, played at 80 RPM speed, would sound very sweet.’ That this was the first set of electrical recordings, the speed issue can easily be pardoned, however, never again was this information printed on the catalogues, while the recordings were re-released several times, in later years. Hence, how many of us have heard the recordings as they should sound, remains a question!

Company, then in Beliaghata. On the very day of inauguration, Tagore’s voice was recorded. That was the second time the poet came into the recording scenario.  He recorded two songs, ‘Andhajane deho alo’ (P 8367), ‘Ami sangsare mon diyechhinu’ (P 8367), and four poetry recitations, ‘Aji hote shatobarsho pore’ (P 8366), ‘Abirbhav’ (P 8366), ‘Readings from Gitanjali’ (P 8368), ‘Readings from Crescent Moon’ (P 8368), and the history of electrical recording in India began.

The record catalogue of the July, 1927, referring to these records, mentions something interesting – ‘The two records of poetry recitation, played at 78 RPM speed, and the record of songs, played at 80 RPM speed, would sound very sweet.’ That this was the first set of electrical recordings, the speed issue can easily be pardoned, however, never again was this information printed on the catalogues, while the recordings were re-released several times, in later years. Hence, how many of us have heard the recordings as they should sound, remains a question!

Rabindranath - Aji Hote

1926, just as is important in the history of sound recording in India, is important in the history of the recording of Tagore’s songs as well. On the 5th of October, 1926, Rabindranath signed an agreement with the Gramophone Company, which was a significant step that helped in preserving the authenticity of Tagore’s compositions published on record. The contract read,

“An agreement made on the fifth day of October One thousand nine hundred and twenty-six between the Gramophone Company Limited, a Company incorporated under the English Companies Acts and having its Registered Office at Hayes in the Country of Middlesex in England and carrying on business at amongst other places 139, Belliaghatta Road in the suburbs of Calcutta (hereinafter called “the Company”) of the one part and Doctor Rabindra Nath Tagore D. L. of No. 6, Dwarka Nath Tagore Lane in the town of Calcutta aforesaid (hereinafter called “the Composer”) of the other part whereby it is agreed as follows :-

“The Company shall for the consideration hereinafter stated have the exclusive right for ever to manufacture, multiply, publish and sell all records for use on Talking Machines already made by the Composer of the songs and recitations mentioned in the Schedule hereunder (I’m refraining from producing the schedule, as it isn’t relevant for this article) and shall for a period of five years from the date hereof have such exclusive right to manufacture, multiply, publish and sell all further records which may hereafter be made by the Composer of the said songs and recitations.

The Company shall have the exclusive property in and the sole right for ever to manufacture and multiply all records so made or to be made by the Composer of the said songs and recitations and the Composer shall not during the continuance of this Agreement talk or sing or carry out any performance for the purpose of making talking machine records of the said songs and recitations.

The Company shall pay to the Composer or his nominee a royalty of eight annas for each double sided record of any of the Composer’s said songs or recitations manufactured or to be manufactured by the Company provided always that the Company all at all times be at liberty to determine the selling price for all records the subject of this Agreement.”

This was the first time that Tagore signed a legal agreement with the recording company, following which, the recording and marketing of his compositions without his knowing, became impossible. Hence, there was no chance left for any artiste to take liberty at singing Tagore’s songs, as the poet was made aware of each release, and most of the sample discs were first approved by him, before being marketed.

In the period between 1926 and 1928, Rabindranath recorded several of his songs and poetry recitations (besides the ones already stated) from the Gramophone Company, probably to show the world how he intended his compositions to be rendered. The list includes –

1927 –

  1. Sesh paranir kori konthe nilam gaan (P 9132)
  2. Amare ke nibi bhai (P 9132)
  3. Krishnakali (P 9133)
  4. Bhroshtolagno (P 9133)

1928 –

  1. Karnakunti sambad – Part I (P 9915)
  2. Karnakunti sambad – Part II (P 9915)
  3. Karnakunti sambad – Part III (P 9916)
  4. Karnakunti sambad – Part IV (P 9916)

The poet also had Dinendranath Tagore, a connoisseur in teaching Tagore’s songs in Santiniketan, record his songs from the Gramophone Company. A list of Dinendranath’s recordings would look like –

  1. Megher pore megh jomechhe (P 7633)
  2. Amar poran jaha chay (P 7633)
  3. Amar matha nato kore dao he (P 8435)
  4. Amar milan lagi tumi (P 8435)
  5. Aji marmaradhwani keno jagilo re (P 8570)
  6. Aloker ei jharnadharay (P 8570)
Dinendranath

Dinendranath

These recordings by Rabindranath himself and Dinendranath Tagore, could be called the first set of authentic renderings of Tagore’s songs, on record, if one excludes Amala Das’ recordings (at large) from the earlier times. Sahana Devi, while recalling Dinendranath, mentioned, ‘What a voice Dinuda had! What ‘Rabindrasangeet’ meant, if one learned from Dinuda, would never forget! Rabindranath’s songs would find freedom in Dinuda’s voice. I’ve never heard anyone singing like that!’ The poet too, would say, ‘Dinu is the steersman in the boat of my songs, and the storehouse of my songs!’

 

Dinendranath’s recording of ‘Amar matha nato kore dao he tomar’ has a bit of history behind it. This song had been earlier recorded by K.Mullick in 1920. It is heard that, Tagore was so displeased listening to the record that he immediately requested the company to stop the sale of the record. He then had Dinendranath record the same, the way he expected his song to be rendered. The two versions of the song (one by K.Mullick and the other by Dinendranath Tagore) are being provided here for a comparison.

The majority of the artistes rendering Tagore songs post 1926, were trained directly by the poet, or by Dinendranath. Hence, the authenticity of the renderings henceforth could be considered perfect, though, not always do they perfectly match with the printed notations of Tagore’s songs published in the several volumes of ‘Swarabitan’, by Vishwabharati. There could be various reasons behind this, but none are relevant for discussion in this article.

Kanak Das - Jibone Param Lagan

Kanak Das – Jibone Param Lagan

It could be noted that, most of the records of Tagore’s songs released between 1926 and 1941 (the year of the poet’s demise) were first approved by Rabindranath, and only then, could see the light of the day. Kanak Das (Biswas) one of the leading artistes of this period, recalled her memories of recording ‘Ogo kangal amare kangal korechho’ in an interview, which could be transcripted in this context,

“I had learnt the song ‘Ogo kangal amare kangal korechho’ by hearing it here and there, before recording. The sample disc went to Rabindranath. He called and asked who had taught me the song. When I was unable to name any one, he was displeased, and said that I must regret for recording it that way. Later he trained me, and I re-recording the song.”

Kanak’s earlier sample was hence discarded, and she recorded the song afresh, only after being trained by the poet. It was the same singer, whom Rabindranath blessed, hearing her sample of ‘Jibone param lagan’, and approved the record saying, ‘Passed with honours!’

Sahana Devi - Jodi Tare

Another artiste of repute of this era was Sahana Devi (Jhunu). She had been a niece of Amala Das, and Kanak Das’ elder cousin. The poet would say, ‘When Jhunu breathes in life to my songs, I feel, my composing has been successful!’ Songs like ‘Jodi tare nai chini go’, ‘Amar jabar belay pichhu dake’ from Sahana’s records, definitely are landmarks, as they show, how Tagore wanted his compositions to be rendered. One could note, the only accompaniment to these songs, is the Organ (played by Bhanu Banerjee, in the concerned recordings). Rabindranath, didn’t support the use of the Tabla, Khol or Pakhawaj, as Sahana Devi recalled in an interview. She added, ‘Even while we got lessons from Rabindranath, we never had a Tabla. Till date, I dislike the use of Tabla in recordings of Rabindrasangeet. The rhythm, I believe, should be in the artiste’s mind – not in expression.’

Sahana Devi’s comment stands true, as, in none of the song recordings in the voice of Tagore, has the poet used a Tabla to keep the rhythm. How the use of percussion instruments with Tagore songs became popular in later times is a question. Perhaps, the use of these instruments during the performance of the dance dramas of Tagore, inspired later artistes and trainers use them in song recordings as well.

Notably, although the poet himself disliked the use of Tabla in renderings of his songs, he probably wasn’t too strict about it. Several records approved by Tagore in his final years feature of the use of Tabla. Probably the greater availability of capable Tabla players in the later years persuaded the poet in allowing the use of percussion instruments as an accompaniment to his songs.

C.C.Saha

Chandicharan Saha

After Rabindranath’s five-year contract period with the Gramophone Company ended in 1931, the poet came back to the recording scenario, this time, to the Hindusthan Company. Tagore had written to Basanti Devi (wife of Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das) on 20th March, 1932, “A gentleman has returned from Europe, having learnt techniques of sound recording for the Gramophone. He had come to me with a request to record my voice.” This was Chandicharan Saha, the founder of the Hindusthan Company. On the 5th of April, 1932, Rabindranath set foot on the Akrur Dutta Lane studio of the Hindusthan Company for the first time. The first ever record released by the company, bears ‘Tobu mone rekho’, a song, and a poetry recitation, ‘Ami jakhon babar mato habo’ by Tagore, the record serial being ‘H 1’. The poet had recorded for the Hindusthan Company in three turns – the first in 1932, then in 1934, and for the final time, in 1939.

In 1932, Tagore recorded his only existing duet with Roma Kar (Nutu), ‘Tomar surer dhara’. However, for unknown reasons, the record was never released. Decades later, the sample was unearthed by Subhendusekhar Patra and Surajlal Mukherjee, from whose collections the Hindusthan Company released a portion of the song on cassette, in 1995.

Nirod Banerjee, who had been Tagore’s recordist in 1939, recalled the day when the poet came for his final recordings for the company,

Rabindranath - Tobu Mone Rekho

Rabindranath Tagore’s record of Tobu Mone Rekho

“The poet came. His health was failing. Those were the days when tape recorders weren’t available. Hence, once recorded, we had no way to play the disc immediately. However, for the poet, we made an arrangement to play the disc after recording.

Listening to his own voice, Rabindranath said, “Wow! It sounds quite good!”

Bula Da (Prafulla Chandra Mahalanbis), who had come with the poet, said, “You have to record it once again”.

“Why? It sounds quite good”, replied Tagore.

“No, that was a test recording. Let’s do the final recording now”, said Bula Da.

Showing a bit of false anger, the poet said in a witty tone, “Bula, I am almost eighty now. Do you think I need to first sit for test, and only then for the final, even at this age? What is this! How could you be so unjust to this old man!”

The final recording began… The poet had recorded ‘Birpurush’ and ‘Sonar Tari’ that day. It seems I can still hear him reciting ‘Sonar Tari’ live, even today!”

Tagore’s recordings from Hindusthan Records are as follows –

  1. Tobu mone rekho (H 1)
  2. Ami jakhon babar mato hobo (H 1)
  3. Amar paran loye (H 49)
  4. Hridoy amar nachere (H 49)
  5. Birpurush (H 342)
  6. Lukochuri (H 342)
  7. The Vision (H 782)
  8. The Trumpet (H 782)
  9. Asha (H 812)
  10. Jhulan (H 812)
  11. Jodio sandhya asichhe (H 990)
  12. Gagane garaje megh (H 990)
  13. Authorship (H 991)
  14. The hero (H 991)
  15. Ogo kangal, amare (H 1700)
  16. Tumi eso he (H 1700)

After the poet’s demise in 1941, two of his records were published from Columbia, from the recordings of the All India Radio. They are –

  1. Proshno (VE 2545)
  2. Bharattirtho (VE 2545)
  3. Aji hote shatobarsho pore (VE 2551)
  4. He mor sandhya (VE 2551)
  5. Ei tirthadebotar (VE 2551)

Pic_2

This era had several students of Santiniketan, getting their breakthrough as recording artistes. In 1932, Savitri Devi (Krishnan) cut her first (and probably only) disc from the Hindusthan Company (H 8). 1933 had Santidev Ghosh cutting his first disc as Santi Ghosh, in a chorus rendition with Sudhin Dutta, Amala Dutta and Nandita Devi (H 191).

In 1935, Amita Sen ‘Khuku’ cut her first disc from the Hindusthan Company again (H 262). The institution had Kanika Mukherjee (later Banerjee) record her first Tagore songs in 1938 (H 648). 1941 had Rajeshwari Basudev (later Dutta) cutting her first disc, again from the Hindusthan Company (H 920). Songs like ‘Adheko ghume nayano chume’, from Amita Sen’s first record, ‘Mone ki dwidha rekhe gele  chole’ from Kanika Mukherjee’s first record, are always a pleasure to hear!

Mukti Booklet

Mukti Booklet Cover

1937 was an important year in the history of Tagore songs. That was the year when Tagore songs used in a film found place on records, for the first time. Pramathesh Barua had been making ‘Mukti’, under the New Theatres banner. The script had been read out to Tagore, for a certain reason (which isn’t relevant for this article) after which, the poet had shown interest in his songs ‘Aaj sobar range rang mishate hobe’ and ‘Tar bidaybelar malakhani’ being used in the film. Even the title of the film, ‘Mukti’, was his suggestion. Kanan Devi, the lead actress of the film, sang the songs suggested by Tagore for her character Chitra, under the able guidance of Pankaj Kumar Mullick, and those became big hits! While recalling memories of recording Rabindrasangeet, Kanan Devi later said, “While singing Tagore’s songs, my realizations would blossom and I’d feel as if I’ve overcome all pains and am standing in front of the Supreme’.

Pic_3

 

 

Tagore had witnessed the use of his songs in several films in his final years. A list of those films and the songs, could be stated in this context,

  1. Mukti (1937) – Ami kan pete roi (Pankaj Kumar Mullick, Menaka Devi)
  2. Adhikar (1938) – Emono dine tare bola jay (Pankaj Kumar Mullick), Maraner mukhe rekhe (Pankaj Kumar Mullick)
  3. Abhigyan (1938) – Ore sabdhani pathik (Pankaj Kumar Mullick), Emono dine tare bola jay (Pankaj Kumar Mullick)
  4. Jibon Maran (1938) – Ami tomay jato shuniyechhilem gaan (K.L.Saigal), Tomar beenay gaan chhilo (K.L.Saigal)
  5. Doctor (1940) – Ki paini tari hisab milate (Pankaj Kumar Mullick)
  6. Parajoy (1940) – Tomar bas kotha he pathik ogo (Chorus), Bojre tomar baaje banshi (Chorus), Pran chay chokkhu na chay (Kanan Devi), Bare bare peyechhi je tare (Kanan Devi)
  7. Alochhaya (1940) – Amar bhuban to aaj holo kangal (Pankaj Kumar Mullick)
  8. Parichoy (1941) – Edin aji kon ghore go (K.L.Saigal), Ektuku chhonwa lage (K.L.Saigal), Aaj khela bhangar khela (K.L.Saigal), Amar raat pohalo sharodo prate (K.L.Saigal), Tomay amay milon hobe bole (Sati Devi), Phirbe na ta jani (Sati Devi), Tomar surer dhara (Kanan Devi), Sei bhalo sei bhalo (Kanan Devi), Amar bela je jay (Kanan Devi), Amar hridoy tomar apon haater (Kanan Devi)
  9. Aahuti (1941) – Aro ektu bosho tumi (Suprova Sarkar), Hay go, byathay kotha jay (Suprova Sarkar)
Films

Films that used Tagore songs

Tagore had continued the task of listening to the sample discs of his compositions made by several record companies till his final days. Those were the days when the companies sent their sample discs to Santiniketan, which then, would be listened to by Tagore (or the ones he confided on), before being approved. Else, the records were rejected, and never saw the light of the day.

The last record Tagore approved was, interestingly, the first record of an artiste who was yet to become a big name recording Rabindrasangeet – Supriti Majumdar (later Ghosh). Supriti recalled in an interview, “My first record was the last record approved by Rabindranath. He had not only approved my sample, but also sent his blessings. The record featured his song, ‘Ke bole ‘jao jao’ amar jaoa to noy jaoa’. That very year (1941) Tagore left for his heavenly abode. The message of the song, incidentally, matched with his passing away. The record was a big hit.’

Studio

On 3rd December, 1939, Tagore had composed a song, ‘Samukhe santiparabar’. The poet had hoped, this would never be sung, until he left the mortal world. As per his wish, the very day he left his last breath (7th August, 1941), Shailajaranjan Majumdar taught the tune to the young students Indulekha Ghosh and Kanika Mukherjee (later Banerjee) who sang the song in the ashram, with eyes overflowing with tears.

Kanika later recalled, “I still recall, Gurudev (Tagore) would sing ‘Samukhe santiparabar’ himself, during the rehearsals of ‘Dakghar’ (one of Tagore’s plays) and say, ‘sing it after I die’. Our hearts would be filled with sorrow.” The same year, ‘Samukhe santiparabar’ was recorded by Kanak Das and Shaila Devi for the ‘His Master’s Voice’ and the ‘Senola’ companies respectively.

In front lies the ocean of peace.
Launch the boat, Helmsman.
You will be the comrade ever,
Take O take him in your lap.
In the path of the Infinite
Will shine the Dhruva-tara.
Giver of freedom,
Your forgiveness,
Your mercy,
Will be wealth inexhaustible,
In the eternal journey.
May the mortal bonds perish,
May the vast universe take him in its arms,
And may he know in his fearless heart,
The Great Unknown.

Those lines definitely marked the end of an era! The set of the Sun. Of course, the light that it had, had all been spread around the world, the smell of which lingers still, and would linger forever!

More to read on Music

The Music Of Silence: Kanika Bandyopadhyay

Eternal Wait: The Story Of The Dark Girl By The Meghna (Geeta Dutt)

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Sounak Gupta is a regular blogger and writes on various websites. His writings (in English and Bengali) as an amateur author have also been published in magazines and news dailies in India and abroad. Currently doing his masters in Literature, Sounak takes keen interest in Music. One of his loved passions is the collection and archiving of Indian Music on Gramophone Records. His YouTube channels GeetaDuttDevotee and Sounak93 are great storehouses of rare and peerless Bengali music.
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2 thoughts on “Sound Recording In India: Rabindranath, Rabindrasangeet (1904-1941)

  • LAKSHMI PRIYA

    Dear Sounak,

    This article is P.hd material, not even P.G level . So vast and extensively researched along with the relevant videos.
    Hope this finds its way into a rich and glossy coffee table book.

    God bless u in all such endeavours of yours.

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