Like anything related to my beloved Kolkata, Rabindra Sangeet (a form of bengali music created by Rabindranath Tagore) has too long suffered from poverty. I am nobody to criticize that bearded saint. But, I think that musical arrangements play a great role besides the melody and the rhythm. This quality inherent in the musical instruments, called timber can enhance or retard the quality of music.
With the recent expiration of the stronghold of control over Rabindranath’s work, new experimentations have started. And a bunch of very talented singers and musicians have come out with some nice works. But unfortunately, the musical arrangements suffer from poor production quality. Electronic drums and fake string section from a keyboard can only go that far. Imagine, Beethoven’s symphony arranged with one keyboard.
It is purely my opinion that musical arrangements used in creation of Rabindranath’s songs do not do justice to the sublime quality of his lyrics and melodies. Part of the blame actually goes to Rabindranath himself. He was not a musical genius, but a poet. Due to the strong hold of a particular organization on his songs, no experiments with the musical arrangements were allowed with his forms and musical structures. And later day singers and musicians specialized in Rabindra Sangeet because it was the lowest hanging fruit. If you lack in singing talents you become a Rabindra Sangeet singer. And the evil strong hold was too happy in granting cult status to some of these not-so-gifted singers and musicians, upholding the myth that a pure form of Rabindra Sangeet is the one that is simple and any exhibition of your own talent with this form of music actually ruins the original composition. Thus formed a nexus of an evil organization and a bunch of mediocre singers and musicians too happy to propagate the myth that the best Rabindra Sangeet is the one that you perform while taking a dump.
Why on earth you need perform a song in B-flat when a C will give more soul to the song? I think if you perform it on scale C, you can not reach the higher octave. Ask yourself in private, do you really think Hemata, Debabrata Biswas, Suchitra Mitra to be great singers? Do not take my word for it. Let me remind you, Satyajit Ray used a commercial movie playback singer, Kishore Kumar, who can’t even speak the language properly, in his movies, not once, but several times. Besides, whenever Kishore Kumar, Asha Bhosle and other popular singers came out with Rabindra Sangeet albums, they sold more copies than the cumulative count of all those so called established Rabindra Sangeet singers.
The result of this was that Rabindra Sangeet never really could get out of its shell of glorified musical recitations, easy to sing melodies with great lyrics, but never a bona fide musical form.
No, Rabindranath deserves better. We need someone to create symphonic arrangements over his melodies. I for once would like to see string sections, 150 strong, playing Purano Shei Diner Kotha. We also need to fill up the highs and lows of his melodic signatures, creating new harmonic melodic structure, keeping the simpler existing melodies intact. Only then Rabindra Sangeet will attain what it really deserves, truly great musical form.
Only one person in this world could have achieved this. He did it several times with several rock music groups, bolstering the existing melodies, overlaying new melodic structures. Michael Kamen, we needed you to to bring Rabrindranath to 21st century. We needed you to uplift this musical form above poverty line. We needed you to make music out of Rabindra Sangeet. But he is dead; is anyone out there care to fill his shoes?