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Khuku -in memory of a musical genius

Amita Sen (Khuku) Border
Amita Sen—affectionately called Khuku by Tagore, Rabindranath Tagore. Life of Khuku, too was short like her name. She was born in Dhaka (now in Bangladesh) on 19 May 1914 and died on 24 May 1940, at the age of 26, just over a year earlier than Tagore. She joined Shantiniketan at the age of 9 years in the year 1923. Then there was another Amita Sen who was senior and later became friend of Amita Sen (Khuku). Senior Amita Sen (who is the mother of Nobel laureate economist Amartya Sen) recalls Khuku’s arrival at Shantiniketan in 1923, of an unsophisticated but charming nine-year-old girl. Khuku was black complexioned but having sharp features. She possessed a natural, with a clear, open voice. She used to be the one whom Tagore used to try his songs in her voice. She used to sing such songs in open throated in the open of Shantiniketan. শান্তিনিকেতনের মাঠে ঘাটে সে উদ্দাত্ত কন্ঠে খালি গলায় সেই গানগুলি গেয়ে বেড়াত। Keeping her in mind, Tagore composed a song – “আমি তোমার সঙ্গে বেঁধেছি, আমার প্রান, সুরের বাঁধনে…..“I have entwined my life with yours through the bonds of music.” Although Sen was much younger than Tagore—by over half a century—and his acolyte, the emotional bonds between them were strong.

 The Shantiniketan’s early-twentieth-century residents  described her as a musical genius and an exceptional student—one of Tagore’s favourites. Amita Sen (Khuku) was one of the early stars of Rabindrasangeet and in the 1930s, she was a household name among the intellectual and artistic families that revolved around Shantiniketan. Today she is no more remembered and that’s why her centenary year passed away silently.

She was very close to Tagore. Tagore used to love her for talents and Tagore was dependent on her for organizing songs and other works. Even once Tagore thought, she would be the custodian of his songs in future. Tagore wanted her to live in Shantiniketan and for that he offered her job and requested her to come back to Shantiiniketan when she was busy in Calcutta, pursuing higher studies at Calcutta University.

While in Calcutta, she met and began a relationship with a fellow student, Shambhu Ganguly. Her conservative family was not ready to accept that relationship and that may be the reason she struggled all along to establish her friend.

“I’ll be very pleased if you can come to the Ashram and join us in our work,” Tagore  wrote to her in 1938. Tagore further wrote- “because you will collect the songs I have composed, use them and expand them, for which I am eager. You have power, love and a beautiful voice, which is why I have long desired to have you do this work for me. I was worried that your ambition was on a different trajectory. If that is not so, and if you harbour any respect for me and devotion to the ashram, give up whatever work you’re doing and come over.”

She went back to Ashram and worked there for a short period. One day she expressed her willingness to continue there but on one condition – if her friend Shambhu also given a job there. Tagore did not like and took this condition very badly. Still he did not refuse but left to the authorities. Because he wanted Khuku to remain.

Khuku  had chosen to be with her love, who she valued most, above her opportunities and close association of Kaviguru. An unfortunate difference between the mentor and his student cropped up. She left the job and never returned to Shantiniketan again. She wrote a bitter letter to Tagore from Calcutta. Tagore  retaliated by refusing her permission to record any of his songs, and stopped the publication and reproduction of her earlier albums. Perhaps Tagore was unhappy with the actions of his “Khuku” who was one of the most favorite students, who was showered with his fatherly affection and love.

In January 1940, when she was admitted in a Calcutta Hospital and fighting with the death, Tagore wrote to her with his blessings, saying “worried by the state of your health,” and was praying for a quick recovery.  This was the time when Tagore ordered to release those records for publication and sale again. She expired in the same year in Dhaka on 24 May, four days after her 26th Birthday.

In a letter of condolence to her uncle, Tagore wrote “I had great affection for Khuku, but I failed to save her from an evil fate.”

A short obituary in the ashram’s newsletter in July 1940 said, “By her death Bengal has lost one of its most talented daughters … long shall we mourn the abrupt end of a youthful life so rich in possibilities.”

With all these tragic happenings, ill fated khuku left us too early abruptly leaving with  those few songs in her magical voice. Though she was a musical genius but today she is a forgotten star. This post is written in memory of the musical genius to mourn the abrupt end of her journey.

To listen few of her songs (Rabindrasangeet) in her magical voice please visit my youtube channel : youtube.com/acm365  or click the links below :

“Aadheko ghume noyono chume”

“Je chhilo aamar swapanacharini” 

“Phire phire dak dekhire”

“Oli bar bar phire jay”

Chinile na aamare ki

Jodi prem dile na prane

Acknowledgements : http://www.caravanmagazine.in & Anandabazar patrika

 
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Posted by on 04/06/2016 in Memory, Uncategorized

 

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Walk alone (একলা চলো রে ) – a protest song by Tagore

Tagore3


“Jodi Tor Dak Shune Keu Na Ase Tobe Ekla Cholo Re” (Bengali : যদি তোর ডাক শুনে কেউ না আসে তবে একলা চলো রে,) was written by Rabindranath Tagore at Giridih  town now in JharkhandIndia.  It was one of the 22 protest songs written during the Swadeshi Period of  Indian freedom movement and along with “Amar Sonar Bangla“, it became one of the key anthem of the Anti-Partition (Banga Bhanga) Movement in Bengal Presidency in 1905.


Ekla Chalo Re was first recorded by Rabindranath Tagore himself sometime between 1905 and 1908. Eminent Rabindra Sangeet singer Suchitra Mitra recorded this song twice, first in 1948 and then in 1984. In 1949, she sang this song for a Bengali Movie too. You may listen it in my youtube channel.


The song exhorts the listener to continue his or her journey, despite abandonment or lack of support from others. The song is often quoted in the context of political or social change  movements. Mahatma Gandhi, who was deeply influenced by this song, cited it as one of his favorite songs.


“If they answer not to your call walk alone


If they are afraid and cower mutely facing the wall,


O thou unlucky one,


open your mind and speak out alone.


If they turn away, and desert you when crossing the wilderness,


O thou unlucky one,


trample the thorns under thy tread,


and along the blood-lined track travel alone.


If they shut doors and do not hold up the light when the night is troubled with storm,


O thou unlucky one,


with the thunder flame of pain ignite your own heart,


and let it burn alone.”

 ——-

“যদি তোর ডাক শুনে কেউ না আসে তবে একলা চলো রে।
একলা চলো, একলা চলো, একলা চলো, একলা চলো রে॥
যদি কেউ কথা না কয়, ওরে ও অভাগা,
যদি সবাই থাকে মুখ ফিরায়ে সবাই করে ভয়—
তবে পরান খুলে
ও তুই মুখ ফুটে তোর মনের কথা একলা বলো রে॥
যদি সবাই ফিরে যায়, ওরে ওরে ও অভাগা,
যদি গহন পথে যাবার কালে কেউ ফিরে না চায়—
তবে পথের কাঁটা
ও তুই রক্তমাখা চরণতলে একলা দলো রে॥
যদি আলো না ধরে, ওরে ওরে ও অভাগা,
যদি ঝড়-বাদলে আঁধার রাতে দুয়ার দেয় ঘরে-
তবে বজ্রানলে
আপন বুকের পাঁজর জ্বালিয়ে নিয়ে একলা জ্বলো রে।।”

 
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Posted by on 02/05/2015 in Rabindrasangeet, Tagore song

 

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