Vol. 5 Num 426 Sun. August 07, 2005  

Preserving Tagore's legacy
In conversation with Tapan Mahmud

For the last 17 years Tapan Mahmud has been involved with the highly active Rabindra Sangeet Shilpi Shangstha (RSSS) as the secretary of the organisation. Singing since the early '70s, Tapan is one of the leading Tagore singers in the country. His cultural group, Boitalik is an institution directed towards molding talented artistes. Tapan shares his ideas, suggestions, experiences and observations on the present status of Tagore songs in our country with The Daily Star.

Tapan says, "Over the last 10 years, an increasing number of upcoming Tagore singers have emerged. Likewise the number of cultural organisations and music soirees has multiplied."

Another positive aspect is the increased media coverage of music and the arts. To quote Tapan, "A decade ago the only platforms for new singers were organisations such as RSSS and Rabindra Sangeet Shammilon Parishad (RSSP). However, today the media, especially the TV channels, stage shows and audio industry, have broadened the scope for new artistes to explore their talents."

However, Tapan has regrets on other scores. "The quality of the singers has not kept pace with the increase in their numbers. Many of the newcomers lack the dedication and devotion, which are prerequisites for a good singer," he says.

The major problem that the organisers face while arranging stage shows outside Dhaka, says Tapan, is the lack of proper equipment. In his words, "Our programmes usually receive an enthusiastic response from the audience. However, the lack of facilities is sometimes a big damper."

About the conditions of the artistes outside Dhaka, Tapan says, "These artistes are not recognised and hardly get the chance to learn music properly. They cannot reach their full potential because of the absence of a proper system, skilled teachers and a supportive environment."

Tapan also cites other bottlenecks in the way of the upcoming artistes. As he says, "The promising artistes have to come to Dhaka for optimum exposure and recognition. Economic factors have always been a major obstacle for aspiring musicians."

RSSS and RSSP have taken several effective steps to promote these artistes. The programmes include workshops, talent hunts and musical soirees in different districts. "RSSS has recently taken a new step to support distressed artistes: Artistes' Welfare Fund," asserts Tapan.

Nevertheless Tapan maintains his optimism about the future scenario of Tagore songs. "The formation of new groups is a positive sign. Of the programmes organised by these groups, 70 percent are quality programmes. In fact even rarely rendered Tagore songs are now performed frequently on theme-based programmes -- be it on stage or TV shows. Welcoming the aspiring artistes in the arena, he believes that they will give a major boost to Rabindra Sangeet in the country.

Tapan Mahmud