Vol. 5 Num 987 Sat. March 10, 2007  

Rediscovering the Tagore je ne sais quoi
Sahana's new album 'Notun Korey Pabo Boley'

For over a century Tagore songs have been rendered by numerous artistes, innumerable times. USP of the maestro's songs is the infinite scope of individual interpretation. And that is the reason his songs will never lose their appeal.

Sahana Bajpaie Chowdhury, better known as Sahana to peers and music enthusiasts familiar with her work, explores that aspect of Tagore songs in her recently released album -- aptly titled Notun Korey Pabo Boley.

A production of Bengal Music Company Ltd, the album was launched on March 6 at Bengal Shilpalaya. The album was unveiled by Professor Firdous Azim, chairperson, English and Humanities department, BRAC University. Sahana is currently a lecturer in the same department at the institution.

Sahana was brought up in Shantiniketan and started taking music lessons from her father -- a Tagore scholar -- at a tender age. She trained in Indian classical music and Rabindra Sangeet at Shantiniketan under Swastika Mukherjee, Bijoy Sinha and Chitra Roy, among others.

The album is a combined effort by Sahana and her husband, musician-singer Ornob (all songs arranged and mixed by him). Theme songs for mega-serials like Sporsher Bairey by the duo went on to attain mass popularity.

The album presents 10 Tagore songs (all but two are widely known) in a new light. The sound is fresh; use of instruments pertinent. Sahana shares her views and intents: "...This album is an expression of our endeavour to explore the dynamism of Rabindra Sangeet in a way which we can relate to in our time...We have tried to create enough space for the musicians to interpret the songs in their own way...We neither have the audacity nor the desire to experiment with the words and melodies that constitute Rabindra Sangeet. This is a humble effort to rediscover the soundscape of the songs."

Melancholy notes of esraj make way for the opening song -- Oi-jey jhader megher koley, brishti ashey muktokeshey... Visions of nor'wester on a summer evening emerge. The song gives the listener an idea of what's about to come and sets a mood.

Sahana goes from effervescent (in the first two songs) to a composed, serene mode in Eto din jey bosheychhilem path cheye. It can be an ode to Krishna or to the object of one's affection or just love itself.

Amar nisheetho raater badoldhara (the recording was previously included in the album Ektaaray Gantha in 2005) is an experience indeed. Sahana's unpretentious and effortless style breaks away from the monotony and rigidity that often riddles renditions by certain artistes. The sublime number can easily move the listener to the darkest of nights, yearning for a spell of rain that will creep in and wash away the world. Or is it some misty-eyed enamoured wishing nature would match the tempest inside?

Brilliantly executed notes of esraj by Buddhadeb Das from Shantiniketan complements Sahana's homage to her father, her mentor, in the song Tomarei koriyachhi jibon-er dhrubotara.

One of the most familiar Tagore songs, particularly to every young one getting acquainted with the maestro's work, is Phooley phooley dholev dholey. At the album launch, before performing the song, Sahana fondly remembered growing up in Shantinike-tan. The rendition can best be described as a 'Celtic lullaby'. Even listeners who have heard this song a million times will enjoy this version with the zeal of a first-timer.

Ornob has demonstrated a distinct musical vision and Sahana's renditions have breathed life into them. Hopefully this album will help a new generation of music lovers rediscover the magic that is Tagore. The maestro would have been pleased.

Sahana sings at the album launch, Ornob (R) on esraj and Buno on guitar. PHOTO: STAR