The immensely standard Bengali singing expertise show Sa Re Ga Ma Pa on Zee Bangla created historical past final weekend. For the primary time ever, a folk singer was declared the winner. And that has landed the channel, the show and the judges in a soup.
The feedback on Zee Bangla’s Fb web page have been overwhelmingly destructive. The judges, all of them reputed musicians, have been accused with out proof of every part, from conspiracy to bias to outright corruption. It reached such a go that Lopamudra Mitra, herself a famend singer of each folk music and Rabindrasangeet, needed to take to social media to defend her husband, composer Pleasure Sarkar, who occurred to be one of many judges.
“I’ve lived with Pleasure Sarkar, a by way of and thru music aficionado. I do know him to the core,” she wrote on-line, indignantly rejecting the fees against him.
No reality show verdict will please everybody. However the furore over Arkadeep Mishra, the folk singer who received the competitors, brings up a much more contentious subject than one season’s singing champion. It’s in regards to the very place of folk in mainstream music. “Individuals ask me how a man who sings folk songs can win the trophy. My query is, why not?” says Mishra.
Bengal has a really wealthy folk custom. The music of the wandering minstrel Bauls, impressed by Muslim Sufis and Hindu Vaishnavs, is in all probability essentially the most well-known. However there is additionally an entire style of songs penned by the saint and social reformer Lalon Fakir. There is Bhatiali, the river songs of boatmen in a area wealthy in rivers. There is Kavigan, a singing duel between poets, and the Bhawaiya tune of buffalo herders, elephant trainers and cart drivers. However these songs have hardly ever discovered a spot in singing contests, which stay centered on Bollywood, Bengali movie, Bengali trendy and semi-classical music, with occasional forays into Rabindrasangeet, or Rabindranath Tagore’s songs.
Some say this additionally factors to a category bias. Commenting on the hegemony of the higher caste bhadralok over all facets of Bengali cultural and political life, Aniket Ghosh writes in Outlook that the “superb” music related to “erudition and training” is Rabindrasangeet. “Such has been the dominance of this type of music as embodying Bengali tradition, that the music of the plenty such as Bhatiali, Bhaoia and Baul kinds have largely been pushed to the background,” writes Ghosh.
The irony is Tagore himself freely borrowed from folk melodies, whether or not Bengali or Scottish, for songs. The opposite icon of Bengali bhadralok-dom Satyajit Ray usually used folk songs and folk music in his movies. In Pather Panchali, he makes use of a twanging single-stringed iktara as the right musical accompaniment to the candy vendor strolling by way of the village together with his swaying pots of sweets. In his movie Hirak Rajar Deshe, he has a really senior folk singer Amar Pal sing a tune in regards to the inequities of life that turned fairly a beloved anthem. However folk music still stays the poor country cousin.
Zee Bangla’s expertise show tried to vary that by incorporating folk music into the primary platform for the previous few years. As a substitute of a folk music particular episode, they’ve made folk singers full-fledged contestants. The folk singer Kalika Prasad Bhattacharya was instrumental in making that occur. A fount of information about folk music, he educated the viewers about its historical past. In 2017, Bhattacharya died in a automobile accident, however the channel has made certain to incorporate folk singers as contestants each season. Nevertheless, they’ve by no means truly received the massive prize.
One of many expenses levelled against Mishra’s victory is that whereas different singers are penalised and eradicated as a result of they do not show versatility throughout genres, folk singers are given a go. Mishra tells Ananda Bazar Patrika, “Each artist has his personal desire. My desire is folk. That doesn’t imply I don’t know other forms of songs.” However offended music lovers really feel that the judges had been decided to favour folk to make some bigger level about inclusivity on the expense of different finalists who confirmed extra versatility and technical prowess. Mishra retorts, “We wholeheartedly settle for a Bollywood tune based mostly on a folk tune, however can’t settle for its truest type with open arms.”
The issue is, it can by no means technically be a degree taking part in subject with a classically educated singer. And it’s not meant to be. Folk songs are meant for unusual folks — farmers, tillers, boatmen. They’re earthy and soulful and mark beginning, dying, marriage, harvest, not technical wizardry. A BBC collection Rhythms of India just lately centered on all of the musical traditions of India, from classical to folk to fusion. The presenter, sarod participant Soumik Datta, mentioned in an interview that Kavita Krishnamurti instructed him in the early days she would practise relentlessly earlier than delivering a single take for a playback session. Now, in fact, with musicians recording tracks individually, a singer may give as many takes as she likes. Folk musicians, he identified, function on a unique aircraft. The folk drummers of Kerala play for 10 hours straight with 1000’s of individuals following them, and their efficiency is about each stamina and give up — a cultural and spiritual matter, and a religious expertise. It’s not about one type being higher than the opposite. It’s about all kinds getting the respect they deserve.
“Confronted with globalisation and concrete migration, essentially the most vibrant practices of India’s villages are starting to fade,” says Datta. Zee Bangla has tried to show again that tide. Although musicians like Sarwar Khan and Sartaj Khan or Purna Das Baul or Dipali Barthakur or The Kutle Khan Challenge often break by way of to mainstream acclaim, folk music carries inside it a cultural context that makes it an uneasy match in a expertise show format, the place versatility throughout genres is key.
Hemanga Biswas was a singer and political activist as nicely as a legendary chronicler of folk music. His daughter Rangili mentioned in an interview, “He firmly believed that folk singing is non-codified,” and its sensibility was outlined by geography, historical past and the tradition of a specific area. She dubs it “bahirana, a mode of studying that attracts upon the traditions of a specific area, and is firmly rooted in the cultural specificities of the identical.”
A music show can not maintain on to that cultural specificity as it tries to make a degree taking part in subject out of incomparable genres, judging every part by the identical scorecard. That’s like attempting to artificially recreate inside a studio one thing as spontaneous as petrichor or saundhi mitti, the odor of that first rain on sun-baked earth. Maybe folk music requires its personal expertise show as a substitute of being shoehorned into this one. It wants patronage, however the hazard is when its promoters, nonetheless well-intentioned, come throughout as merely patronising.
As for Arkadeep Mishra, this 12 months’s winner, singer Lopamudra Mitra tells Ananda Bazar Patrika he’s been made to really feel like a gallows sufferer regardless of having received. Anyway, she says, when one other season begins, nobody will bear in mind who got here first and who got here second or third. Ultimately it received’t matter whether or not he is a folk musician or classically educated or a rock star. Within the musical rat race, she says, like everybody else, he must run alone.
Or as Tagore mentioned, ekla chalo re, which by the way is itself impressed by a folk Harinaam kirtan folk tune.