When the dulcet-voiced Lata Mangeshkar sang Kavi Pradeep's emotion-soaked ‘Aye mere watan ke logon' on January 26, 1963 in the presence of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, he was moved to tears. Rabindranath Tagore's ‘Ekla Cholo Re' was one of Mahatma Gandhi's favourite songs. It was Indira Gandhi's too. Subramanya Bharathi's soul-stirring patriotic verses became a part of the classical art repertoire. Film songs such as ‘Mere Desh Ki Dharti', ‘Apni Azadi Ko Hum' and ‘Vande Mataram Enbom' reflected the hope, pride and spirit of a nation. As India celebrates 64 years of Independence, musicians unfurl memories of moments and melodies that strike a high note of nationalism.
It was bliss being a part of ‘Mile Sur Mera Tumhara' and ‘Baje Sargam Har Taraf'. Among the most soulful patriotic compositions in recent times, they brilliantly captured the spirit of India. These recordings by Doordarshan that were accompanied by aesthetically-shot videos are still popular. As someone familiar with the pre-Independence era, I know what patriotism means. It's an honour to render such compositions.
August 15, 1947, my legendary grandmother, D.K. Pattamal, was the first artiste to be heard on All India Radio Madras in a free India. She rendered one of her most popular songs ‘Aaduvome Pallu Paduvome'. Accompanied by my grandfather, she went to the AIR studio late in the night for the live broadcast. On August 15, 1997 — the 50th year of Independence — I was
performing a late evening cutcheri at Srivalliputtur and ended my concert with the same song with which my grandmother ushered in Independence. This Independence Day too, I presented a one-hour programme of patriotic songs on AIR. Whenever I sing desh-bhakti compositions, I feel my grandmother is listening to me from up there. It was an unforgettable moment when I recorded with her for the Jana Gana Mana album. It was equally exhilarating to record Vande Mataram with Lata Mangeshkar. I am also fortunate to be part of ‘Jaya He', a new album that has the remaining four verses of Rabindranath Tagore's ‘Jana Gana Mana'.
My filmmaker-father K. Subrahmanyam was a pioneer in using the performing arts to arouse national sentiments. His film ‘Thyaga Bhoomi' that released a year before the Quit India Movement was banned by the British government. Like him, I too strongly believe art is a potent medium to save this diverse cultural unit called India from disintegrating. Several of my multi-lingual dance productions have revolved around this theme. Besides ‘Vande Mataram', I have done Rabindra nritya to Tamil lyrics while in ‘Sangamam' I drew parallels between the works of composers from across the country. Of course, Bharatiyar's poetry was integral to many works of mine.
Unfazed by threats from the British government in pre Independence times, several musicians reached out to people with their voice and verse. My guru D. K. Jayaraman would often render patriotic songs at his cutcheris. I do the same now. ‘Gandhi Mahan' and ‘Paarukkullae Nalla Naadu' are among the songs I render according to the occasion. One of my concerts of patriotic songs during the 50th year of Independence was released as an album. And the album cover has me wearing a Gandhi cap!
Embar Kannan & Vivek Rajagopalan
During one of our jamming sessions, we decided to set to tune lines from Subramanya Bharati's poem ‘Nalladhor Veenai'. We were astonished by the significance of his lines; they are contemporary and universally relevant! We though the best way to convey them was through poly-rhythms (Vivek on percussion) and an amalgam of melodies (Embar on violin). The single is available digitally to listeners from August 15. There couldn't be a better day to pay tribute to one of India's greatest poets and voices of freedom.
Keywords: Independence day