A musical salaam to the motherland

INSPIRING THE NATION Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore

INSPIRING THE NATION Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore   | Photo Credit: THE HINDU ARCHIVES

Down the ages, songs have played a crucial part in unifying the people while inspiring them to devote themselves to nation building

Sound can move, uplift, and is very empowering as it can evoke strong emotions. Combined with words, it becomes a potent force. Both have played a crucial role in nation building or reinforcing the idea of patriotism.

In India too, we have had a history of patriotic music leading to national building. Perhaps the first manifestation of such a genre was Raga Desh, some 300-400 years ago in Punjab, by an unknown Senia Ustad. One assumes the main note structure was a folk tune, which was added to, to take the shape of a raga. The region being subjected to repeated invasions could have resulted in creation of this raga.

Soon after the First War of Independence in 1857, the pent up anti-British feeling assumed the form of songs . “Vande Mataram”, the country’s National Song was first penned as a poem by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee in his 1892 book. It glorified the nation as a mother. It was sung in raga Desh to inspire patriotism by Rabindranath Tagore in 1896, at a session of the Indian National Congress, and was seriously considered by many to be worthy of being adopted as National Anthem after Independence.

Inspirational and upbeat

Poet Mohammed Iqbal, who worked as a lecturer in the iconic Government College Lahore, composed “Saare Jahan Se Achcha” in 1905-6, which is widely sung in India. The words are inspirational and upbeat. The original tune to which it was sung in the 1930s and1940s was different — slower and somewhat sad. Pandit Ravi Shankar composed the tune currently used around 1946.

Bankim Chandra Chatterjee

Bankim Chandra Chatterjee   | Photo Credit: THE HINDU ARCHIVES

It was around this time, Rabindranath Tagore composed the inspirational “Jana Gana Mana” whose beautiful words united India through song, from east to west and north to south.

Originally written in Bengali, the moving words were aimed at uniting people; this was adopted as our National Anthem in 1950. Amazingly, in 1972 after the formation of Bangladesh, another Tagore’s song “Amaar Sonar Bangla” written in 1905 was adopted as the country’s anthem.

Mahatma Gandhi used bhajans like “Vaishnav Jan To” based on raga Khamach, though not overtly patriotic, to unite the people. It remains popular even today with new versions being recorded even today, the recent one being by Bombay Jayashri.

The regimental quick march of Indian National Army, “Kadam Kadam Badhaye Jaa” written by Pandit Vanshidhar Shukla and composed by Ram Singh Thakuri too inspired a feeling of patriotism.

Later, after Independence, patriotic film songs were composed to bind the nation, especially before the 1962 and 1965 wars like “Nanha Munna Rahi Hoon”, “Yeh Desh Hai Veer Jawanon Ka”, “Ai Watan Ai Watan”, among others. These still remind of the tense times the nation went through during that period. After the 1962 war, the much loved “Ai Mere Watan Ke Logon,” sung by Lata Mangeshkar still rouses patriotic fervour. Apart from the moving words, the melodies too were structured to be emotive and build up to a moving crescendo.

Across the border qawwalis like “Taj Da Re Haram” which appealed for divine intervention were played regularly over Radio Pakistan during the 1971 war.

In later years, such songs in films have had exulting lyrics, celebrating a nation’s coming of age and achieving its potential. These include “Chak De India”, “Suno Gaur Se Duniya Walon”, “Jai Ho” to name a few.

After Independence, Indian composers, mainly from the three forces have composed several military marches and tunes to reinforce the idea of nationalism and provide alternatives to the British march music. Scottish reels gave way to Indian tunes like “Kadam Kadam”, “Gangotri”, “Sitare Hind” and “Sentinels of the Sky”. Folk tunes and eastern rhythms were used.

Classical genre

In the classical genre too, patriotism has found place. Ustad Amjad Ali Khan composed Bapu Kaus, a version of Raga Malkaus named after the Father of our Nation Gandhiji.

Many instrumentalists including Pandit Vishwamohan Bhatt and Pandit Ronu Majumdar play patriotic songs, which are raga based as a part of their classical music concerts. Songs whose words unite like the Bengali “Ekla Chalo Re” are now a regular part of some artists’ repertoire.

A. R. Rahman

A. R. Rahman   | Photo Credit: PTI

Music and nation building, continue to evolve irrespective of hard or good times. The line from “Maa Tujhe Salaam” composed by A.R. Rahman in 1997 with poignant lyrics by Mehboob sums up the idea of the motherland thus: “Yahan wahan saara jahan dekh liya hai, kahin bhi tere jaisa koi nahin hai”.

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Printable version | Feb 20, 2020 10:44:43 AM |

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