The astounding optimism in Tagore’s songs
There are probably only a few things in this world that are as satisfying as a heart filled with organic optimism. It's a tragic misfortune that in the present stream of existence, and as it has been since the inception of consciousness, the soul continuously seeks to relish morsels of hopefulness but remains famished for such ecstasy. This is why the experiences that can conjure up even a slight breeze of aspiration and pleasure in our chest is as precious as life to us. Music is one such rare catalyst that holds an immense inspirational strength. There are songs that foster a divine scent in its words and melodies, songs that can mould any state of mind into sculptures of heavenly delights. Tagore's song has that profound power of repainting the heart with multiple shades of pleasure and optimism.
Rabindranath Tagore preaches the philosophy of a pleasing life through simple words not only in his songs, but in all his creations. His diction harmoniously endorses the fluent essence of delightful senses. Some of his songs are blessed with the strength to fill up the heart with profound appreciation for life. His words convince the listener that the world is actually a beautiful place where truth, honesty, and simplicity are the quenching clouds above a desolate desert of dry despair and monotony.
Tagore's songs, in contrast to certain popular, more contemporary ideologies, reveal that existence is beautiful. His lyrics paint a picture of a utopian destiny, while the unique melody works with the words to make listeners feel present in a reality where life is overflowing with honest purity. A classic Rabindra sangeet, "Anondoloke monogolaloke", preaches this idea in a manner of a religious sermon. The sanguine tone is so dominating here that a listener cannot help but find themselves intensely desiring to believe that our world contains an abundance of gratifying hope, brimming with potentials of satisfaction.
The entire song is about the manifestation of the divine in our surroundings. It sings:
"The Sun, Moon, the planets, stars anxiously drink and bathe
In your everlasting beam, with incredible speed.
Springs dance down the earth, what a beauty
Flowers, leaves, melodious sounds add to colours."
It overall paints the picture of a world where the divine nurtures life.
The initial portion of the concluding part of the song asserts, "Jagote tobo ki mahotsabo, bondano kore bishwo", which means "What a great festival is there in the universe, uniting the world."
It's emanating the impression that the world is a place of unity, ecstasy, and of heavenly joy. In addition, the melody of this part turns these words into a soft stream of invisible nectar, flowing gracefully straight to the mind. Together, this verse sprouts the desire to imagine the world as a perfect canvas smothered with tints and hues of rapture and bliss.
The sound of the words plays a key role here as well. It is what creates the magic. Here, "jagote tobo" and "ki mahotsabo", both have 5 syllables with equally dominating 'o' vowel sound. However, the initial syllables of both these portions start with a low note, which slowly rises until it reaches the last 'o' sound. After the final rise of the 'o' note in "tobo", the notation dynamic slides downward again with "ki" and then it immediately starts to re-rise in the similar fashion. This wavy pattern of gradual rise and sudden decline of note with frequent assonance bloom surges feelings of inspiration. Tagore offers such physically uplifting sentiments in many of his songs, one of which is examined here.
Now let's surf back to the "wavy" pattern. After the gradual rise of the last note in "mahotsabo", the "bondano kore bishwo" has a downward movement. This shift in energy helps to intensify the gush of the precious comfort that the following part borne.
The consistent upliftment continues in the next line, "Shrisampado bhumaaspado nirbhoyosharone", ("With wealth and prosperity, in fearlessness and security") which lacks presence of low notes. The intensity of the notes just keeps gradually increasing, ending with an extension of the concluding 'a' vowel sound which gives the song a fresh satisfying air. It's also noteworthy that, although the 'o' sound is the dominant one throughout the composition, the song facilitates the voice of other notes as well in random patterns. This creates a variation to eradicate monotony.
As already mentioned, this song is about the celebration of divine presence. The overall composition of this beautiful song enables us to silently recognise the divinity of our own existence and to experience the joy, peace, and love that are at the heart of all life. Here Tagore also exhibits the exceptional strength of words and the majestic authority of melody. In this song, structure, sentence, and style all sing together in perfect sync, giving birth to the feelings we crave to have but rarely get to relish.
Tagore wrote many songs similar to this one that uplift the spirits. Some slowly enter the soul and sprout into a blossoming plant. It grows into a sense of kindness and honesty in a surprisingly natural way. The secret here is this: Tagore's songs are simple with melodious tunes. The lyrics sway in a slow tempo assisted by soft and soothing vocal style. Such composition, reinforced by the subject matter and diction of the lyrics, turns into a source of heartfelt contentment.
The direction toward satisfaction in Tagore's "Anondodhara Bohiche Bhubone" is unmatched in the artistic world. This song has an intense power of convincing the reader that the universe is full of potential for happiness and joy, and the listener too can attain it. Its promising anaphora, "Anondodhara bohiche bhubone", which means "stream of joy is swaying in the universe", comes to us buoying a convincing air.
Throughout the song, the sentiment is that of a utopian reality where nature nurtures elements of happiness awaiting to be utilised.
The magic hides in the concluding verse of the song where an illusion takes over the listener. After the chorus declares "Anondodhara bohiche bhubone", the song continues saying "Boshia acho kano apono mone". This line is sung in a lower tone to vivify the position of sitting as it literally mentions "boshia", indicating inactivity. However, when the song gets to the next line the tone rises dramatically, flooding the heart with a sudden rush of profound excitement and it perfectly corresponds with the lyric. This rise of note and tone feels as if the song physically lifted the depressed soul from its previous resting position and guided it toward a fulfilling contentment. These next lines invite the listener to look around and open their heart to realise just how insignificant their suffering is in comparison to the vast majesty of the universe. In Tagore's words, "Charidike dekho chahi hridoyo proshari khudro dukkho shobo tuccho mani", meaning, "Spread your heart wide, look around and accept the insignificance of your trifling sorrows". The song invites the listener to be kinder and gentler toward the world and to observe the universe with an open mind. This way the "anondodhara", the stream of pleasure swaying around, will enter the heart and reside there with its natural power.
In simple words, the song says that the way to happiness and contentment is kindness and benevolence. But Tagore does not say this directly. Instead, he articulates the sentiment with fluency and flavour, so that the idea directly enters the core consciousness of the listener and remains there like a blooming flora.
Tagore explores life like bees explore gardens, taking out the nectar from every possible stamen and petal. With the ink of his pen even sadness becomes a source of a unique kind of contentment. Tagore's heart recognises melancholy as a muse to romanticise. While many poets like Neruda present unreciprocated love with a sense of disappointment and sadness, Tagore not only romanticises it, he turns the experience into an fulfilling one.
His song on one-sided love, "Mayabano Biharini" or "Wandering Doe" is about a love that was never consummated. Again, the diction is not the only quality of the song: the tone and melody are also major organs that give the composition its colour.
The highest point of the song reads:
"Dur hote aami taare sadhibo
Gopone biroho dore badhibo
Badhono-bihino shei je badhon
This roughly translates to: "I will yearn her from afar, I will secretly fasten her with the rope of separation. A tie without a tie. For no reason."
The stanza itself is wrapped in the soft coating of a pleasing tone but inside, it contains a rather depressing notion. The pleasure of this particular portion is most clearly apparent when it's heard in the voice of a singer like Chinmay Chatterjee.
Notably, this song is a bit tricky. The stanza begins with a high note, and it keeps getting higher till the completion of the second line. This dynamic repeats twice and then it abruptly reaches the low note in the third line. An excitement builds up in the first two. The repetition intensifies this excitement only to casually sway into a calmer verse. This overall composition articulates a mellifluous melancholia that may seem strange to our immediate cognition, but our subconscious self is no stranger to the feelings these lines carry. In other words, the listener feels a pleasing sweetness within the sour sore of pain.
Just like Tagore has cherished the gift of sorrow, he also emphasises celebrating happiness to the fullest. Some of his songs influence an intense appreciation for subtle nuanced sentiments. For example, "Prane khusir tuphan utheche" ("A tempest of joy rose in my soul"), is a song about rejoicing in the absence of fear and suffering, and embracing the overwhelming presence of ecstasy. The bold anaphora "Prane khusir tuphan utheche" is sung with valour in the voice. This reaches the listener as a form of encouragement and acknowledges their heart's immense strength to engulf sorrow. The song sings,
"Dukkhoke aj kothin bole joriye dhorte buker tole
Udhao hoye hridoy chuteche"
It denotes that the heart is frantically looking for sorrow so that it can embrace the pain and make it disappear with the magnificence of human virtue.
In a sense this also shows how Tagore, instead of romanticising suffering, held the belief that humans can, if they wish, dismiss their agony just by the strength of their divine spirit. Tagore believed that humans possess eternal bliss, and it awaits only a slight inspiration to spread out into the world. This is the task he wanted to take over in his songs and he successfully did so. Listening to his songs never fails to effulgently induce its specific target sentiment in the listeners' mind, lighting up even the darkest heart and the dimmest soul with a flare of optimism and hope.
Abdullah Rayhan is studying English Literature at Jahangirnagar University.