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Smt. Savitri Krishnan, Tagore and Carnatic Music

Discussion in 'Snippets of Life (Non-Fiction)' started by ojaantrik, Jan 30, 2009.

  1. ojaantrik

    ojaantrik IL Hall of Fame

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    Savitri Krishnan (nee Govinda) was a fourteen year old girl who lived and went to school at Adyar when she was introduced to Rabindranath Tagore. She was a student of the Fourth Form and had no idea at all who this man was, when her drawing teacher came to fetch her to be presented before the poet. She was playing outside her home with her friends in the gruelling heat of June.

    She was quite annoyed by this demand. She refused straightaway. Then this drawing teacher went into her house and caught hold of her mother in the kitchen and requested her to prevail upon the daughter. After much coaxing and cajoling, the little girl finally agreed to accompany the teacher.

    Tagore was sitting surrounded by some of the top intellectuals from the South (as well as Bengal, including Professor P.C. Mahalanobis, the founder of the Indian Statistical Institute) when the girl arrived along with her two sisters. He was busy writing something and for a while didn't pay any attention to the girls. This annoyed Savitri to no end. Quite apart from the fact that it was a boring business, her game had been interrupted. But, as custom demanded, the poor thing waited till Tagore was finished with whatever he was writing.

    He looked at the sisters and requested them to sing for him. They sat on the floor and sang a few Meera Bhajans. After a while, Tagore looked at Savitri and said, "Why don't you sing alone? Sing a pure South Indian song for me." She tried as best as she could. The song she sang begins with "Meenakshi ...". You can hear it in the audio attachment below.

    Tagore stayed over for a few days and he told her to come to him daily and sing for him. She did this, willingly or unwillingly, I can't say. And then Tagore came out with a preposterous idea. "Savitri, come with me to Santiniketan for your studies!" She said, "How can I? I don't have the finance and I need my guardian's permission. The guardian was an uncle, who had recently met with an accident. Tagore said, "I think your guardian will not object -- I have a premonition." ("DivyadrishTi" was the expression Savitri Devi used to describe Tagore's statement.)

    "DivyadrishTi" it was indeed and Savitri went over to Santiniketan. She knew no Bengali at the time. She felt lonely and missed her family in the beginning. But gradually she got used to the place and gathered enough courage one day to come up to Tagore with an exercise book (costing her 4 annas) and ask for his autograph. Tagore wrote for her a couplet. Here is a (terrible) translation:

    If your voice ever turns a home for my song,
    Your bounty it shall be, which my song doth long.

    The Calcutta Doordarshan interviewed Ms. Savitri Krishnan many years later. She was seventy years at the time. I collected the information above from this interview. Straight from the horse's mouth.

    Unfortunately for my friends at IL, she spoke almost entirely in Bengali. But there were little bits of English too that she used as she recalled her first meeting with Tagore. A large part of the interview deals with the Carnatic tunes Tagore picked up from Savitri Devi to compose some of his most well-known songs. Even at the age of seventy, I think she did a great job in rendering the Tamizh and the Bengali versions.

    There were two songs that she sang. The Bengali counterparts are "Basanti hey Bhuvanomohini" and "Bedona ki bhashaey re". I have cropped out the Bengali conversation from the interview and retained only the English words she used and the songs she sang (both in Tamizh and Bengali).

    I have also added another famous Tagore song "Baaje karuno shurey". This was sung by Smt. Kanika Bandyopadhyay during Tagore's Birth Centenary Celebrations in 1961. The original Tamizh version "Nidu charanamooley" in the recording below was sung by Swagatalakshmi Dasagupta (1999). As far as I know, this song owes its origin to Muttuswamy Dikshitar and is set to Raga Simhendra Madhyam. Do please correct me if I am wrong.

    The order of the recordings is: Dasgupta, Bandyopadhyay, Savitri Krishnan. This is the order in which I received the recording from a collector. Ms. Krishnan's part is the longest, even after the cropping exercise.

    Let's hope that some of you will enjoy listening to the golden pieces.

    The url, which I created by sending an email to my own rediff mail account, is
    https://www.yousendit.com/download/W...YXlqY3BMWEE9PQ

    I am also adding the uncropped version, should anyone be interested.

    https://download.yousendit.com/bVlBblFIcVhHa01LSkE9PQ

    These will be available for 7 days and permit 100 downloads. Of course, I can upload them again should anyone be interested after the week is out.


     
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  2. Kamalji

    Kamalji IL Hall of Fame

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    dear OJ,

    Very interesting blog.

    but sadly i am not into classical music, i dont understand them, but love the classical Hindi movie songs from say Baiju Bawra, and other such movies.

    Regards

    kamal
     
  3. ojaantrik

    ojaantrik IL Hall of Fame

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    Dear Kamalji:

    I think it was not wise on my part to have put up this post. It is so specialized that no one is likely to touch it even with a ten feet pole.

    I think I will erase it, since you can't delete at IL without going through a complicated procedure.

    Let me start thinking about something that can make people happy. This post is quite meaningless, frankly speaking.

    I will wait for a while of course and then decide whether I should really erase the contents.

    I read your post on the pets you have. It was so loving. It was so tender. The human being in you shows up so easily.

    Best.

    oj
     
  4. Shanvy

    Shanvy IL Hall of Fame

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    OJ,

    I am happy to download the song and the file. will check it out and give my comments.

    I was moved by the couplet..how blessed she should have been to have this great chance.

    Regarding the ni charanamooley, it is raga simhendra madyamam but the composer was Tyagaraja (though the song's signature does indicate tyagayya, there are still some doubts..)
    nIdu caraNamulE gati(y)ani
    nerata nammina vADanurA rAma

    (o Rama, i believed that your feet is the only refuge )
     
  5. ojaantrik

    ojaantrik IL Hall of Fame

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    Thank you Shanvy. Your clarification was a great help. Only yesterday I was speaking to a friend's wife who happens to be from the South. She too had doubts as to whether Muttuswamy Dikshitaar was the right name. Her argument was that Shri Dikshitaar ought to have written in Telegu, not Tamizh.

    Incidentally, Smt. Krishnan probably brought out a few records of her own. She earned renown for herself as a Tagore-sangeet singer. I don't know if these records have been preserved.

    Thanks for the translation.

    oj
     
  6. Shanvy

    Shanvy IL Hall of Fame

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    Oj,

    This song is in telugu. that is why the decision weighs towards thyagaraja.

    Dikshitar's krithis were all in sanskrit, with only a very few exceptions...
     
  7. ojaantrik

    ojaantrik IL Hall of Fame

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    Thanks a lot Shanvy. This was most helpful. In fact, the Bengali part of the interview kept mentioning Thyagaraja, not Dikshitaar.

    It's only the recording on Nidu Charanamule by Swagatalakshmi Dasgupta that (wrongly) quotes Dikshitaar.

    Incidentally, was Raga Hamsadhvani produced by the Dikshitaar family? This is what one of my reference books, Raganidhi, published by the Madras Music Academy, writes.

    oj
     
  8. Mindian

    Mindian IL Hall of Fame

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    dear oj da,
    i have not had the privilege of hearing about mrs savitri krishnan and since it was connected with carnatic music i enjoyed the blog...will download the file and hear it..thanks for sharing it with us..
    regards
    Mindi

    Dear Mindi:

    Thanks for your interest. I am quite seriously into music and enjoy tracing the origins of songs. Tagore was of course influenced by a whole lot of musical traditions, including Western music.

    The effect that Carnatic music on him is all too evident in a few of his songs. These are difficult songs and only the best artistes have given them a try.

    The Savitri Krishnan interview is important, not just good, because it gives you the history of Indian music and the interconnections. She sings the original version and the Bengali version side by side, demonstrating clearly the breadth of the Indian culture.

    What amazes me about Tagore is his total Indian-ness. He wrote in Bengali, but he was a complete Indian. And a person cannot be a complete Indian without being traceable partly to Western culture too.

    oj-da
     
  9. apar_ram

    apar_ram Silver IL'ite

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    Hi Oj very nice to read about MsKrishnan's interaction with Tagore. I was looking to download the music but am getting Page Load Error.
     
  10. ojaantrik

    ojaantrik IL Hall of Fame

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    Dear Apar_ram:

    Thank you for your fb. I am not sure why you are receiving a page load error message. Others who tried didn't face any problem. After reading your feedback, I tried to download once again and didn't face any difficulty. If you have an email address and have no objection to sending it to me via a pm, I can send it again to that address. Perhaps you could give me your husband's or children's email address.

    oj
     

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