I see world through Tagore songs, says sightless singer
Kolkata: For Swapan Gupta, songs written and composed by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore are the prism through which he sees the world. But the famed 65-year-old singer who has been blind since his birth is against remix versions of the genre as he feels these take away from their purity.
"Remixes are creating a problem. The way they use electronic gadgets during remixes is against the culture of Rabindra Sangeet," says Gupta, whose maiden record in the genre came out in 1968, a year after he made his debut on All India Radio (AIR).
Like many Bengalis, he refers to the bard of Bengal - whose 150th birth anniversary falls on May 9 - as `Gurudev`.
Tagore wrote and composed nearly 3,000 songs that make up the Rabindra Sangeet genre.
"Gurudev`s songs are my life. They are the light through which I see the world. And in times of depression, it is my passion for Tagore songs that helps me overcome the mental lows and keeps me going," says Gupta who has received numerous awards.
He was honoured by the West Bengal governor for his outstanding contribution to culture in 1999. In 2002, he received the National Award of the union social justice and empowerment ministry.
Calling Tagore a master composer and his compositions masterpieces, Gupta compares him with painter Picasso.
"If you do experiments with Picasso`s paintings, they will not be the same. In the same way, if you try to experiment with the masterpieces of Rabindranath then they will not be the same," he says.
Gupta, whose never ending love with Tagore songs started in the early 1960s, under the tutelage of the legendary singer Debabrata Biswas, has translated several of the bard`s lyrics into English.
With a touch of humility, he says the translations were not up to the mark.
"The translations were not so good. But there is a great demand for Rabindra Sangeet translations in English," says Gupta, who holds a masters degree in English literature.
But has enough been done to spread Rabindra Sangeet among a global audience? He replies in the negative.
"I don`t feel we have done enough in terms of publicity of Rabindra Sangeet across the globe. There is a big demand for Rabindra Sangeet in foreign countries. More publicity of Rabindra Sangeet is needed," says Gupta, who teaches music.
He has performed throughout India as well as in several countries, such as the US, Canada, Britain, East Germany and the erstwhile Soviet Union.
His latest CDs "Durer Bondhu" and "Sudurer Piyasi" have been brought out by Bhavna Records. Two more CDs are in the offing.
He lauds a section of the next generation of Rabindra Sangeet singers for their dedication and passion for Tagore songs. However, he is sharply critical about another class of singers who "lack dedication and dramatise the songs" to such a level that these lose their original flavour.
"A section of next generation Rabindra Sangeet singers is really good. They are totally dedicated. But there is also a section of Rabindra Sangeet singers which is not at all dedicated. They thrive by needlessly dramatising the songs," he says.
Gupta has his favourite songs such as "Swapane dohe chhino ki mohe", "Eto din je boshechhilem", "Ami keboli shapano", "Kachhe theke dur".
"I love all the Tagore songs. But I love most his songs on `prakriti` (nature)," he says.