Friday, January 30, 2009

Conversations with Garry Schyman, the composer of "Praan" - Stream of Life

In continuation of my previous blog on the popular video "Where the hell is Matt" and the background song "Praan" (adapted from the poem "Stream of Life" from Tagore's Gitanjali) used in it, I'd like to share my conversations with the composer of the song Garry Schyman.

Indeed Garry and Matt's effort is highly commendable. In this world of division and intolerance the very essence of capturing (in video and music) the "stream of life" that dances in the universe is of very high relevance. I'm not sure how much critical acclaim the scholars might put to this effort, but from a humanitarian point of view, such an effort is incredible and Garry, the composer of the song, and Matt, the creator of the video with people of 42 countries dancing with the music of "Praan" need all accolades for taking this up.

Helping the west to reinvent Tagore is an added impact that they have achieved. For this I and any Bengali who loves Tagore would always thank them.

If ever again in future Garry is interested to set to tune any otherTagore's poem, he may be interested to listen to Tagore's compositions and adapt that in his tunes. In fact each of the poems in Gitanjali is a song set to tune by Tagore himself in traditional, classical, folk Indian and even, in some cases, Western styles.
Garry's mail to me: 30th Jan, 2009
Hello Sudipto,

Thank you for your kind words about my song Praan! Also thank you for all of the fantastic information you sent me about Tagore's work related to the lyrics I used.

I have come to realize that his work is very rich and complex and that the Bengali lyrics we used may not in fact be the precise source of his English poem "Stream of Life" which attracted Matt and I to use that poem. We did in fact rely on Palbasah Saddique and her brother to help us with that and neither claim to be Tagore Scholars. What we did learn is that Tagore freely adapted his poetry for Gitanjali (the English version) and that his English set of poetry of that name is not necessarily directly related to his original Bengali version.

A number of Bengal speakers have since pointed this out to me. That said I believe that many people (particularly in the West) have been reintroduced to Mr. Tagore's brilliant work and life and I am proud that I have, perhaps, played a small part in that. Though, as I have said, this was not my mission.

It is not practical to rerecord the vocal for the song. That would be quite expensive and I don't think many people would be all that interested in it. The lyrics we did use are from Tagore (that much I know) and work and sound marvelously with the music I composed. I have learned to accept serendipity as an important part of my music and trust that I am often led places by chance for some unknowable reason.

As it is, aware of the imperfect scholarship involved in finding the Bengali lyrics, my credit for Tagore reads "Adapted from" so that to be clear that a certain artistic license was used in the lyrics. Perhaps I should have said "inspired by", though that would imply that Tagore was not the actual author of the words.

You might be interested in listening to an interview I did with Minnesota public radio about how all of this came together. It all happened very quickly and almost magically.

Very best,
Garry Schyman
My mail to Garry: 29th Jan, 2009
Hi Garry,

First of all congratulations for all the awards for the music of Praan. It's really a fresh piece of music that has enthralled millions of people round the world. You've rightfully proved that music doesn't require any language or genre.

I'd like to make a clarification with regards to the lyrics.

Actually the Bengali lyrics that you've used is not the original song from which the English "Stream of Life" was derived by Rabindranath Tagore. Though both the English "Stream of Life" the Bengali "Praan" have the same essence - that's eternal stream of life, the original Bengali poem for "Stream of Life" is as follows:

E aamaar sharirer shiraay shiraay
Je Praan-tarangamaalaa raatridin dhaay
Sei Praan chhutiyaachhe bishwadigbijaye,
Sei Praan aparoop chhande taale laye
Nachichhe bhubane; sei Praan chupe chupe
Basudhaar mrittikaar prati romkoope
Lokkho lokkho trine trine sanchaare harashe,
Bikaashe pallabe pushpe - barashe barashe
Bishwabyaapi janmamrityusamudradolaay
Dulitechhe antahiin joyaar bhaataay.
Karitechhi anubhab, se ananta Praan
Ange ange aamaare karechhe mahiyaan.
Sei jugjugaanter biraat spandan
Aamaar nariite aaji karichhe nartan.

The lyrics of your "Praan" features in the original Bengali Gitanjali, but not in the English version. Actually the English version is created out of a selection of 103 poems from the Bengali Gitanjali and three other booklets of poems by Tagore.

Seeing the success of your "Praan" why don't you come up with another version of Praan with the original lyrics for "Stream of Life"? Also, would you mind to clarify this piece of information to your listeners? I've seen many comments made by Bengali speaking people about the confusion arising from little dissimilarities between the words of "Stream of Life" and "Praan".

Thanks & Regards,
Sudipto Das

1 comment:

Salty said...

Thanx for the correct bengali source of “Stream of Life”. I found that an English Translation of Praan(translator unknown)which has been given in the FAQ page (of ) and it goes like this.
I will not easily forget
The life that stirs in my soul
Hidden amidst Death
That infinite Life
I hear you in the thunder
A simple tune
A tune to which I will arise (3x)
And in that storm of happiness
As your music plays in your mind
The whole wide world
Dances to your rhythm
I hear you in the thunder
A simple tune
A tune to which I will arise (3x)
This is probably the appropriate translation although it does not have the universal message of “Stream of Life”

Great to have the clarification from Gary in your blog. I think its a small goof-up done by them although its a great song.