Thursday, January 29, 2009

Stream of Life

Music critique Jim Walsh wrote this in June 2008 about a very unusual song in Amazon and youtube

"The video was downloaded to the web on Saturday, June 20, 2008. By Sunday, it had 1 million hits. By Thursday, it was everywhere — embedded on Facebook and MySpace pages and flooding email inboxes and translating into millions of viewers, thousands of comments, and official "gone viral" status."

You would have heard this song or listened to the video "Where the hell is Matt" in youtube. Undoubtedly it's a remarkable video about the diversity of the world. It''s already one of the most popular videos in youtube. Matt, the creator of the video has travelled 42 countries and danced with the local people at the most exotic places round the world.

Apart from the unique concept of covering the diversities of the world the other striking thing about the video is the song used in the background. In the first hearing you might miss the lyrics of the song. It's actually in Bengali which goes like this:

Bhulbona ar shahajete,
Shei praane mon uthbe mete
Mrityu maajhe dhaakaa ache
Je antahiin praan |

Bojre tomaar baaje baashi,
She ki sahaj gaan |
Shei shurete jaagbo ami ......

Dao more shei gaan |

She jhor jeno shoi aanande
Chittobinar taare
Shapta sindhu dash diganta
Nachao je jhonkaare!

Bojre tomaar baaje baashi,
She ki sahaj gaan |
Shei shurete jaagbo ami ......

Dao more shei gaan |

The lyrics sounded very familiar to me. Upon searching the web I learnt that this is actually adapted from a Bengali song written by Tagore for the Bengali version of Gitanjali. Looks like Matt was looking for a song for the background that would exactly convey the message of eternal life that he has captured in his video. After lots of search he was finally shown some poems of Tagore and he chose the "Stream of Life" from the English version of Gitanjali. He apporached the composer Garry Schyman to set to music the original Bengali poem. They discovered Palabasha Siddique, a seventeen year Bangladeshi female, and used her voice for the song. The compositon by Garry and the rendition by Palabasha is just awesome. It brings such a freshness in terms of both voice and melody. It's no wonder that this song, named "Praan" meaning life in Bengali, is one of the most listened songs in most of the music portals. Above all the song just gels so well with the essence of the video.

The poem "Stream of Life" goes like this:

The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day
runs through the world and dances in rhythmic measures.

It is the same life that shoots in joy through the dust of the earth
in numberless blades of grass
and breaks into tumultuous waves of leaves and flowers.

It is the same life that is rocked in the ocean-cradle of birth
and of death, in ebb and in flow.

I feel my limbs are made glorious by the touch of this world of life.
And my pride is from the life-throb of ages dancing in my blood this moment.

Though the essence of both the Bengali and English lyrics is same - the eternal life, but still anyone who has read Tagore well can make out that the Bengali song doesn't exactly match with the English one.

I found out finally that the Bengali lyrics or Praan is indeed not the original song from which the English "Stream of Life" was derived by Rabindranath Tagore. 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 Bengali lyrics of "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.

Nevertheless, when the essence is same and the impact is so great it doesn't matter what the original song was.....

A good piece of art always inspires many other people. "Where the hell is Matt" and "Praan" has already inspired the students of IIT KGP to come up with this video about KGP.

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