In this series of articles, Cuckoo News documents the revival of a music genre, Bangla Khayal, by a musical genius, Kabir Suman.
Day breaks. Kabir Suman wakes up, haunted by tunes humming in his head. The musician knows only too well which notes they are. Raga Gour Mallar.
“Sooner or later, it had to come,” he says, smiling, sighing. He has waited long enough for it. He has waited long enough for it to come to him and join him in the musical journey that he has undertaken or initiated really.
Kabir has been endeavouring to revive the long lost musical genre, Bengali Khayal. Khayal, the classical vocal musical tradition of the Indian subcontinent, he points out, is rendered in different languages and Bengali ought to be a prominent representative. Kabir says re-establishing Bengali Khayal is his life’s goal now.
From dawn to dusk, the ragas come to him, invading his heart. From morning to evening, from noon to midnight the lyrics follow, dancing to their tunes.
“What can I do? I have to attend to them,” says Kabir indulgently, as though defending beloved guests who refuse to leave. Indeed, Kabir has already created a treasure trove of compositions.
Gour Mallar is a rain raga. And outside, drizzle has already turned to downpour. But the wait is not yet over. Kabir waits. And waits. For news. News of the words. News of the lyrics. The raga too waits impatiently with him. And then, finally, through the torrential rain, the lyrics come. “On wings.”
Yes, they come, “On cloudy, ashen wings that beat like winds drenched in rain.” These are the lyrics of Kabir’s latest composition. “Khobor aashey daanaa meley” in Bengali.
Bengali Khayal is no doubt enriched further by the entry into it of the incredibly delightful Gour Mallar. It is part of Kabir’s growing treasure, which he has been distributing like gems to a lucky few, who receive them in their social media inboxes (Whatsapp, Facebook, etc) in the form of audio clips sprinkled with conversation.
Kabir’s lyrics mesmerize with their unexpected expectedness. We know what he means, for instance, when he says, (when he sings), “dhulor demaak” (hubris of the dust, arrogant in its knowledge of its own pervasiveness, indomitability). It reigns and it rules in his composition in Raga Sahana, which too is a new addition to his oeuvre.
Here is an audio clip from Gour Mallar.
Night falls. Different lyrics, different ragas start arriving. Kabir does not turn away any of them. But that story is for another day, another night.