From the ancient times, music documented the lives of the common people and for the Bengalis, Rabindra sangeet forms an integral part of their culture. It is seen as one of the most important parts of Bengal's cultural heritage and also the best known genre of Bangla music outside Bengal.
Rabindra Sangeet also known as Tagore Songs is a form of music composed by Nobel laureate poet, novelist and playwright Rabindranath Tagore who added a new dimension to the musical concept of India in general and Bengal in specific.
These songs are regarded as cultural treasures and artistic invaluable in both Bangladesh and West Bengal India. There are around 2500 odd songs and lyrical poetry of love and devotion written and composed by the Bengali poet laureate Rabindranath Tagore sung by various singers like Kishore Kumar, Hemanta Mukherjee, Srikanto Acharya, Shaan, Subhamita and countless others.
These songs have also been widely used in movies, both in Bengali and non-Bengali cinema. The national anthems of both Bangladesh and India are Rabindra sangeets; which are Amar Shonar Bangla (Oh My Precious Bengal) and Jana Gana Mana (Ruler of the Minds of All People), written in an older form of Bengali, closer to Sanskrit, that can be readily re-interpreted in almost all Indian languages respectively. His songs were also used in British, European & Australian movies just to capture the mood of a cinematic situation & to reveal a delicate interplay of relationships.
Rabindra sangeet itself is broadly classified into few sub-genres: the puja porjay (prayer songs), prem porjai (love songs), bichitra porjai (varied songs), swades porjai (patriotic songs). All categories are tied by a common theme of philosophy and love. Tagore also composed most of the songs himself. Hence, a common compositional similarity is visible. All songs are based on minor variations of Sub-continental musical modes or ragas.
The Rabindra sangeet, which deal with varied themes are immensely popular and form a foundation for the Bengali ethos that is comparable to, perhaps even greater than, that which Shakespeare has on the English-speaking world. It is said that his songs are the outcome of 500 years of literary & cultural churning that the Bengali community has gone through. Rabindra sangeet is a separate system of music close to the heart of every spirited Bengali. The unique feature of this stream of music is that different elements of Indian Classical music have been infused to weave a kind of music in an entirely new, yet enchantingly intelligent fashion.
The ragas from pure classical music have been re-defined to bring out emotions and expressions to their completeness. In doing so, Tagore has made use of unexplored nuances and sometimes strayed a bit from the raga itself, but ultimately reaching the destination of sublime melody.
In many of his creations Rabindranath had focused on ragas from rather striking and unexpected perspectives. Some of the movements he had used, though unusual, could not be challenged on counts of beauty and conformity to the raga. Some of these movements were taken from very old and traditional conventions in classical music. Many of the songs have such a poignant and emotionally moving representation of commonly known ragas, that it would become rather difficult for a sensitive classical musician to overlook their intrinsic musicality.
Sometimes, Tagore’s flights of imagination had led to such emotional moods, that the tonal colors available from the basic ragas were not adequate to express them. Under such circumstances he used his artistic liberty to blend ragas. This resulted in masterful combination of some of the known ragas producing unforeseen melodic shades of the highest artistic order.
Rabindra sangeet has now evolved into a distinct stream of music with talented patrons to uphold its golden legacy. Like any other classical art form, Rabindra sangeet requires an intellectual and contemplative mind in order to appreciate its lyrical beauty. This music has now found a unique position within the mainstream Hindustani classical music.
The themes of the songs in Rabindra sangeet are so broad and varied that they embrace human emotions from the mundane to the absolutely aesthetic and express all ranges and categories of human emotion. As a result, a layman and a well-educated and affluent person could both equally enjoy this music and theme.
The beauty of the Rabindra sangeet is in the essence of this form of music which is so different from any other form of music and still retains the charm as ever before. The essence of the beauty lies in the fact the songs doesn’t feel boring even after listening to it again and again.