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Bhajans on Raganuga.com - Request
Openmind - Tue, 06 Jul 2004 23:37:07 +0530
Those bhajans recorded in India are sung with a bit complicated melody, at least to me. I wonder if there is any Western devotee who could record the main traditional Gaudiya songs with some easy-to-follow and easy-to-learn melody and upload to the Raganuga site. I guess many devotees would appreciate that.
nabadip - Wed, 07 Jul 2004 14:38:36 +0530
Recently I was in the chat room with a friend contributing to this site, and we talked about the rude shock that westerners face who shift from neo-Gaudiya to traditional Gaudiya orientation, when they have to adjust to the way Bengalis sing and do bhajan and kirtan. He characterized it so well saying while westerners do kirtan like Pop-Music, with Bengalis it is like Free Jazz. It is so true. It always amazes me how many Indians cannot sing, and yet do it without hesitation, which of course is nice in terms of Bhakti. Another aspect is that unrelenting search for the melody, and when they have it, search for another one or yet another variation. If you get such a singer leading the kirtan in which you would like to participate to your heart's content, then it can get really frustrating. The most frustrating is their liking of the unreachably high notes, which turn kirtan into a kind of torture.
I said that in another thread, and caused the indignation of a participant of Indian origin here, but I think it is one of the taboos we are dealing with: Indian aesthetics are difficult to deal with in the long run for us Westerners, especially since beauty is taken as so absolutely positive when it comes to talking about India. There is a basic difference between Asians and Westerners, that is the way they carry their body. Theirs is a more organic, more integrated way of moving and adjusting the body, while we tend to more rigid, "wrong" body postures. Why that is and how that comes is a complex field of study. (One of the most visible contrasts is seen in the way Western women are incapable to a wear a sari in as beautiful a way as any woman in India does.)
As to the subject of coping with different aesthetical standards: We have different expectations and are more protected in our environment and up-bringing, and when we come to a place like India with its absolute extremes in sensual out-put, we have a hard time digesting and adjusting to all that. As far as kirtan is concerned, we have clear expectations as well, especially when our experience is formed by previous participation in Western-led kirtan.
Openmind, if you have a slight musical skill and do not have a harmonium, and no access to any instrument, you can listen to a melody with its searching, varying harmonies, and just distill the main melody out of the many sounds you hear. Write it down for yourself, either in the sound-value (e.g. Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So etc) manner, or in any other way that works for you. With an instrument it becomes a lot easier. Some of the melodies sung in bhajan are traditional ones, with the typical Indian way of varying the notes by playing the upper and lower tone as well, where we sing or play a straight tone only. You can get to that melody also by "mock-piano-playing" on a table, for instance. When combining it with singing the text, you just have to be courageous and go ahead, not be perfectionist: That is the secret in the Indian way of doing it, their's is a trial and error approach. If we try to imitate that perfectly, we fail invariably. Where we sing just a straight note, they sing seven subnotes in fifteen variations. Not to speak of the rhythm.
I plan to share another video focusing on the way a Bengali bhakta plays the harmonium to kirtan with those many decorative variations in the melody, decorations which become so substantial in the Indian way of playing and creating a tune, that they feel frustrated if they hear the same melody just in straight notes.
ananga - Wed, 07 Jul 2004 16:12:41 +0530
Wow, a thread after my own heart!
As a harmonium teacher I am able and really happy to take any recording of bengali kirtan and write down simple(ish) sarega (indian do re mi.. ) as my service to devotees if they would like me to. I've been doing this on a small scale in my sampraday anyway.
Perhaps I could do that for the bhajans on the Raganuga.com site and at the same time it would be worth giving more details of what kind of kirtan each mp3 actually is, whether it is a raga (alap or madhyam or pancham) a ragini (parikrama, or fast bit) or . I would be willing to do this but the files are too large for me to download on my dial up connection.
Ananga Manjari Das
Glastonbury Somerset UK
Madhava - Wed, 07 Jul 2004 17:01:22 +0530
PM me your address and I'll send you a CD with all the content there. I'll add in the videos too, if you are interested.