GOOD MUSIC VRS. POPULAR MUSIC: RANGABATI SINGER HOLDS FORT

This posting including the caption originating from BISWAJEET PADHI is borrowed from a group mail addressed to CanOSAnet, which was to our hand from Prof. Gopal Mohanty, Professor Emeritus, Department of Mathematics and Statistics, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, by way of redirection. Prof. Mohanty deserves all thanks for having circulated it in the yahoogroup.

We agree with every word used in this article. The government has failed to ensure that exploitation of artists by business community stops and a genius like Jitendra Harpal is given his appropriate royalty.

We are publishing this excellent write up for perusal of our esteemed visitors with an appeal that each one of them, in their respective sphere should pay attention to the issues so ably highlighted in it and to please do their best to make at least the Government of Orissa understand how to fix up priority in extending support to culture of the State.

It is a shame that when creative geniuses like Harpal are abandoned by the State, several lakhs of rupees are being squandered away year after year in celebrating Jaya Dev’s birthday in a communal fashion, simply because a senior IAS officer wants it.

All thinking minds, who love Orissa, must rise up and ask the State government to divert the money they are spending in communalizing Sri Jaya Dev to welfare of creative geniuses like Harpal.
-Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Rangabati O Rangabati , kanaka lata , hasi pade kahana kath – , Hai go laze laze o laze, laze, laze laze nai zauche matha go, nai kara nai kara aatha( O my beloved Rangabati, speak to me with a smile; I am not able to raise my face with shame – don’t trouble me much) has set the hearts bubbling of millions all over the world. It has been lapped up by listeners from Los Angeles to London when broadcasted through Radio. Though a sambalpuri folk song, it is as popular in Ranchi as in Delhi . It is still a national anthem for every band party ushering the bridegroom to the house of the bride. This sambalpuri folk song has been the ‘Sholay’ of folk music and has reigned the hearts of young and old alike since it was composed in 1972. But its lead singer , 61 year Jitendra Harpal still lives in obscurity in his house in Sambalpur in western Orissa. The Company that recorded and sold millions of copies of the record way back in 1979, INERCO ( Indian Record manufacturing Company) has allegedly not paid a single rupee as royalty to the singer. Poverty and lack of support are the reasons why he has not been able to wage a legal battle to get his dues. Yet he is determined to work for preserving the folk media of the region.

He supports a large family of 3 sons, 3 daughters, widow sister, her daughter, father in law, 2 grand daughter aptly named Payal and Ghungroo and a grandson named Preet. Harpal has been ailing for quite some years. Yet help has not come from the desired quarters. An all time great of folk music, who still refuses to compromise on his ethics languishes in utter poverty. Following a 27 minute discussion with the Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik during his sambalpur visit in May 2005, Harpal was hopeful and has not lost hope till today. The Chief Minister has assured me help for my medical treatment and also financial support of Rs. 2 lakhs for a patriotic album. Western Orissa has a rich treasure of folk dance forms, songs, festivals which over the years may get extinct and needs preservation, lamented Harpal. They need to be preserved, yet finance is a big problem to take up such a gigantic project, he said.

When he came into the scene in 1970s, music was never paying and never ensured a livelihood. It was sheer grit and love for music that he stayed on the scene. With a humble background of even working as a daily labourer, he came into the music scene when he was around 8 / 10 years of age. Such was the love for music, he used to stand outside music schools as he had no money to pay fees. When his mentor Ghulam Abbas started an orchestra named ROCKY in 1965- 66, he got an opportunity to sing. I used to get Rs. 50 per programme in those days and there used to be around 10 programmes per annum, reminiscences Harpal. But the real break came in 1968 -69 when he auditioned for All India Radio, Sambalpur. Though I used to get Rs. 15 per programme, I got recognition after singing in radio confesses Harpal. Infact Rangabti was first aired by AIR in its Surmalia programme in the year 1974.

Now that technology has become affordable, many people are joining the music industry. Mushrooming of recording studios though have been encouraging for the fledging industry, it has it pitfalls too. Earlier music industry was being controlled by big players and many a talent used to go waste. With the advent of Remix and western music, the threat to folk media has multiplied. Double meaning lyrics and some even bordering on obscene are further eroding the track record of the music industry. He is on a mission to preserve sambalpuri folk songs. Lokgeets ( folk songs) are inner voices of People and times and are reflections of the society , asserts Harpal. But with the advent of western culture, we are fast losing it, he lamented.

Arranging finance for cause has been an insurmountable problem. Harpal still refuses to sing cheap and vulgar lyrics where he is offered handsome rewards. There is no short cut to success, he admits and keeps on producing songs which the entire family can listen together. Thankfully his children have also taken to music. His eledest son Prabhat is a rhythm player whereas the eldest of the daughter, Chandrika is a singer. Working against all odds to preserve the culture of the area, has great hopes on the younger generations. Today singing can become a source of livelihood for an upcoming talent, which was not, just a couple of years back. Avoid vulgar lyrics, respect the folk form are the message he wants to give to the younger generations. Meanwhile the dream of preserving the folk media of the region remains a distant dream.

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