Rabindranath Tagore is often hailed as the “Vishwa-Kavi” or the “Poet of the world” due to his vast and universal nature of creations. His music compositions, known as Rabindrasangeet, are often notable in this case. As an avid traveller and art lover, Tagore embraced all the music and compositions worldwide. He took inspiration from different western pieces of music and Indianised these tunes to compose his songs. Some of his songs have a strong influence from his contemporary time’s English, Irish, and Scottish compositions.
Tagore probably became fascinated with western music as he traveled to England for the first time in 1878. In his memoir, Jeevan Smriti explained,” I cannot claim that I have experienced the soul of European music. However, the music I experienced as an intense listener was heartfelt and attracted me immensely. I felt the music to be romantic and a melodic expression of the diversity in life.”
While some of his music compositions have been influenced by western pieces, the variety of influence is notable. In some of his compositions, Tagore only adapted the tune of a particular piece. He also adapted both the theme and the tune of western composition. On the other hand, Tagore also Indianised the beats and rhythm of western classical compositions with his twist.
Here are a few songs that come with western influence:
Inspiration: Go where glory waits thee.”
Songs: “Aha aji e basante”, “Ohe Doyamoy Nikhilo” and “Mori O Kahar Bacha”
A popular Irish folk song influences these popular Rabindra Sangeets. Tagore took inspiration from “Go where glory waits thee,” a composition of Thomas Moore.
In the case of “Aha aji e basante” ( a song for the dance drama “Mayar Khela”), Tagore also loosely adapted the theme of this popular Irish folk song. Tagore used the “Trial” in Qawali style to suit the tempo of this song.
On the other hand, for the song “Ohe doyamoy Nikhilo,” he only used the notes of “Go where the Glory Waits Thee.” He used Raag Bilawal and adapted “Kaharwa” taal to make the music melodious.
Besides that, Rabindra sangeets “Maana na manili,” “Ohe Doyamoy Nikhilo,” and “Mori O Kahar Bacha” also influenced “Go where glory waits thee.”
Inspiration: Nancy Lee
Songs: “Kali Kali Kali Blo”
This music from Balmiki Pratibha is inspired by the English song “Nancy Lee. ” Here, Tagore only adapted the tune and Indianised it. The tune and the rhythm were the same as the English music, but the context and meaning differed. The yodeling of “Nancy Lee” perfectly matched with the crowning of the “Joy joy joy joy…” in the song “Kali Kali Kali bolo” in Balmiki Pratibha.
Inspiration: Drink me only with thine eyes.”
Tagore’s compositions: “Kotobarp Vebechinu,” “Keno go se more,” “Kotha acho Probhu.”
Tagore took inspiration from another popular Scottish song named” Drink to me only with thine eyes”. This classical Scottish English song was a composition of Ben Johnson, originally a poem named “To celia”.
In Kotobaro Vebechinu”, Tagore kept the tune intact with faster beats and a faster rhythm. The essence of the song is also the same where a lover expresses their selfless love.
Both the other songs, “Keno Go se More” and “Kotha acho prabhu”, have a tune similar to “Drink me only…” and are based on ektaal for a melodic nature.
Inspiration: Auld Lang Syne
Tagore’s composition: “Purano sei diner kotha”, “Kal sokale Uthbo.”
These two popular Rabindra Sangeet also have notable Scottish music influences. Tagore was mesmerized by the Scottish song “Auld Lang Syne” and used its tune in his two Rabindra sangeets. “Auld Lang Syne ”’ is sung in a pentatonic Scots folk melody and quicker tempo.
In “purano sei diner kotha,” Tagore adapted the tune in ektaal with ¾ beats. He also adapted the theme of the original Scottish song. Because” Purano sett Diner kotha” also reminisces about the golden old days.
On the other hand, the song “Kal sokale uthbo mora” is composed on the Khemta taal, which also has the formation of 3/3/3/3 but has a different tempo.
Inspiration: Robin Adair
Tagore’s composition: Sakali Phuralo Swapno
Tagore took inspiration from the popular 18th century Irish/ Scottish song “Robin Adair “. This song, written by Lady Caroline Keppel, had written after marrying Robin Adair, British army personnel.
Tagore was deeply moved by the balladic tune of this Scottish song and adapted the tune in “Sakali Phuralo Swapono”. This song was composed for the Kaal-Mrigaya drama scene six.
He there Indianised the tune and used ektaal to suit the sad undertone of the song” Sakali Phuralo.”
Inspiration: Ye banks and braes
Tagore’s compositions: Phule Phule dhole dhole
“Ye Banks and Braes” or the “Banks O’ Doon” is a popular Scots song. Robert Burns composed this song in 1791.
Tagore here adapted the tune on the Khemta taal. His adaptation made “Phule Phule…” a wonderful song with a unique lyrical nature.
Besides these songs, Tagore was often impressed and inspired with Scottish and Irish tunes and gradually incorporated the tunes into different songs he composed. The melodic nature of such western songs helped Tagore imbibe a western and universal tune into his songs despite being rooted in Indian music.