Home > Digital Library > Index of Newsletters > Vol. II No. 2 July - September 1994

BOOK REVIEW

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Thirty Songs from the Punjab and Kashmir

Translators: Ratan Devi and Ananda K. Coomaraswmay Edited by: Prem Lata Sharma; Foreword: Kapila Vatsyayan Co-published by IGNCA and Sterling Publishers Pvt. Ltd., L-10, Green Park Extension, New Delhi - 110 016,

1994; pp.xv+177; Price Rs. 500.

 

This edition of the original book, first published by Luzac & Novello, in London in 1913, has been prepared for students of Indian music and literature. Care has been taken to give access to an international audience by comments on the text, raga and tala of the songs and by translation of these songs into English.

To make the work contemporary, the book has been divided into two parts. The first part of the book reproduces the original edition and is a faithful reproduction of the same. In fact, even the old spellings are left intact as well as a few obvious mistakes. AS in the original, there is an Introduction and translation of songs by Ananda Coomaraswamy and a Foreword by Rabindranath Tagore. The second part contains the additional commentary and transcription. Prof. Prem Lata Sharma, an eminent musicologist, has very painstakingly prepared the second part by transcribing the music from staff notation to Sarigama notations in Devanagari, providing Hindi translation of song-texts couched in languages other than Hindi. Besides, she has given notes on the raga, tala and text of songs when necessary in Hindi and English in order to reach a wider audience. She has also contributed a detailed introductory Note to this compilation. Hence, this volume preserves the historicity of the songs and has made accessible to the student of Hindustani Music.

This volume is the eighth in the series of the collected works of Anada K. Coomaraswamy in IGNCA’s publications programme. The songs were recorded in 1911 by Mrs. Alice Coomaraswamy, who used the Indian name Ratan Devi professionally, when she stayed in a houseboat in Srinagar, Kashmir, along-with Ustad Abdul Rahim of Kapurthala under whom she studied music and did riyaz.

It is the genius of Ananda Coomaraswamy that brings together classical, semi-classical and folksongs in this volume. For him, music is the greatest aesthetic achievement of Indian civilization and an art in which our civilization has most perfectly expressed itself. Fortunately, his fears in 1912, that the future of Indian music may be in peril before the "brass-bands of modern western commerce" has remained unfulfilled. The inherent strength and popularity of Indian music is evident through its young artistes and easy availability of their excellent audiotapes and compact discs. Knowledge and appreciation of Indian dhvani also grows in the Western world as its spiritual and recuperative powers are being readily realized.

The linguistic diversity of the song-texts in this volume is overwhelming. It ranges from Dogari and Punjabi to Kashmiri and Persian. This compilation is also unique, since puts together songs of various levels of creativity – classical genres are represented by Dhrupad, Dhamar and Khyal, semi-classical by Thumri, Ghazals and Qawwalis and the remaining are folksongs. Some song-texts have been compiled without notation, treating them as pieces of poetry. This material is invaluable for research from various angles, such as spiritual and mythological content in Hindu and Sufi traditions, national integration, local imagery, etc. Bringing together under one fold all this material, endowed with rich variety of form and content, lends uniqueness to this publication. Excepting Kashmiri and Persian songs, the source of all the musical examples has been Abdul Rahim of Kapurthala (Punjab). Being a State musician, he must have attained a reasonably high stature in his musical knowledge and skills.

It is hoped that this volume will inspire a large number of such publications in the future.

Neena Ranjan

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