Suman Chattyopadhaay's article which appeared at the back of
the album 'Uttaran' (1982)
More than a century ago a movement sprouted from the musically
fertile soil of Bengal. It was the movement of modern Bengali song. The great
talent of Rabindranath Tagore stood at it's fore. In accord with the nascent spirit
of Bengal modernism, Modern Bengali song was spacious enough to contain not only
the great heritage of Indian classical and Bengali Folk music, but the geographically
distant elements of western music as well. Right from it's birth the Modern Bengali
music was thus endowed with a universal character. With the passage of time this
genre of music became a true laboratory for creative and innovative artists, whose
imagination seldom knows any geographic boundary. The man whose genius and creative
energy have utilized this laboratory to a hitherto unexplored extent in our times,
is Salil Chowdhury.
In the Indian subcontinent, Salil Chowdhury is a lot more than a name. He is an
institution - an institution that has the built-in revolutionary capacity of exploring
it's own roots and thus recreating itself in conjunction with the dialectic of
time and temporality of musical idioms. A product of the Indian peoples' progressive
movement of the 40's, Salil Chowdhury emerged in the scene of Bengali music as
revolution incarnate. In his music the struggle of the toiling masses of rural
and urban Bengal found it's most potent expression- in lyric as well as in melody..
Salil was the pioneer who introduced harmony in Bengali song that imparted a new
structural and tonal dimension to his songs of human liberation and freedom sung
essntially in chorus. Yes, Salil Chowdhury's prime concern has always been man
and his society.This concern lies at the roots of the political content of his
music. It is no way an exaggeration to say that as far as Bengal is concerned,
progressive political ideology was translated into musical idioms in keeping with
the demands of our age to its most profound extent in Salil's music.The power
of musical imagination and innovative courage that were revealed in his earlier
ideological songs, are equally present in his songs of love. In orchestration
Salil Chowdhury has shown a similar level of creative vigor. In fact,his orchestration
has added a dimension so uniquely his own that it has become an integral part
of his songs. Salil's creative energy is as prolific as it is unique. There is
hardly any other contemporary composer in India who can boast of so many popular
and aesthetically successful songs.
Salil Chowdhury visited the United Sates in 1981-82. A group of singers drawn
from different organization took upon themselves the task of recording some of
Salil's songs in America under his personal guidence and this album bears a witness
to their endeavour. As far as the orchestra is concerned, it was for the first
time that mostly American musicians were utilized. It was solely due to
Salil Chowdhury's talent and capacity of unifying Indian singers with American
instrumentalists that this was possible. This unison adds a dimension which we
have hardly ever known before. This is the first album of Salil Chowdhury's songs
recorded abroad - and is therefore a very important event. Most of the songs are
sung in chorus. But Salil Chowdhury has brought forth a solo recital as well.
Interestingly enough this particular song has been composed in the United States.
Along with the songs there is a poem written and read by Salil Chowdhury. This
poem as well as the songs in the album have Salil's sense of the necessity
of the human progress and unity at its centre. Ernst Fischer, the great prograssive
thinker said : Future is the dimention that determines mankind. In Salil
Chowdhury's songs, in his lyrics as well as his tonal structure the listener is
bound to find that promise of a future toward which any sincere and humanistic
approach of art struggles forth.
This album is an honest attempt to capture the spirit of Salil Chowdhury - the
man, the poet, the composer and his socio-musical awareness.