Changing Values

Chorus, Mass Song, Band Song

Debasish Paul

The correlation of culture and socio-political reality is an area of research studies. Indian People's Theatre Movement (IPTA), the cultural wing of Leftist Movement in India inspired a large number of talented singers, actors, dancers. Prominent members of Bengali culture, all of urban origin were Suchitra Mitra, Hemanta Mukherjee, Debabrata Biswas, Salil Chowdhury in music domain were perfoiming Mass Songs in street corners, communist party meetings from cities to suburbs as well villages.

Initial chorus songs were performed in India and all other countries in Temples, Churches and the like holy shrines as Kirton & Carrol and its variants as a mode of prayer to God. It happened to music and songs coming out of temples to the market place for livelihood for singers and profit for organizers of music functions. Invention of recording completed songs into mass produced commodities. But it also made music reachable to wider geographical and economic domains. Mass songs of Salil Chowdhury were recorded and reached to the wider audience as Gramophone Records and damn cheap Cassettes in subsequent years. Recent digital recording, because of its easy copying facility, low input and copying cost has led to easy mass copying or Piracy, has however dealt a reverse blow threatening to damage all musicians and the recording industry from producers to sellers at large.

Music and song of every community have become product of existing human values as well the transforming values of the communities so as to endorse contemporary & changing mode of production. Culture is the superstructure which conforms to the existing mode of production.

Like mother upbringing her child, in the name of Mixed Economy, the 1947 onward independent India government has taken care of growth of private Capitalist enterprises. Now the tragedy lies here that once grown up under protective Baby Industry affectionate care by the state, now India has become the crudest form of Capitalist state. The result is that the largest number of malnourished people of the Earth live in India and of top most ten richest people on Earth—a number of Indians belong to the Roll of Honour! What can be more revealing than this about increasing income inequality?

With change in economic structure, the culture is bound to change. It appears painful and ridiculous that for erosion of left politics in Bengal whose breeding ground was college and university campuses, the students are now most averse, in absence of any idealistic figure, to politics of commitment of welfare to the masses who are deprived of all the economic growth after independence of India.

The IPTA had done a great historical job. While the theory of Communism was not understandable to the mass because the writings of Karl Marx in Das Kapital was rigorously academic; it needed an academic interest and basic training in Economics to read his writings. As against that, Communist Manifesto jointly written by Marx & Engels had more lucidity to common people, for which it was consciously designed in order to propound the concept of Communism to the masses.

But IPTA went a few steps further and closer to people further by performing arts especially song, dance and drama. In order to involve people to sing along though lacking formal training in music, it was very innovative style that songs were composed and tuned for chorus performance.

In fact the initial phase of IPTA was forming a group for taking songs to road where sun burnt people in majority work. There was also a twist in the strategy for popularizing the ideas of Communism, popular artists who already were famous, formed troupes of Mass Song, people quickly accepted their chorus conveying ideals of Communism. Versatile composers like Salil Chowdhury was writing excellent lyrics with equally melodious tune, the circle was complete for music and ideological publicity.

A golden period of Bengali Mass Songs was those IPTA days when all these musically talented people churned out the best compositions of Salil Chowdhury. It was very much unfortunate that these creative genius had conflict with political high command of Indian Communist movement as these talented performers instead of bowing down to the dictates of high command preferred their creative genius to deliver an unhindered flow of musical compositions and deliverance. A period started when essence of Mass Song was delivered in solo performance.

The solo compositions of Salil Chowdhury sung alone by Hemanta Mukherjee became great hits still conveying the respect of toiling mass and enlightened middle class . Songs like 'Gayer Bondhu'(A Village Bride), 'Runner'(postal employee who runs in night into remote places carrying mails along with Money Orders)former written as lyric by Salil and later as poem by Sukanta Bhattacharya were given musical tune by all rounder Salil Chowdhury, -but these were solo performances of Hemanta Mukherjee.

The arrival of sound recording on discs by His Master’s Voice Company in Calcutta was like printing of books which conveys knowledge, message and entertainment. One after another talented artists like Salil, Hemanta, Suchitra and Debabrata were compelled to leave IPTA in order to express their talents in unhindered manner. Mass along with solo songs started longer journey far away from Calcutta reaching wider audience through mechanical turntable and Megaphone through Gramophone records. Radio also spread good songs initially having limited reach for Valve Sets demanded electricity until invention of Transistors solved the problem being run by batteries.

Initiated successfully and flourished onward upto seventies and early eighties, the popular Bengali light songs under contributions of music composers Rabindranath Tagore, Kazi Nazrul, Raichand Boral, Salil Chowdhury, Hemanta Mukhopadhyay, Sudhin Dasgupta, Nachiketa Ghosh, Anal Chattopadhyay, Sailen Mukhopadhyay, Nita Sen, Aparesh Lahiri, Bappi Lahiri, Bireswar Sarkar etc.

But confronted mainly by growingly popular Hindi film songs both having great composers like Hemanta Mukhopadhyay, Salil Chowdhury, Sachin Deb Barman, Naushad, Rahul Deb Barman, Bappi Lahiri coupled with intense performance by Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosley, Mahammad Rafi, Mukesh as major artists and transition of Bengali middle class to English medium schooling at the received end, Bengali Light songs were going into oblivion in particular to current generation in their teen ages.

But in 1992 HMV Music cassettes of singer Suman Chattopadhyay came up with immensely powerful lyric related to contemporary reality, the critical anecdotes on power corrupted left wing politics even though cashing on socialistic dreams. Singer Nachiketa Chakrovorty came with similar and powerful musical endowments both in composing realistic lyric and tunes. Both became instant hit performers of their own compositions to the Bengali listeners of all ages. They carried forward social commitments of Mass Songs though delivered in solo performance.

In close hills Bangla Bands were born namely Bhumi, Fossil, Chandrabindu, Laksmichara, Cactus and some others. On primary observation, the latest Bengali musical delivery mode 'Band' is also group performance like Chorus which has the following attributes:
1.    Funny /Frivolous lyric with an attempt to imitate Sukumar Roy's Nonsense Rhymes.
2.   High decibel music with music track monitor Graphic Equalizer.
3.   Psychodelic Light that swings synchronizing the music delivery spreading over and across the audience, in
the most college campuses' student cultural functions.

Bangla Band has won over the students in all academic campuses not only in cities but also beyond city limits to moffussil and village areas which have seen emergence of Engineering and Management colleges at district level after birth of WBUT whose only aim was to promote privatization of Professional degree courses compromising with quality at any terms with profit mongers.

The first and foremost attributes of these Band Songs are that these are all foot tapping numbers, which were never earlier available in Bengali songs. So a kind of euphoria is injected by Band Songs into mind what can be done by Psychedelic drugs which are fortified opium. These dances provide students to make physical intimacy in the permissive environment of college fests by loud announcement from stage,—'Enjoy, enjoy &enjoy'. Physical intimacy releases sex hormones, which is profusely present in teen ages to which most students belong. Tracks of Band Songs give musical opportunity of physical intimacy encouraged by college authorities having institutes in remote places selling costly degrees.

Five star hotels which have Dance Floors are beyond the reach of most students coming from Middle and upper Middle class. But Bangla Bands are providing five star open man-woman love Dove intimacy in the college premises to all students irrespective of their class origin and status. 'Times of India' in its publication of research findings has reported the scientific discovery that when a man falls in love/does sex, -the other centres of Brain which provide ability of rational judgment becomes inoperative. Hence it is called love is blind.

For present generation of college students, Left politics is a passé for degeneration of Left who came to power and started making money. So to now a days’ students Communists are opportunists. What poet Sukanta wrote that ‘Eighteen years of age is when desperateness to uplift the society comes’. Or in a recent call by Kabir Suman in his song saying, ‘Let us sing that song, we do not need bomb but food for everyone’. Let there be a chorus today for distributive justice. But is anyone listening?

While students shunned progressive outlook, it was opportune moment for entry of selfishness which conforms best to interest of market economy. In an achievement oriented society, interpersonal alienation is promoted by greed and jealousy, being both sides of the same coin. Moreover pre-marital sex is a strong alienating factor because physical sex is still not done in public presence in India as in academic campus of USA.

More and more the potent anti-establishment force to social change, Sukanta perceived eighteen age crusaders, but these students are sex-charged by the corrupt ruling class and their age wise broader committed involvement in progressive politics is reduced to sexual intimacy and injecting in them inhumanity to neglect the communities of their country living in chill penury a little away beyond the campus.

One Day Cricket(ODC), commercial films are opium of the Indian masses including students. The new factor of entertainment,—the crazy /intriguing Bands have alienated students further from positive political activity for long years aimed against the establishment who wanted to reverse it.

It is remarkable that just of late the social activists performing the appropriate role of Civil Society as whistle blowers against totally corrupt ruling class named ‘India Against Corruption’ (IAC) people find the septuagenarian Anna Hazare, the middle aged activist turned politician Arvind Kejrial but the student community is conspicuously absent.

This theoretical analysis of changing value and moral of chorus is not intended to malign Band Singing but is an attempt to relate it to contemporary reality. In age of Liberalisation, Privatisation and Globalisation (LPG), value judgement of the youth is bound to change. Because economic structure is very active to sponsor or endorse the complementary superstructure in order to mould people to be loyal to corporate business which flourishes under bourgeois economic order. Socialism is dead, long live Capitalism if it can overcome global crisis since 2008!

It is not only by economic imperialism but USA has ruled the earth by cultural imperialism. What is explicit in 007 Bond films is making mindset individualist and opposed to Socialism as required by American Capitalist hegemony. Through Hollywood film propagated sex and violence charged culture, what was global has become local.

Apparent primary motive of new generation Band song is quick money and fame, hidden agenda is serving the interest of GLOCAL Capitalist order in emerging India catering a sex charged chorus in the campus. Making Mass Song a passé.

Vol. 47, No. 37, Mar 22 - 28, 2015