Manna Dey, 1919-2013.
I promised to write one more article on Manna Dey, Bengali-Indian musician, who passed away just a week ago.
If you have time, you can read the two previous articles I posted in the last few days. Here is the link.
I’m not sure how many of my global readers actually have the desire to read a third article on an artist they don’t know anything about. In this so-called globalized society, where people from various parts of the world should know more about other countries, other cultures, other religions and various aspects of life, only a particular brand of news is getting across — via corporate media — and news not conforming to that corporate model are falling through the cracks. Nobody knows what languages South Indians or Central Africans speak. Nobody knows what is the staple food in Mongolia or Mali. Nobody knows what is the November weather like in Sumatra, Suriname or Slovania.
Worse, nobody even cares to know, unless it’s got something to do with their own lives. Knowing the unknown does not matter.
Yet, I can’t help but talk about my own language, my own music, my own culture and my own traditions, beliefs and likes and dislikes. And going against the grain, I even try to analyze why I like and dislike. My hope is that some people would read what I have to say, and find some type of a common thread across their likes and dislikes with mine.
That is the bridge building I’m trying to achieve. It does not matter if I live in New York or Calcutta, and you live in Paris or London, Prague or Lima, Lisbon or Perth.
My hope is that even with your different language, lifestyle and cultural experience, you’ll be able to understand mine. You’ll understand the examples I’m using below to illustrate Manna Dey’s magic.
I won’t say much. I’m putting together a VERY short list of songs the just-passed artiste recorded throughout his long life. This is only a few out of his 3,500 recorded songs in scores of languages. I invite you to listen to them by clicking on the link, and see for yourself if the melody, or the fun, or the theatrics, or the voice modulation, or the romance touches you.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YFeoINyGpVM (Bengali film song, starring Soumitra Chatterjee of Apu Trilogy fame and Tanuja)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hw46YMgFmBY (Hindi film song, one that made Bollywood superstar Rajesh Khanna a household name)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FU0a7GiOSl0 (Bengali non-film song sung in his early years)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5IVxIRjHsr4 (simple, romance song sung in his early years)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TUuxvHDD9as (Hindi film song, tuned after a famous Nazrul Islam)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7KIcWTV3MME (Bollywood song that literally made Amitabh Bachchan a superstar in the 70s — ignore the typical idiosyncrasy in the movie sequence)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CLMq-7NjVnQ (fun song from a 70s Bengali movie)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vdngJcVmYuQ (Bengali “rap” — theatrical, extempo duel between country bards — from film on poet Anthony)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UAonRE251pU (Manna Dey sings a rare, Bengali boatmen’s song, tuned by another genius Salil Chowdhury)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AuEXFl2pPYg (one of my favorite Bengali non-film hits)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SuWHnxoQHok (a famous D. L. Roy song)
If you like even a couple of these Bengali or Hindi songs, even without understanding the meaning, it would mean a lot to me. It would mean that music does not need a language, and it transcends the human mind — across the globe.
I’ve always believed in the universality of art, literature, music and culture.
Thank you for listening.
Brooklyn, New York
Manna Dey, 1919-2013.