Sheer Melody

A mole's eye-view of the Cosmos


The last few days have been spent re-discovering my roots. By roots, I would clarify – my innate Bengali roots. And in the process of doing so, I realized that, all said and done, I owe my musical upbringing to my father, more than anyone else in this whole wide world.

The story goes thus:
When I was little (I don’t remember how little, of course); my dad used to play these few cassettes, out of which, I felt, a few stood out. And in them, were these recordings of patriotic songs by Calcutta Youth Choir, musically directed and arranged by Salil Chowdhury. Of course, there were other albums which I listened to over and over again; most prominently, Richard Clayderman In concert, Music of an Arabian Night by Ron Goodwin, and of course, The ultimate classical collection. The last three are musical genres which most people would be familiar with, if not in love with. However, I have spent the last couple of weeks, exploring, re-discovering and realizing the amazing genius of Salil Chowdhury.

It all started in Tokyo, as I was surfing the net till the wee hours of the morning, when I stumbled upon this site:, and I realized the treasures which it contained. The song I started with is called O Alor PathaJatri, a choral song about new beginnings and a time of hope. I don’t remember exactly when it was written or what the basis of the lyrics are (they are a bit too profound for my limited Bengali knowledge); but the moment I listened to it, I fell in love with it all over again. Harmony, melody and orchestration is molded together in a tapestry which is tough to comprehend at times, but which endears itself to you, whatever your language is, whatever your musical tastes are.

Salil Chowdhury was a musician, deft in both Indian and Western Classical (as were his contemporaries); but what irks me is the fact that politics in the Indian Music Fraternity at the time when he was at his best never let him reach the heights of popularity that he should have. Then again, his music was never really popular music. At some level, you probably really need to appreciate the subtle intermingling of harmony and melody to appreciate music of that kind. Melody is something that seems of little importance nowadays, as is evident from the kind of popularity a monkey like Himesh Reshmiyaa enjoys; and I guess this post does not make sense in these troubled times.

The only thing that does make sense is that, at some level we all want our music to be affectionate, understanding, and most of all, we want it to make us smile. Salil Chowdhury’s music has done that and much more for me over the past few days. I hope to keep rediscovering new joys in his compositions. The site is vast, and I have just about managed to go through half of it. Later posts will deal with individual musical compositions, and their innate beauty…

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