Friday, March 27, 2009

Whose Song is This?

A few months back, one Sunday morning, I was channel-surfing, and caught this documentary showing in NDTV (they have this Documentary@24X7 program aired every Sunday around 11 or so). The original name of the film was "Cia e tazi pesen ?" which means "Whose is this song ?" made by one Bulgarian lady named Adela Peeva. The documentary was in Bulgarian, subtitle was on.

Adela once heard one song being sung in some restaurant in Sophia, and her friends, who were all from different but neighboring countries, claimed the original song is from their country. Original song here means the original tune, because, in different versions the song has completely different lyrics, ranging from romantic to patriotic, of course in the language of that country. So our director became very interested and started her journey across the region to find out what is the actual origin of this song.

Now the region we are talking about is known as the Balkans, comprising countries like Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria, parts of Turkey, some not-so-known names like Macedonia, Albania and some known-for-wrong-reasons names like Bosnia and Kosovo. All these countries have shared histories, ethnic groups like Serbs, Slavs and Turks spread around the region, dominated by religions like Eastern Orthodox Christianity, Roman Catholic Christianity and Islam. At some point of time or other all were ruled by Greeks and some other point they were part of the Turkish empire.

Unfortunately, people do not see this as some kind of beautiful cultural harmony among themselves. The recent history is full of wars, ethnic violence, genocide and border tensions. All of us heard about Bosnia and Kosovo.

All this made the documentary rather interesting. Which was just a song, became some kind of national pride especially when confronted with the claim that the neighbors say it is their song.

How can they!! We have heard this song in our childhood.

My great-great-grandmother knew this song.

Don't listen to those people. They are nothing but thieves. After looting our country, now they want to steal our culture too!!!

These were some of the reactions which Adela heard when she went to people with her tape-recorder. At times, the situation became really heated as you can imagine.

I found this trailer in youtube which gives you an idea what I am talking about. Have a look (or click here to view in youtube).

You can also see the full movie in Google Video (here).

In the end, the search remained inconclusive. There is no definite answer. But as you can guess, that was not the point. The point is people are much more closer to each other than they would like to believe.

As much as we hate some people or denounce their contribution, the fact remains, our culture, tradition, art, all are product of a collective effort and that makes it so rich. We fight endlessly on who created this and that, overlooking the beauty of the creation in the first place and how can we share it better among ourselves.

Now, the most interesting part (at least from my point of view). What really got me hooked to film, is that I have heard this tune before. In a Bengali song!! A very well-known at that. So now... it is my chance to claim this song...

If you are a bong and seen the trailer above, you must have guessed which song I'm talking about. It is "Shukno Patar Nupur Paye" by Kazi Nazrul Islam. Check out the song at youtube in this link. I had an mp3 from but the site is not opening anymore.

Although for bengalis, the name Nazrul does not need any introduction, others will do well to click the link. Nazrul can be termed as the most popular Bengali poet/song-writer after Tagore. Having a very large body of work (poetry, song, essay, novels), it is mainly his songs (known as Nazrul-Geeti) which have endured the test of time. Nazrul is known for introducing Arabic and Persian influence in his poetry and music. He is considered the pioneer in this regard.

We can guess, he picked up the tune for this particular song, during his posting in Karachi for the British-Indian Army, where he studied Persian (Farsi), met people from various countries, especially middle-east. Maybe some Turkish soldier sang this song one night at the camp-fire and Nazrul was hooked to the beautiful rhythm. We can only imagine.

So, along with Adela Peeva, I had my tiny part in this journey, which started in the mountains of Balkans and via Karachi, ended up in my doorstep. Who would've thought!! "Yeh duniya badi gol hai", that's what I can say at the end... :)

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  1. Gr8 man!!!!!!! How can a patriotic song be love song for one nation and National Anthem for other... They share so similar Culture and still so unaware... Only thing i can say is we all are somewhere so similar it's really tough for us to find the exact origin of certain things whether it be song, food or culture...

  2. Yes, that's the point...

    And this is so true for countries like us which has a really long history and which is so unique and so diverse at the same time... We should and must remember this common thread and cherish it... especially in times like this...