Recorded at Sambalpur’s All India Radio station some 40 years ago, the charm of ‘Rangabati’ song seems unwavering with no signs of it fading away from the popular consciousness anytime in the future. In Odisha where no musical night or a marriage procession is complete without people dancing to its tune, this song, in fact, had raced ahead of its time to become ‘viral’ even when there was no concept of social media.Though the song found itself entangled in a controversy over copyright issues between the original makers and Sona Mohapatra’s re-rendition of this timeless classic at MTV’s Coke Studio, it has only remarkably emerged from the mire with its popularity notching up even further; more with the Gen Y this time.
Originating in the 1970s, this cult song however has a flip narration to its path breaking journey in the history of Odisha’s folk music. Even as the song went on to become a legend, its makers, especially its singers, who breathed life into the composition never got to enjoy the fame and fortune of the song as much as the song itself.
Amidst the debate where youngsters cannot just stop crooning and grooving to the latest remix version of the song and the old timers crying sacrilege over fiddling with the original folk tune of the song; the singers of this classic melody – Jitendra Haripal and Krishna Patel -are in an aggrieved state of penury and still awaiting their due recognition as the original creators of the song.
Despite the immense popularity of the song and the ensuing debate that it sparked over its repackaging, 68-year-old singer Jitendra Haripal spoke to My City Links about how he has been trying to find his place in the midst of court cases and other issues that have arisen concerning his ‘Rangabati’.
“Seems like the song had a destiny of its own, but not us,” said the hurt singer while reflecting over the paradox that binds the fate of the song and the singer. He told us how the song has sustained its essence even though it has been a bumpy ride from the time it was conceptualised.
First written by Mitrabhanu Gauntia and the then composer of AIR, Sambalpur, Pradip Patra, Haripal said that he and his co-singer Krishna Patel were supposed to lend their voice to the lyrics. But it so turned out that he ended up recomposing the song altogether which was appreciated, leading to the recording of the first version of the song.
Thereafter, as the song continued gaining popularity, it also attracted some legal battles over its rightful ownership. Nonetheless, the song’s status remained unblemished even when its singer lost everything that he had to penury as a result of the financial and mentally draining court matters. His claims still lie unresolved in the courts of law.
As he sat through the conversation, his eyes reflected a sadness that spoke volumes about his hurt as those who wanted to encash upon the popularity of ‘Rangabati’ never spared a thought about consulting him.
“I do not believe in art politics. I am more than happy to see Sona (Mohapatra) or Nila Madhab Panda taking this classic to an all new level. But modifying it without the consent of the original singers is completely unacceptable. They say they did seek permission of those involved in the making- then I being one of them, why was I not consulted? The others seem to be making money from it. Why do I have to undergo this?” said the visibly upset Haripal.
He was vehement in his disagreement that the Coke Studio’s version has done much to popularise “Rangabati”. Instead he feels that the soul and energy of the song had already captured the listeners’ imagination for 40 long years and was still holding its identity.
Undoubtedly, he is happy about the fact that the contemporary artistes and youth are loving the song and the earthy rhythms of Sambalpuri folk music’s ‘dhol, nisan, jhaj, muhuri’ have captivated the rock music-bred youth. But Haripal consistently maintains his annoyance over the tampering of the originality of the song with Western beats.
However, notwithstanding all the disagreements over the new adaptations of the timeless beauty of ‘Rangabati’, a young debutant director Raj Rajesh has recently taken a novel initiative to trace the history behind this enduring melody, with support from Prelude, one of the most renowned media and communication companies in Odisha.
Rajesh has directed a short documentary titled as “Endless Journey of a Song…Rangabati”, which showcases the circumstances and challenges under which the song was made featuring the original singers along with other musicians and singers who have recently made the remix versions of the song popular in the national music scenario.
The documentary was recently screened exclusively for the media at the Press Club of Odisha in the capital on October 1st . Reiterating the intention behind the initiative, co-founder of Prelude, Satyabrata Ratho said, “In this era of social media, the new age artists have taken the music industry by storm and cover versions of this song are hugely popular amongst the youth. But let us not forget the original singers and composers who made this song in the first place. Through this documentary, we hope to let today’s generation know about the rich history of our folk music that inspires the latest music trends.”
The screening also witnessed Jitendra Haripal being felicitated for his extraordinary contribution to Odia folk music in the presence of the Ollywood fraternity and media.
Here’s the amazing documentary showcasing the ‘Endless journey of Rangabati’