The saints of the Bhakti tradition in Maharashtra taught us a very crucial lesson- that utmost sincerity in everything you do as part of your everyday life, equals serving God. It did not matter if you were a scholar, a gardener, an ascetic or a tailor, as long as you were compassionate to your fellow men.
Sant Tukaram. iloveindia
This essence has been captured in many works of poetry by these saints, and has been disseminated to the masses through the medium of their devotional songs, or Abhangas.
While Abhangas are traditionally sung to some specific tunes, a new creed of musicians have been reinventing the genre.
The YouTube channel Bharatiya Digital Party, or BhaDiPa, reached out to these artistes and created Santawaani - a series of performances combining the traditional Abhanga with western elements, to create music for the millennial soul.
Planned and executed over a short fortnight, Santawaani by Lokmat is directed by Sarang Sathaye of BhaDiPa.
“The aim of abhangas was to bring about spiritual enlightenment and social upliftment. It is inspired art. A lot of indie musicians also create music with the same purpose.”
About creating Abhanga-fusion, Sarang added, “Abhangas are often set to classical music which limits their appeal with younger audiences. Santawaani is our effort to re-create the folksy charm of live-performed abhangas with the energy of more popular forms of music.”
Reacho spoke to the talented performers for this edition of Music Diaries.
Abhanga Repost is a band that exclusively performs abhangas, with a more contemporary touch. Swapnil Tarphe, the bass guitarist for Abhanga Repost, told Reacho,
Abhangas carry meaningful messages about how to live a happy and fulfilling life. Not many youngsters listen to them in their original form. We believe giving them a more modern vibe would make them more popular with people of our generation.
Abhanga Repost also incorporates Hindi lyrics, reminiscent of North Indian bhajan mandalis of a bygone time, for non-Marathi speakers to also appreciate their music.
For Soham Pathak of The Soham Pathak Project, abhanga fusion comes more spontaneously.
“Music is just another form of worship. It does not matter if it is rock or EDM or Hindustani, as long as it comes from the heart.”
For Soham, his tryst with Abhangas came when he discovered Bhakti poetry a few years ago.
The wealth of meaning in these Abhangas makes them so much more relevant for the modern times. We are becoming increasingly self-obsessed, but also increasingly lonely. Youngsters need to be conveyed the wisdom of the Bhakti saints, but we also like our music peppy and upbeat.
Hrishikesh Datar, of the band Hrishikesh Saurabh Jasraj, also believes that more and more people need to appreciate Abhangas.
The band has composed music for several films, and their album for 2016 Marathi film YZ also includes an Abhanga, originally composed by Sant Tukaram.
More traditional in their approach, Hrishikesh says they preserve the original tune and feel of the Abhanga - complete with the gentle clinking of the cymbals and energetic rhythm of the tabla - simply rendering it as contemporary artists.
What do people have to say about their experiment?
“We have not faced any resistance from the musical community for our brand of Abhangas”, says Hrishikesh. Soham adds, “Renowned musicians and kirtankars who have heard my compositions say that music with a soul never sounds odd, or out of place.”
“Some people disapprove of what they see as corruption of the traditional form. But eventually, Abhangas are more about the message they convey, than the artistic medium which is used. And as long as that message gets across, we will continue to create this music!", adds Swapnil on a parting note.
Can Marathi poetry have a universal appeal?
“Our immediate priority is to get Marathi-speaking audiences hooked. Translations that do justice to these compositions will soon follow. In fact, viewers themselves can offer translations in other languages which will help Bhakti poetry and music enrich more lives”, says Sarang.
You can check out other editions of the mellifluous BhaDiPa Music Diaries here.