A Delhi-based singer and lyricist has found a unique way of reviving Hindi literature among young people. Chinmayi Tripathi (27), a trained classical singer, has launched The Music & Poetry Project—an album that turns timeless poetry by Hindi literature’s most eminent poets into tracks.
Her album comprises poems by legendary poets including Ramdhari Singh Dinkar, Harivash Rai Bachchan, Nirala, Mahadevi Verma, Anamika, Dharmaveer Bharti, Shivmangal Singh Suman, Bhavani Prasad Mishra and Maithili Sharan Gupt. The album was produced by a crowdfunding campaign, and it also features songs by some popular independent artists such as Baiju Dharmajan, Madhu Mukherjee, Tapas Roy and Joell Mukherjee. The album also has a recital in addition to the songs by Piyush Mishra.
Speaking to Guardian 20 about how the project was conceived, Tripathi recounted, “It was last year, summer, when I was chilling with my friends in Cyber Hub. It was one of those conversations in which everyone has an expert opinion about the arts. Someone mentioned how come there are no other ancient or modern poets who have become a cult, like Kabir, and whose work has led to experimentation with music. Then someone mentioned ‘Nirala’ and one of my friends said, ‘Who?’ We all laughed then, but on my way back I started thinking how I used to love reading the poetry of Bachchan, Mahadevi Verma and Nirala while in school and how I have become distant from it in the mad rush of life. That’s when I thought if I could compose some of the poems by my favourite poets into songs, and could sing them, it would be really cool.”
Coming from a literary background—her father being a Sanskrit scholar and mother a Hindi teacher—Tripathi started learning Hindustani classical music under the tutelage of Dr Alakh Nanda Palnitkar, the head of the Department of Music at Sagar University in Sagar, Madhya Pradesh at a young age.
She has recently released the first song “Khushgappiyan” from the album and is quite overwhelmed by the responses she has been getting.
She told us, “I’m truly overwhelmed that so many people have liked the song. I’m quite happy with the way the song has shaped up and also the kind of response I’m seeing at live events through performance are beyond expectations. Many people have come back saying that the song has made them relive their memories of their hometown and childhood.”
The young singer also talks about the possibility of transforming the album into a music festival and of turning the poems into multiple languages into songs.
“However, I still see this as a starting point for me; I want to do a lot more as a part of this project. Over a period of time, there can be various artistes and collaborations under it. There can be the poetry of diverse languages—English Urdu, or other Indian languages. It can also shape up as a music festival in the future.”
Though it took her some time to get rid of her apprehensions with regard to revamping the classics, and the extra responsibility that comes along, Tripathi managed to follow her instincts and started composing music for them.
She recalls, “I was petrified. Because you cannot spoil an existing piece of a poem that is so beautiful, and that has been written by such legendary poets. It took me some time to get over this thought and start composing by following my own instinct.”
Tripathi, who has been a part of a fusion band based out of Delhi—Spice Route—has been writing and composing her own songs for the past three years.
Ask her about the need for popularising Hindi poems, and she explains, “We often hear that our popular and mainstream music has really awful lyrics, barring a few exceptions. Most people nowadays only read over the Internet, and have lost the interest and patience to read books and especially literature. Therefore poetry is disappearing from our busy lives. I thought what if I were to compose some of the poems into songs? It seemed a great way to bring these poems back into circulation through music. Then I started reading poetry from the point of view of music and got really excited as there are so many beautiful poems written decades ago but are extremely relevant today. I thought they could be seamlessly composed into songs. That’s when I decided to do an album based on the timeless poetry of some of the great poets of Hindi literature.”
Tripathi, who feels it is a great time to reinvent our own aesthetics with a modern outlook, emphasises that the younger generation is more keen to learn about Indian music and literature.
She says, “I think we are at an interesting juncture where we have explored the West, in all its good and bad aspects, and we are now realising the strength of our own roots and trying to reconnect with them. In my experience, the younger generation is interested to know more, learn more about our own music and literature as long as it is not obsolete and is relevant to our sensibilities.”
The singer and composer is also the founder of Songdew.com, a platform that promotes independent music. With over 25000+ artists and bands, it is one of the largest online music communities in India. Offering opportunities from organising unique collaborations to licensing and media promotion, Tripathi’s project aims to support independent musicians through a mobile app and through Songdew TV.
About the independent music scene in India and the challenges she has had to face in it, Tripathi says, “It’s a highly unorganised sector, and record labels do not do enough to discover and promote independent artists. So, it’s a struggle for any new artist or band to make a mark, and start doing events to make a living out of it. I faced the same problems. It takes few years to establish yourself and create your own audience.”