Lindo's blog > Tagore settings, an introduction
last update: 7 July 2008
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A composer's index of those composers who used Tagore's work in their own. The majority of compositions consists of musical settings of Tagore's poems. Any addition or correction to these pages is more than welcome:

When the heart is hard and parched up,
come upon me with a shower of mercy
When grace is lost from life,
come with a burst of song

Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) is a source of inspiration to, amongst others, composers. Not only during his lifetime, but up till present, people are inspired by his personality, his ideas, his texts, his paintings and/or his music. A recent example being the energetic and optimistic YouTube video "Where the Hell is Matt (2008)", made by Matt Harding. Since it was posted end of June 2008 it was downloaded millions of times within days. It uses "Stream of Life" from Gitanjali, number 69, set to music by Garry Schyman, sung in its original Bangla. In English it starts with:

The same stream of life that runs through my
veins night and day runs through the world
and dances in rhythmic measures.

I learned of Tagore for the first time in 1981, through Zemlinsky's music. It was only in 2002 that I finally started a survey for musical settings, as well as other music, directly or indirectly inspired by Tagore. My main drive is out of curiousity as I am no musicologist. After reading "The Myriad-minded man", the Tagore biography by Krishna Dutta and Andrew Robinson (1985) I was especially triggered by the description that Janáček gave of Tagore's visit to Prague in 1921 (page 233).

Since, I have already traced composers. One of them is Tagore himself, but the significant number of settings of his own work still have to be presented. I have planned a separate page for them In the near future. The index has been made by using internet, mainly by searching with Google. Off-line sources have to be explored yet. There are two persons that I know of, who have made Tagore settings subject of their studies. One of them is Rokus de Groot (University of Amsterdam), also present in this index as a composer, and Carlo Coppola (University of Oakland), professor of literature.

During Tagore's many, many travels he has met many kinds of people and has discussed with and/or influenced many, amongst them world leaders, writers, artists, kings, politicians, industrials, scientists, philosophers. Famous are for instance his conversations with Einstein, which were recorded and transcripted.

Tagore's ideas are as vivid as can be, strongly humanitarian, universalistic, a solid bridge between Eastern and Western culture, a true "uomo universale". But for sure not an easy bridge to grasp or to interprete.

By the end of 2001, the copyrights ended for Tagore's works. It is to be expected that his works will be more easily available, freshly translated into other languages. See Yahoo!News 4 January 2002, and the Wiener Zeitung, 8 January 2002.

Tagore has had a strong influence, both direct and indirect, on many kind of subjects:
  • in 1913 Tagore received the Nobel prize for literature, being the first non Westerner, profoundly influencing people like Yeats, Gide, Wells, Hesse, Pound, Russel and many others
  • India's national anthem, Jana Gana Mana, was composed in 1911 by Tagore for the Calcutta session of the Indian National Congress. His compositions (>2500) are still very popular in the Bengali world. Many Indian films feature his songs. Bangladesh's national anthem is also based on his work, on the song Amar Sonar Bangla, prepared and arranged by Samar Das (1929-2001).
  • Visva-Bharati, the university Tagore founded in Shantiniketan, is based on his ideas on multicultural education. The grandfather of Amartya Sen (Nobel laureate in economics 1998) was the nucleus around which this university was formed. Famous alumni from Visva-Bharati are Indira Gandhi and the filmer Satyajit Ray.
  • His ideas played an important factor in the forming of an independant India, counter balancing Mahatma Gandhi's ideas. Mahatma was the name Gandhi was greeted by Tagore.
  • Quite a number of present day celebrities use Tagore's words for inspiration. See e.g. Martin Sheen, reading "My country awake", which he learned when filming "Gandhi", in 1981. He is reciting these words from Tagore on many occasions, like The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, on 16 August 2002.
  • Tagore and film, see IMDb

in Shantiniketan, 1938/39
with an unknown boy
(Sambhu Shaha)

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