A few days ago, I saw my News Feed flooded with posts with Oriya people, about something that happened in Orissa.
Now, this is rare.
If I had to draw a venn diagram of my life, social networking and youtube and internet would be three coinciding circles. If I turn the page over, my home state Orissa would be sitting idle.
It’s like a double life I’m leading.
And it is something that I have felt right from childhood. Since I didn’t study in Orissa, I realised it is never mentioned anywhere. It was almost a Hogwarts-ish place that only appeared during Summer Holidays. Or if a teacher found two of us Oriya guys pinching each other during the prayer session and resorted to a lazy comment such as ‘Aye, you Oriya rowdies. Shut up and keep quiet!’.
However, the last two days have been different. Thanks to Sona Mohapatra’s rendition of ‘Rangabati O Rangabati’ on Coke Studio.
Now, let me set a little context here.
Rangabati is not just another song. It has folk roots. But most of my generation in Orissa came across the song during drunken nights on a baaraat.
For someone who is very conscious of how he dances, Baaraats opened the floodgates into the world of wet streets and slithery naagins. Of a random stranger tapping me on the shoulder and communicating in that unique code that only another drunk can understand, the words ‘Kaho Na Pyar Hai’. And then, with gay abandon, I turn around and return the compliment with that step that the Bournvita-drinking superhero immortalised – ‘Kaha Na Pyar Hai’.
Baaraats made me realise that it is all OK.
It is OK to slip and fall. There’ll always be someone to lend you a hand to stand back up on your feet. (Else, you better do it quickly, or else those guys carrying tube lights on their heads will walk around you).
Baaraats taught me that there is no such thing as ‘I’ve had enough’. Even if your liver is overflowing, a little nudge from a friend settles everything in place.
Baaraats taught me that there was no point trying to act decent and Shareef when everybody around you was being Musharaff and Taliban. To let insanity take over.
Rangabati is one of the top Oriya baaraat songs.
Now, if you have any acquaintance with Baaraat songs, you’ll know that there is no scope for frivalities like Political Correctness in that particular genre.
Some of the other songs I remember from baaraats are – ‘Nabama sreni jhiata, chaati ku mo hot karuchi’. (That 9th standard girl, is making my chest hot).
Then, there’s the poetic trick that singers use – when you don’t know if he’s singing ‘hot’ or ‘hurt’ – since they both sound the same in the Oriya accent.
Then, there are philosophical musings – ‘Tu aagaru dekhila jenta, tu pachharu dekhile senta” (How you look from the front, the same you look from the back. A throwback to the ancient dual – Dwaita philosophy in Hinduism).
Then, there are those that cater to purely carnal needs. Those that invoke the importance of alcohol in a person’s life – Daaru daaru daaru daaru de daaru. Those that call out to people from other communities – Ekkada Ekkada Ra. Then, the completely surreal and abstract – Kau to bou ku nou (‘May the Crow Take Away Your Mother’).
In the beginning, I was conscious of what people might think. Worried that someone might take offence to such blatantly offensive songs being played at full blast outside people’s houses.
It was only later that I realised that people had developed internal antennae that helped them to tune out of the proceedings.
Since then, for me, there was no looking back (Unless the guy who was mixing the drinks was at the back of the baaraat!).
Among all these songs, Rangabati was one of the saner tunes. Just a folk song that people recognised and would raise their hands, and woot, and go back to dancing to.
The Rangabati Coke Studio version
When Sona Mohapatra released her Coke Studio version of the song, people lost their minds.
Some of them said she had corrupted the song. Some others said they preferred the older version of the song. Still others said they had problems with her pronunciation of the words (even though the lyrics are not mainstream Oriya, but a dialect called Sambalpuri).
I don’t get this.
I mean, Coke Studio has historically been a platform for songs to mate with other genres and styles. It’s not Folk Studio, for heaven’s sake. And yes, those two Tamil rappers seemed to have zapped in from nowhere, and were rather annoying, but hey, it’s just a song, man.
It’s somebody’s interpretation of the song. Something the person thought might sound good.
If you don’t like it, skip it. Watch something else on YouTube. Why spread venom and hate in the Comments section?
Also, in Syria, Islamic State is beheading men, women and children. In Pakistan, children are being shot while taking classes in school.
There is shit flying all over in the world.
It’s just a fucking YouTube video.
Let it be.
Or else, kau toh bou ku nou.