Behind the Beard

Here’s another contribution to our Features section. A short extract from Sahitya Akademi’s 1961 publication on Tagore. It follows on nicely from Matthew Pritchard’s piece on interpreting Tagore for the West.

Artists create with painstaking labour but have little control over how they or their works are perceived. The further the work travels, the more faint and distorted does the creator become. This Law of Celebrity has held true ever since the very first stories were told, and it is still true now. Some extra effort is required to penetrate the miasma of rumour and fantasy that obscures the work of art. Perhaps one way is to become absorbed into the work wholeheartedly in order to feel what was felt by the person who made it. And perhaps there is no more wholehearted involvement than singing. Is this what Tagore meant when he said that his songs were the most vital parts of him, living on long after he was gone?

Phillipe Stern’s piece gives us a glimpse of the person of Tagore, and thereby gives a clue as to how we might approach his art. As Matthew Pritchard also suggested, returning to the simple, vulnerable beauty of the voice seems to be key. That’s what is behind that beard and also right under our noses.

The Real Rabindranath Tagore and his Music 


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