Celebrating Tagore’s confluence of cultures

Carnatic music group Laxmi Menon and Anujan Poologaindran.| Photo courtesy of Vancouver Tagore Society.

The Vancouver Tagore Society is hosting its 3rd annual spring festival at Surrey City Hall on Saturday May 20 to pay tribute to Bengali Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore.

The festival includes dance, music and poetry and will feature many different multicultural performances. Some of the performaces include Carnatic vocal music by Lakshmi Menon with Sayenden, Anujan and Sukumaran, a sitar recital by Mohamed Assani, and a special presentation on Bengali poet Kazi Nazrul Islam featuring Arno Kamolika.

Tagore (1861–1941) was a polymath renaissance thinker who revitalized Bengali literature and music. From an early age, he championed humanism and social justice for which he was revered in his lifetime and celebrated around the world. As a testimony to his enduring legacy, his compositions remain the national anthems of India, Bangladesh.

“The festival celebrates diversity through the works inspired by the vision of Rabindranath Tagore who was the first non-European Nobel-laureate. He was a myriad-minded man, a poet, musician and philosopher whose ideas remain equally relevant today. Tagore was a person who was very important for these concepts of diversity and intercultural harmony,” artistic coordinator Arno Kamolika explains.

Nature and culture

Bharatanatyam dancer with artists Arno Kamolika, Sabuj Mazumdar, Shankhanaad Mallick, Avik Dey and Tapas Bissau.| Photo courtesy of Venkatesh Narayan.

One of Tagore’s key concepts explores our relationship with nature beyond physical aspects to include emotional and spiritual connections. Seasonal change is a good example: “We are celebrating spring by hosting this multicultural event. Tagore is the most famous cultural icon of South Asia. For over a century his poems and songs have been inspiring us to discover the amazing connection between nature and our innermost feelings,” says media coordinator Sazid Hasan.

Another core concept of Tagore is the confluence of cultures, which emphasizes the collaborative aspects of the human condition.

“Tagore denounced petty nationalism and instead promoted internationalism. He vigorously advocated for a confluence of cultures and believed that the coming together of different cultures could result in an exchange of the best they had to offer,” says founding secretary Duke Ashrafuzzaman.

Tagore’s lyrical compositions are rooted in Bengali folk traditions and therefore lend themselves easily to reinterpretations through dance. Thus the celebration will include different South Asian dance styles such as Bharatanatyam, dances based on Kathak, and Bengali folk dances.

“The dances are inspired by Tagore’s songs and explore the meaning of his work as found in the relationship between humanity and nature, for example,” says Kamolika.

One hundred years later, the words still ring true.

Tagore’s messages often have the simplicity of genius as they resonate with unexpected relevance a century later.

“Civilization must be judged and prized, not by the amount of power it has developed, but by how much it has evolved and given expression to, by its laws and institutions, the love of humanity,” (from Sādhanā: The Realization of Life, Tagore 1916).

An enduring message

Our interrelation with nature at the confluence of cultures is a notion worth exploring at any time and place and a great reason to celebrate spring.

“That’s Tagore’s gift. He not only describes nature but also emotions as they are influenced by the seasons. He shows how this shapes the feelings of all human beings as he explores an important universal theme,” says Ashrafuzzaman.

For more information, please www.vancouvertagoresociety.org