Coke Studio’s “Rangabati” is an insult and assault on folk music and linguistic sanctity

By Saswat Pattanayak

The “Rangabati” version that is being touted as putting Odisha on the world map is instead designed to take Orissa off the map.

Credited to Ram Sampath, Sona Mohapatra and Rituraj Mohanty, this modern incarnation of Rangabati is problematic in more ways than just one. In the guise of promoting Oriya culture, what this rendition does is undermine the history of struggles behind linguistic uniqueness of Oriya itself and promotes a bunch of profiteering corporate pawns in their self-aggrandizement.

Firstly, by titling it as “Rangabati” while remixing it with “Vande Utkala Janani”, it vulgarizes the very national anthem of the Oriyas. The team behind MTV Coke has quite possibly forgotten the relevance and sanctities attached to the state anthem that played pivotal part in freedom struggles of the Oriyas. Behind the creation of Orissa as the first linguistically formed state in India, lies the power of “Vande Utkala Janani”. What is evident in the Coke Studio version is sheer deplorable trivialization of the classicism associated with the song that eventually led to preservation of Oriya language and its distinct attainment of classical status.

When Bengal and Bihar had colonized Orissa, it was not just a geographic mass that was exploited – it was a language that was denied to the people of Orissa back then. Thanks to the Utkal Sammilani and the freedom fighters associated with it, Orissa had been able to reclaim its unique glory. When Oriya was not considered as a separate language, these stalwarts had ensured that the new province would be formed precisely based on the language that was more unique and far richer than the ones that had dominated over it employing British mischiefs.

It was in 1882, long before the first Utkal Union Conference (Utkal Sammilani) was formed that Madhusudan Das (along with Gaurishankar Ray) championed the cause of Oriya people through Utkal Sabha (the Orissa Association). As its president, Madhusudan Das fought against imposition of Hindi in the place of Oriya in the official works at Sambalpur. How ironic, that today, under the garb of promoting a Sambalpuri folk song, the struggle behind linguistic identity would be so opportunistically forgotten!

In 1903, when the first Utkal Sammilani was held in Kanika, it had representation from all over Orissa – Kanika, Keonjhar, Cuttack and Sambalpur. It was proudly declared as “the Parliament of people inhabiting Oriya speaking areas, not withstanding caste, creed, language and administrative divisions.” When Bengal Government restricted Oriya officers from attending the Conference, Madhu Babu demanded that they be allowed.

When Orissa was not a political entity and Oriya was not officially a language, it was Madhusudan Das who thundered: “According to history, people from different places came to England and settled there. This union helped in the making of the English race. The English people had great contribution to the progress in Europe. We must consider this in the context of our motherland. Now looking at the suffering of mother Utkal who amongst us would be thoughtless? Hence we all being united would share her suffering and serve her. While in this deep service we must remember a statement of the Prophet Muhammad – for the spread of love one should give up impure element from the heart and allow pious blood into it. My dear brothers and sisters who want to dedicate their lives for the service of the mother Utkal must at first give up – conceit and selfishness. The race or nation is eternal, you and myself have temporary existence. The only way to progress is to give up selfishness. It will be admitted by all that the water of the river and lake coming from different direction would enter into the ocean where it would take one shape and one colour. It would be called the water of the ocean and would take the name of the great ocean.”

In such a backdrop of relentless struggle to claim Oriyas as a distinct “race”, the classicism of Oriya language inherently remained. It is in such a context that the unique diversity of Orissa remained preserved while the language is fiercely protected. And it is in this context that Kantakabi Laxmikanta Mohapatra’s “Vande Utkala Janani” is treated inviolable – as the national anthem of a race of people who battled political, economic and cultural subjugations to retain their uniqueness.

And it is in this context that it was declared on December 19, 2002 by the Speaker of Orissa Legislative Assembly, Mr. Sarat Kumar Kar that whosoever shows any disrespect to “Vande Utkala Janani” shall face penal action.

In the name of artistic freedom, experimentations and fusions, “Vande Utkala Janani” rendition has been improper at the technical level in the latest YouTube sensation, while commercially exploited to suit a corporate agenda at the level of intent.

Rangabati singers

(L-R) Singers Jitendra Haripal, Krishna Patel, lyricist Mitrabhanu Gountia and music director Prabhudatt Pradhan.

Equally deplorable is the cultural misappropriation of Jitendra Haripal and Krishna Patel’s brilliant composition “Rangabati”. Haripal is a Dalit artist duly recognized by the state for his immense contribution to folk and patriotic music. A purist practitioner of folk music, Haripal once said, “The new Sambalpuri songs use crude and indecent expressions and the pure folk we used to create have taken a backseat. I want to keep folk music safe and promote it.”

Rangabati rendition by Sona Mohapatra is neither pure nor is it keeping folk music safe. It is only using Rangabati for the purpose of self-promotion. Bereft of all patriotic feel and folk quality, the electronic appropriation by privileged caste commercial artists, of a Dalit folk singer’s most monumental contribution is at once sad and derogatory. To make matters worse, the fusion of “Rangabati-Vande Utkala Janani” not only abandons folk traditions, and replaces what Haripal once told P. Sainath in The Hindu, “simple love song in pure Sambalpuri style” for a needless mash-up with “Vande Utkala Janani”, it also infuses the non-Oriya rap between the lyrics.

Finally, there is clear case of copyright violation by the MTV’s Coke Studio which has not taken any permission from original lyricist Mitrabhanu Guintia and music director Prabhudatta Pradhan. Not only has the national anthem of Orissa been taken for granted by corporate houses, but even the folk artists and song writers are not compensated before their music are widely abused.

As Oriyas, unable to combat the assaults, atrophy and neglect of our language, many things are no longer surprising to us. But the callous indifference towards commercial appropriation of “Rangabati” as well as trivialization of “Vande Utkala Janani” perhaps indicate that we may be destined to lose both our folk heritage and linguistic historical identity, much sooner than later, if this manipulative Coke Studio production is what we falsely perceive as taking Odia to the world map.

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Oriya would be taught in English Language! What a mad Government!

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

If documents can say how Orissa is being administered, this document would show how mad has become administration under Naveen Patnaik.

govt order for making English the medium of education

Orissa Assembly’s Standing Committee on Higher Education discussed with departmental Secretary Sri G. Dhal and his team officials on 23.02.2015 on how to improve higher education in Orissa. The Committee resolved that for betterment of the scenario, “English language should be mandatory in College” (Point No.7) and wanted implementation thereof. In elaborating the point to Government, the Assembly wrote at item No.11, “English should be made the medium of teaching in junior and degree colleges. University authorities be asked to print the text books in English language”.

It is a mindless recommendation of the committee comprising MLAs namely Tara Prasad Bahinipati (Chairman of the Committee), Sashi Bhusan Behera, Bibhuti Bhusan Harichandan, Anubhav Pattnaik, Surendra sethi and Basanti Mallick. None of these members is a linguist and/or a known educationist. When they resolved to make English language “mandatory in college” they should have summoned language experts and educationists to the committee to take their considered views on what would be the impact of making English the mandatory medium of teaching in colleges. If the MLAs who do not possess didactic excellence or acclaimed expertise in language study, could not visualize if English becomes the mandated medium of instruction, what would happen to Oriya, what was the sabjanata IAS officer that represented the Higher Education department as its Secretary with his pack of officers doing? Why did he not assist the Assembly with the necessary advice that impact study of the promulgation of English as the only medium of teaching in colleges should be taken up before adding Assembly insignia to the proposal?

However, this mindless recommendation of the Standing Committee is not yet put before the Government and the Cabinet has not been made aware of this proposal, even though the matter breaths disastrous consequences. But the Secretary seems to have implemented it. Otherwise, the order posted above could not have been issued.

The desk officer who has issued the order is a Bengali namely S.K.Ghosh.  He is the Deputy Secretary by way of promotion from the rank of a clerk in the secretariat. He should have raised the issue of impact study of making English the only medium of teaching in the Colleges. He should have placed before the departmental Secretary that,  as very serious dislocations would be created in teaching if the mindless proposal of the Standing Committee is implemented, collective wisdom of the State Cabinet should be invoked.

When required to report on “action taken” on the Committee’s recommendations, the Secretary could have told the Committee that expert opinion was being taken or language impact study was being conducted or the Cabinet was being apprised of the recommendation or the Cabinet was considering on it, for example. But the fertile IAS/OAS brains in the Higher Education department, without Government (The Cabinet) approval of the Standing Committee recommendation, have implemented it as suggested by issue of instructions to all the Principals to report how far they have implemented the order.

The “Action taken note” the Higher Education Secretary has placed before the Standing Committee on 17.6.2015 at 3 PM shows that all the Principals have been “requested to furnish action taken report” as per the office order posted supra that mandates, “English should be made the medium of teaching in junior and degree colleges. University authorities to print the text books in English language”.

This means, Oriya text books shall be printed in English and Oriya language shall be taught in English. What nonsense!

Naveen Patnaik has been reading his Oriya addresses through Hindi or English alphabets typed in his PRO office for all these years. So, perhaps, the fertile brains in Higher Education department are sure, Oriya can be taught in English language with the text books in English.

This nefarious design must be quashed.

A decade ago, when Naveen Patnaik Government had conspired to eliminate Oriya as a subject in higher education, we had exposed and foiled that mischief. Now the same conspiracy having returned more menacingly, I am giving links to some of my discussions in ORISSA MATTERS in those days to say that this conspiracy is culmination of a decade long hidden agenda. Peruse these links, and wake up. We are to save our mother tongue from this mad government.

A renewed Bengali conspiracy: Thwart it. Thwart it. Thwart it.

Orissa Govt. plays its nastiest tricks against the Oriyas

The Lingua-Benga Minister be shacked

Lingua-Benga design defeated: Oriya nation wins

Not enough, National humiliation must be avenged

Replacement of R with D is a wrong against Oriya Language

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

D and R_ situational use
Replacement of R by D in the English spelling of Orissa’s name and language by a law is a wrong that adversely affects its archaic uniqueness.

After consistent stress in these pages of ORISSA MATTERS on necessity of preservation of classicism of Oriya language, a section of Oriya authors and scholars have started speaking for recognition of Oriya as a classical language.

The Government of India has recognized Telugu as a classical language in 2008. But Linguistic Survey of India has recognized Oriya as a richer language than Telugu. To quote it, “The Oriya language can boast of a rich vocabulary in which respect neither Bengali nor Hindi nor Telugu can vie with it. The richness of the vocabulary is the index by which the vastness of a vernacular can be gauged” (Vol.IV).

“Oriya has preserved a great many archaic features in both grammar and pronunciation” has said famous linguist Prof. Suniti Kumar Chatterjee in I.H.Q. Vol.XXIII, 1947.p.337.

Replacement of R by D has ruined this “archaic feature”.

As Chatterjee has noted, Oriya is an ancient language of India that has “preserved a great many archaic features” and, as Linguistic Survey of India has determined, it is so vast in vocabulary that Telugu cannot vie with it.

If Telugu became a classical language in 2008, why Oriya is left behind?

This is because, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, whose mother tongue is not Oriya and who has no knowledge about the “high antiquity” quality of Oriya language, which is the cardinal condition for recognition of a language as classical, had by then started playing the mischief against this quality of the language.

Instead of demanding for recognition of Oriya language as a classical language of India, Naveen had made his followers in the Assembly adopt a Resolution on 28th August, 2008 to change the name of Orissa to Odisha oblivious of how adversely that was to affect the “high antiquity” quality of Oriya language. So, instead of Oriya language, Telugu earned the status of classical language.

Naveen, who has killed the soul of Orissa by forcing its people into displacement to handover their lands and living environment to the non-Oriya – even foreign – industrial houses, was in dire need of something to show the people that he is not anti-Oriya. The alteration of Orissa’s name was contrived to help him in this regard. On this mischievous measure metamorphosing into a law with supportive constitutional amendment, Naveen was so relaxed that official holiday was declared to celebrate it as a victory and the entire administrative machinery was misused to project him as the greatest epitome of Oriya nationalism by squandering away, on the occasion, the State exchequer in propaganda and fireworks.

It is a shame that the supporters of the “alteration” who feel “proud” over the change of the English spelling of Orissa and Oriya to Odisha and Odia, in the name of Oriya nationalism, are not ashamed of the very fact that their mother tongue has lost its primacy as the official language in Orissa in the administration of Naveen Patnaik, even though the State’s Official Language Act 1954 that had made use of Oriya language compulsory in official works, is 15 years senior to Official Language Act framed by the Union Government for India and their motherland is also the first amongst all the States of India to have been formed as a province on the basis of its language.

However, it is to be noted that some of my friends are of the opinion that the letter constituting the crux of my discussion has no two situational shapes; but the two shapes are of two different letters acting as two different phonemes.

The set of Oriya alphabets depicted by old Oriya dictionaries, given below, is capable of making the position clear.
oriya alphabets

The greatest ever encyclopedic lexicon of Oriya language, ‘Purnnachandra Ordia Bhashakosha’, in distinguishing the two different situational uses of the concerned letter says, it is “the 13th consonant and the third letter of the “Ta’ series (cerebral), corresponding to the‘d’ sound. When it occurs at the beginning of Oria words it is pronounced as in day and when at the end or middle of a word, it is pronounced as rd in hird”.D We find ‘rd’ evolving into ‘r’ in writings of the leaders of Utkal Sammilani to whom we owe resurrection of our motherland that was deliberately and diplomatically divided into four separate limbs by the British because of its fear for the “disposition” of the inhabitants of this brave land, which, its area authorities were sure, “will always present formidable obstacles to suppression either by military or police” (Report of W. Forrester to Robert Ker, Dt. 9.9.1918).

The Law to change Orissa to Odisha and Oriya to Odia is a legal mischief to do away with this distinction and hence is a bad law that no Oriya, who loves the richness of his ancient vocabulary and respects the “high antiquity” quality of his beloved mother tongue, can ever obey.

For us, it would continue to be a matter of pride to disobey the Law that replaces R with D in international spelling of the names of our motherland and language: Orissa and Oriya.

Indian Parliament Should Call Back Its Resolution: Archaic Richness of Orissa Shouldn’t be Spoiled; Spelling Change Conspiracy Must be Foiled