Yes. Rangabati, the pulsating folk duet in Sambalpuri language, has ruled the music space in Odisha ever since it was created in 1978-79. Nonetheless, it has also transcended the boundaries of the country to cast a magical spell on the foreigners.
The worth of the song has well been recognised by the Union Government as it has conferred three Padma Shri awards to as many persons associated with creation of the song. The three persons include Jitendra Haripal and Krishna Patel, the male and female singers who rendered the song in their magical voice, and lyricist and composer Mitrabhanu Gountia.
Immortalised by the sweet lyrics by Gountia and magnetic beats and rhythms of tribal musical instruments like drum, dhol and madal, the song was first recorded for All India Radio (AIR) in the enchanting voices of legendary singers Jitendra Haripal and Krishna Patel.
After AIR, Rangabati was released in 1979 by Indian Record Mfg. Co (INRECO) in 45 rpm (rotations per minute) vinyl format.
The song has passed from generation to generation. It has been hugely popular across the globe. Many contemporary Bollywood singers, including Sona Mohapatra, have presented this song on global platforms, making the audience dance.
Pieces of the original song have been incorporated into many cinema album fusion songs in the majority of the Indian languages.
Jitender Haripal, the male singer of the song, was the first one to get Padma Shri in 2017 while the lyricist Mitrabhanu Gountia got the coveted award in 2020. This year, Krishna Patel, the female singer of the celebrated song, has been chosen to receive Padma Shri.
Going by the popularity of the song, the Odisha government has named Bilung, the village of lyricist and composer Mitrabhanu Gountia, after Rangabati.
Gountia, a retired teacher, has penned over one thousand folk songs.
Rangabati is an ode in which the lover, a village boy, sweetly cajoles his dear darling to break her silence and come forward to romance with him. The woman, blushing in the sweet-talk of the lover, says she is a rustic, introvert lass and feels very shy to sing and dance with him, let alone romance.
“I’m quite glad that I have been chosen for the Padma Shri Award. This has in fact brought me more responsibility and accountability to me not only to protect the originality of the precious Sambalpuri folk music, but also take it to higher level. If the Union government and state administration help me, I will open a research centre and library where the voices of all singers shall be recorded and preserved for the future generations. Secondly, I want to go to the villages where the practitioners of the Sambalpuri music live and codify their distinct beats and rhythms that give special identity to our folk songs,” said Krishna.
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