Sunday, September 27, 2009

Changus Sings Again: Recreating an old Kashmiri melody from year 1835.

The year must have been 1835. Godfrey Thomas Vigne, an English traveler in Kashmir,one of the first, was visiting a decaying old village called Changus( Shangus, as it is now called), a miles from Achibul (or Yech-i-bul, as he called it) in Anantnag district. He had heard that in the old glory days of Kashmir, this village was renowned for its colony of dancing girls. The singing, dancing and the beauty of  the nautch women from this village was renowned all over the valley. The most famous among these danseuses was a women named Lyli. Englishman's local host, a nobleman named Samud Shah, spoke of her with signs of regret, and expressions of admiration. But Lyli was long dead and so it seemed was the village. There were still some dancing women in the village but none refined like the days of yore. Like most places in Kashmir, this village too had lost its muse. The dancing muse - Terpsichore, no longer lived in that village. Or so it seemed. While he was walking around in the village, he heard a woman sing a song whose opening notes reminded him of a certain old comic song  "Kitty Clover" by one Mister Liston and yet to him the song's import seemed rather amorous. He was fascinated enough by the melody to have copied it into a sheet and then have it published in his book 'Travels in Kashmir, Ladak, Iskardo ' (1844) under the title 'Kashmirian Dancing Girl's Song'.

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When I first saw that small sheet of music given in G.T. Vigne's 'Travels in Kashmir, Ladak, Iskardo '( see my post about nautch girls of Kashmir ), a strange thoughts occurred to me, 'What song had G.T. Vigne heard that day? Wouldn'y it be nice to some how recreate that tune! Would it sound familiar?'.

With no knowledge of sheet music, I set about doing something about it.

(Sheet for Kashmirian Dancing Girl's Song given in Travels in Kashmir, Ladak, Iskardo)
After experimenting with a number of software, I settled with  a software called SharpEye2 that reads sheets from images and converts them to Midi format. The music sheet generated by the software isn't perfect. Facility for editing the notes is provided but it isn't very flexible. After tweaking the sheet, the end result looked something like this:
 It isn't pefect but still good enough.
And here is the sound generated (MP3 converted from Midi format):













Don't know about 'Kitty Clover' (couldn't find anything on it) but the opening notes are certainly wonderful and it indeed sounds Kashmiri.
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Enjoy a variation on the song with images of Shalimar Bagh:

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