Sunday, May 28, 2006

Ohrwurm and Jethu's Songs

There is a word in German, that probably doesn't have an equivalent in English: Ohrwurm (literal translation: "ear worm"). It describes a condition where a song or melody sticks in the head and refuses to get out, and one has to hum/whistle it over and over all day long.

My aunt, "Jethima" had been visiting me last weekend and she had brought a few cds of my uncle's ("Jethu"'s) songs that they have released, unfortunately after his death.Jethu had been a diligent collector and later singer and teacher of folk songs from the North Bengal-Assam regions, particularly the ones sung in the tea gardens, but he had seldom recorded his songs. There used to be one gamaphone record when we were kids, but the era of gamaphone records passed, so did the record. As a result, I don't remember when I had heard Jethu's songs last, although of course I do remember some of the beautiful melodies. The cd revived those memories and some of these melodies, the jhumur songs have been going in my head all the while, in fact I must have heard the cd some 15 times during the weekend. The one that has been a real Ohrwurm since the last few days isn't on the website, but two other favourite jumurs are there, albeit in not-so-great recordings (later recordings when he was quite old, and in the case of the second case with chorus and too much orchestra) here and here. It is a pity I don't know whether or how I can load mp3s onto the blog, otherwise I'd upload my favourite ones from the cd here.

Something I had not realized when I was a kid was how beautiful some of the lyrics of some of these songs are. They talk mostly of sadness and the social conditions, but sometimes also of romance and flirting within that. The dialect is from North Bengal, or Assam, or a mixture between these two or even mixed with that of the Chotanagpur area from where coolies used to go to work in the tea gardens up there. And so I can't understand most of it. I have emailed Jethima asking her if she could send me the lyrics when she gets back to Shantiniketan, and I hope she does.

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