September 23, 2021 3:41:07 pm
Amitav Ghosh’s “Jungle Nama”, the verse adaptation of an episode from the legend of Bon Bibi, a tale popular in the villages of the Sundarbans, has now been released as an audiobook with music and voice of US-based Ali Sethi. HarperCollins India said this is an exclusive collaboration among three of the most influential figures from the world of arts.
“With verses from Amitav Ghosh, illustrations from Salman Toor and now with music and voice of Ali Sethi, ‘Jungle Nama’ evokes the mystery and majesty of the Sundarbans in a way that is unique and unforgettable,” it said. According to Ghosh, he wanted to have a musical version of “Jungle Nama” right from the start. “I consider myself fortunate that it came about through a collaboration with a musician of the calibre of Ali Sethi. Not only is Ali rigorously trained in Hindustani classical music, he is also thoroughly versed in many genres of Western music such as Broadway musicals, rap and so on,” he said.
“On top of all that, he has a really beautiful voice. Ali’s reading of “Jungle Nama is mesmerising, and I am sure that the music he has composed and performed for the audiobook will enchant listeners for a long time to come,” Ghosh added.
Lahore-born Sethi said Ghosh’s retelling of this “magical folktale is full of the wisdom and wonder one has come to expect of him – an ecological parable that playfully imparts important lessons about greed, wanderlust, and the power of restraint”. The music, he said, “draws constantly on our syncretic raga traditions”.
Udayan Mitra, executive publisher at HarperCollins India, said this is much more than the usual audiobook: it is an artistic collaboration of the very highest order between Ghosh and Sethi. “One might say that the interplay between text and music that we find on the audiobook of ‘Jungle Nama’ parallels, on an aural register, the way in which Salman Toor’s artwork complemented the text in the print version of the book,” Mitra said.
“Jungle Nama” also lies at the heart of Ghosh’s novel “The Hungry Tide”. It is the story of the avaricious rich merchant Dhona, the poor lad Dukhey, and his mother; it is also the story of Dokkhin Rai, a mighty spirit who appears to humans as a tiger, of Bon Bibi, the benign goddess of the forest, and her warrior brother, Shah Jongoli.
The original print version of this legend, dating back to the 19th century, is composed in a Bengali verse meter known as ‘dwipodi poyar’.
“Jungle Nama” is a free adaptation of the legend, told entirely in a poyar-like meter of 24 syllable couplets that replicate the cadence of the original. This is the first book-in-verse by Ghosh, who was born in Calcutta in 1956, and grew up in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. He has also authored acclaimed works of fiction and non-fiction like “The Shadow Lines”, “In an Antique Land”, “The Glass Palace”, “The Ibis Trilogy”, “The Great Derangement” and “Gun Island”.
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