“Music, once admitted to the soul, becomes a sort of spirit, and never dies,” famously wrote Edward Bulwer-Lytton.
“Music, once admitted to the soul, becomes a sort of spirit, and never dies,” famously wrote Edward Bulwer-Lytton. However, for artist Jitendra Haripal, music isn’t something that is admitted to the soul but it is his soul. Born into a Dalit family housed in Stationpara of Khetrajpur, Sambalpur, the renowned folk artist with over 50 years of experience and 500 recorded folksongs to his credit, recently came into the limelight for clashing with singer Sona Mohapatra over popular Sambalpuri folk number Rangabati O Rangabati that the latter claimed to have been her modern rendition whereas the former, who is also recognised world over as the voice that brought the song to life some 38 years ago, asserted that it was taken without his permission.
Jitendra who has always been at the brink of penury and barely able to make his ends meet, however, says that he has no qualms about the row. “Music is beyond any money for me. I connect with God when I am singing. I am 70 and I have so many health challenges at present. But the moment I get on the podium and see my audience, hear my musicians — I am alive. There is no other way to describe it. Music is my soul and no amount of money can buy me any happiness,” says the acclaimed Sambalpuri singer-composer who once mesmerised an entire generation of music lovers and continues to make his way into millions of hearts worldwide through various stage shows. The Rangabati number with female co-singer Krishna Patel became an instant hit during 1976 when All India Radio broadcast it. Two years later, a Calcutta-based music company signed a contract with him, and his songs’ gramophone disc was commercially released around 1980. Haripal had received only ` 10,000 before the company faced lockout and subsequently, change of ownership. Ever since, the song has generated huge revenue for music companies while Haripal has been left in the lurch.
“People nowadays say, ‘I want to be famous,’ not; ‘I want to be a musician. I want to be an actor.’ The first thing on their minds is: ‘I want to be famous’,” he gives a dry little chuckle, adding, “I am content with my life. I’d say what is happiness Can you measure it in weight, distance, altitude, width or with the amount of money you have Happiness is being surrounded by the people you love, who help you in need, doing what you love, connect to your high self,” says the artist who is a recipient of Odisha Sangeet Natak Akademi Award. In his voice with a weird potpourri of vowels and dropped consonants, the singer who was recently conferred with a degree of Doctor of Literature (Honoris Causa) by Utkal University of Culture, Bhubaneswar adds, “I am, first and last, a musician. But when you sit down and practise, technical issues apart, what I’m concerned about is how music can touch us, what can I learn from the lyrics in life That should be the concrete thinking for everyone. It’s all a fantasy, a wild dream; it’s about the joy music can give.”
His own childhood life scenario, despite his incredible success in the world of folk music, does not recommend itself. As a boy, he lost his parents and with them lost all the money that they had left for him. Tales of poverty-infested rooms and battles to find one decent meal in a day have been told many times. By 23, he displayed his vocal talent and got accredited as ‘B’ grade artist in All India Radio, Sambalpur and later on graduated to ‘B’ high grade and his public profile got expanded year by year. Now he is on the road most of the time and proves his talent by singing in other dialects like Sadri, Bhojpuri, Chattishgarhi, Baul, Nepali, etc.
His latest desire is to see his album Aman, a compilation of patriotic songs in Hindi to be heard during the Republic Day parade at Rajpath. “I am trying to reach out to the glorious jawans of the nation and want to thank them for their services through this album. My only wish, before I proceed with my journey to the heavenly abode is to give this album to the Prime Minister and President of India. This is my way of giving back to society,” the sentimental signer concludes.