The Triple Threat: Translating Tagore

After our in-class presentation by Professor Edward Sarath on Wednesday, our class attended the Celebrating Tagore performance at Hill auditorium. I found it a little weird that a performance was being held during a weekday at Hill auditorium, only because I did not expect such a turnout. Nor was I expecting just how big of a collaborative effort this show was. There was the Michigan Choir, the student orchestra and other faculty from the school of Performing Arts.

I had not witnessed three types of translation happen at the same time. Some people might find it hard to focus using multiple senses of hearing a musical piece and trying the understand the message and seeing the dance performance and that translation as well. Luckily, all of it flowed together quite nicely. It was interesting to see two cultural influences translating the same piece of work. The choir and string quartet were playing more contemporary jazz and the dance group, the Michigan Sahana, were translating using a traditional Bengali dance. After each performance, there was written piece of another one of Tagore’s poems which had been translated as well.

This was a nice culmination of all the ways of translation we had discussed in the class. There are many ways to translate and things are lost in translation, but when there are multiple translations simultaneously, it is hard not to understand the message. They almost begin to translate each other, because there are multiple perspectives. During the translation of Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, it was most engaging in the way the instruments and the vocals of the choir added emotion and a spiritual context to the physical display of the dance. It also shows the complexity of Tagore’s work and its versatility to his artistry.

Raqman Lewis

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