The debate is still on, hours after the announcement that 75-year-old singer and songwriter Bob Dylan has won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Is Dylan a contemporary musician or poet? Does his lyrics make him more poet than musician? Not many may argue with the fact that his songs are primal and modern, not to mention poetic. But does poetic expression in music always get its due? How about the scene in our country and our state?
Jaishree Misra, author of Ancient Promises, has this to say: “It’s very clever and imaginative on the part of the Nobel committee to recognise that so much of ancient literature was sung, rather than read or recited. Dylan is one modern manifestation of that art, although I think here in India we’re pretty good at it too. Think of Hindi/Urdu lyricists like Gulzar and Javed Akhtar whose work has been popularised via Bollywood films. Closer to home, O.N.V. Kurup and Vayalar Rama Varma are only two examples of poetry beautifully converted to song lyrics. No better way to popularise poetry in my opinion!”
Rafeeq Ahammed, lyricist and novelist, opines, “We do not have the kind of independent music scene like that of Bob Dylan in Kerala. Whatever music that is recognised mainly comes in the movies. Besides, the movies were based on popular novels and plays, so the music in them too had literary merit. What we have now may not be as poetic or literary.”
Anees Salim, author of Vanity Bagh, says he is quite surprised by the selection. “Probably, the next world war could be on whether Bob Dylan should have been awarded or not? I am quite surprised by this selection, because a lot of deserving people have been left out.. In Kerala, we cannot find a parallel to this as poetry and literature that comes with music are two different streams. If I think of someone who has a similar background, it is Vayalar Ramavarma.”
Suraj Mani, Bengaluru-based rock musician and songwriter, is not all that surprised with Dylan’s choice. “Given many of the songs that have become ‘hits’, I feel that poetry needs to make a comeback into popular music. Now we have poor lyrical content in the music that we produce. Dylan winning a Nobel is a definite inspiration for songwriters out there, in all languages and countries.”...