It was just a one-day matter, um.

by Gilbert Keith

First read this article on wikipedia. This post is pretty much about various artistic interpretations of that song. The song has been controversial, but I have fond memories of singing it, making jokes about it, etc. from my childhood days. In case it isn’t clear from the title, calling trivial things “one-day matterums” was one of the highlights of second and third grade for me. It just dawned on me today that for a song that’s so controversial and has a strong history of being used to impose traditional Hindu nonsense, there is great variety in the way people interpret it… People have been all kinds of experimenting with western-fusion interpretations of the song, and they’re all fun to listen to.

The regular old version sounds something like this:

Whenever we sang it in school, that was the kind we recited. It wasn’t totally a capella, there was almost always a harmonium to accompany. If you don’t know what a harmonium is, well, it looks like:

Image from wikipedia

and sounds like:

Anyway, coming back on track, Vande Mataram was a fairly boring song. I found a couple of old-school interpretations of it such as:

and

The above two versions are basically meant to boil the blood of the masses and remind the people of the glory of the motherland, blah blah blah. They’re also lame, in my humble opinion. They’re about as repetitive as Daft Punk’s “Around the World,” but then again, the Daft Punk song was awesome and these aren’t.

In 1997, AR Rahman, who you might otherwise know for doing all the music in Slumdog Millionaire and numerous other Indian movies, produced his own interpretation:

It’s not really a “version” of the previous songs, but I feel like a lot of people today would consider this song just about “as important” as the original song. Like pretty much anything AR Rahman has touched, it was really good. It got everyone psyched up, possibly because it was released right around India’s 50th Independence Anniversary.  The lyrics are pretty powerful too.

Anyway, there seems to have been quite a few such interpretations. One I remember was from Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham:

It’s way more subdued than the previous one, and tries to bring in a lot of glamour. I believe it was Usha Uthup and Kavita Krishnamurthy singing it, but I may be mistaken. This particular attempt transitions into another patriotic song, “Saare Jahan se Achcha.”  It’s all kind of ironic, since the scenes depicted therein all take place in the UK, and here’s this Indian guy, hanging out with the hot white ladies wearing saffron, white, and green, dancing Bharatnatyam or something. It sold well, I guess.

MIDIval Punditz, one of the more prominent names in the relatively nascent Indian Electronica scene, have produced this gem:

It’s very chill, and I think goes a long way to stripping the song of its religious and political connotations. Its unpretentious, doesn’t try to do any fancy technical stuff, has a very simple beat, and gives the feeling of sipping a gin and tonic at a basement party. Name me a young man or woman cannot agree with that feeling, and you will have named a bona-fide twerp.

Here are some instrumental versions of the song:

Mr. Vishwa Mohan Bhatt playing on an improvised version of the guitar:

Only the first of the two songs is Vande Mataram. The other is Jana Gana Mana, India’s national anthem.

Some dude playing it on the alto sax:

He goes wrong one or two places I think, but hey, we all make mistakes.

Another dude with a “Soul music” version, which I think is pretty good:

Unfortunately, I don’t have the time or the patience to google for balalaika, theremin, and ondes martenot covers of the song, but if you find some, feel free to send it my way.

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