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Singer Mukherji inspired by works of India icon

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — In modern India, Rabindranath Tagore is the pre-eminent cultural figure.

Tagore, who died in 1941, was a prolific writer and composer. He wrote hundreds of poems that he set to music. Tagore penned many novels, dramas, essays and philosophical writings. His songs became the national anthems of India and Bangladesh, though he wasn’t a nationalist. In fact, he believed in the unity of mankind.

“Tagore is a Gandhian kind of figure, though he was not a politician,” singer Kamalini Mukherji said, comparing Tagore’s stature in India to Mahatma Gandhi, a famous politician and spiritual leader.

Mukherji will sing Tagore’s songs in concert Saturday, April 6 at the Outpost Performance Space.

“His songs are like little poems. I will translate the songs. I like doing that for myself. My translation is based on my interpretation. It doesn’t have to be authoritative,” Mukherji said.

She is from the Bengali region of India that Tagore was from. Mukherji was raised in a home of academics who loved music. Her parents grew up on Tagore songs, and on Sundays her father would play music – including Tagore’s.

Kamalini Mukherji
With Phil Hollenbeck
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 6
WHERE: Outpost Performance Space, 210 Yale SE
HOW MUCH: $20 general public, $15 students and Outpost members in advance at the Outpost, by calling 268-0044 or at the door

She had a passion for music early on but went to Cambridge on a scholarship to study English literature. Her parents thought she, too, would be an academic.

“When I returned to India after I got my degree, I realized I wasn’t cut out for a 9-to-6 kind of job. I felt deeply frustrated with that kind of structure,” Makherji said.

She began to perform Tagore’s music and realized she loved being on stage singing and interacting with the audience.

“Eventually I thought, ‘Why not bridge this gap between profession and passion?'”

With the help of television, Mukherji’s popularity grew. That led to a recording contract. By 2008, she had become a full-time artist.

Mukherji is in demand in India but she now lives in Bentonville, Ark., where her husband works. Still, she has performed for Bengalis communities in the United States. In October 2012 alone, Mukherji gave concerts in Chicago, Atlanta, San Diego and Houston.

“They seem to know me from television (in India). It’s a small world,” she said.