The Nobel Prize-winning poet, composer, dramatist and painter Rabindranath Tagore, who cast his spell over the Beatles in the Sixties, may be cold in his grave - he died aged 80 in 1941 - but he continues to cast a spell today. Over the past fortnight, Dartington International Summer School has hosted various events in his name, with their climax being a public performance tomorrow, by a company of young Asian musicians and dancers, of a stage work based on his poems and music. This will also be performed at an exhibition of Tagore's paintings which will be at the British Museum from 14 September.
As Dartington's director Gavin Henderson points out, Tagore's multiple message has taken root in Britain in a surprising number of ways - the Open University and the Consumers' Association being just two of them. While Satyajit Ray, India's greatest film director, based film after film on Tagore's work, India's greatest musician, Ravi Shankar, made a teenage pilgrimage to Dartington - as a dancer, not a sitar virtuoso - to imbibe Tagore's philosophy at its unexpected source. For Dartington was founded, in its remote corner of Devon, at Tagore's instigation, and was set up according to his visionary principles.
"People talk of Tagore as a mystical character, but I regard him as immensely practical," says Henderson. "He was wonderfully inventive, and though you could call him a jack of all trades, he was master of at least three of them." Last year Henderson went to Tagore's home-base in Bengal, and was saddened to find his legacy in the grip of hagiographers determined to fossilise his memory. "But somehow, late in life," says Henderson, "I've got caught up in a crusade for him." Four years ago Henderson persuaded Ravi Shankar to come back to Dartington to create a work in Tagore's honour; since then, with help from Asian musicians and dancers in Liverpool, he's helped found the South Asian Music Youth Orchestra, which will present the work tomorrow.
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