A young Indian singer is turning to Hindi literature’s most eminent poets for lyrics

Chinmayi Tripathi’s Music and Poetry Project gives tune to some of the greatest poetry written in Hindi.

Classical singer Chinmayi Tripathi was six when a family friend heard her voice and casually mentioned to her parents that she should pursue singing. Her parents, who are from literary backgrounds – her father is a Sanskrit scholar and her mother, a Hindi teacher – loved music. Keen to find out if their daughter was a singer, they sent her to a music school.

Tripathi was placed under the tutelage of Dr Alakh Nanda Palnitkar, the head of the Department of Music at Sagar University in Sagar, Madhya Pradesh, to learn Hindustani classical music. Even though she had no inclination for the subject initially, Tripathi picked up the ragas quickly and aced her exams.

In college she started to feel truly passionate about music. “I started writing my own songs and composing tunes and that’s when I realised I enjoyed making music,” said Tripathi, one of the founders of Songdew, an open platform for artists that promotes independent music.

Last month, the singer-songwriter’s musical journey reached a turning point. She released the first song of the Music & Poetry Project – an album based on the works of Hindi literature’s most eminent poets.


This isn’t Tripathi’s first album. She has released two albums in the past: Sun Zara and Mann Bawra, which feature original songs and compositions that combine the essence of Indian music with a contemporary touch. Three years ago, she formed a fusion band called Spice Route.

“It happened naturally,” she said. “I was jamming with friends on a few of my songs with some musicians and I liked the sound that was created. So, we decided to team up. We play 80% original songs, my compositions, and a few classical numbers.”

Tripathi’s formal training ended after school, but learning music is an ongoing process, she said, which continues through listening to music and watching live concerts of Hindi musicians and vocalists. “I pick up tips from people who inspire me a lot, even poets,” she added.


One day, while discussing Indian poetry with friends, she came to a realisation: “We were discussing how we don’t hear anything beyond Kabir and Harivanshrai Bachchan in independent music and in mainstream consciousness today. I spoke about wanting to hear the works of Suryakant Tripathi “Nirala” and a friend turned to me and asked, ‘Who is Nirala?’” It was a joke, but Tripathi realised that there were probably many people who did not know about an entire world of Hindi poetry – she herself had grown disconnected from what she’d learned in college.

“We have so many rich poems that are contemporary and can have mass appeal and yet, you hardly get to hear them in song,” she said.

Photo courtesy: Chinmayi Tripathi
Photo courtesy: Chinmayi Tripathi

She started the Music & Poetry Project to pay musical tribute to the likes of Mahadevi Verma, Nirala, Shivmangal Singh Suman, Dr Dharamvir Bharti, Ramdhari Singh Dinkar, Harivansh Rai Bachchan, Anamika, Bhawani Prasad Mishra and Maithili Sharan Gupt. By including their poetry in her own songs, she hoped to increase their appeal for a younger generation. She tried out a few songs at house concerts and after receiving a positive response, began to make more music like it. The aim: to create a full album of songs.

The project is entirely solo. Tripathi has composed the music herself because she didn’t believe anyone else would be interested in collaborating on a project like this. For funds, she turned to the crowd-funding platform Wishberry – the campaign started last May and Tripathi met her target in September.

The album features some fine musicians – Baiju Dharmajan, Sharat Chandra Shrivastav (Mrigya), Susmit Sen, Shujaat Khan, among others. Actor-singer Piyush Mishra will also be doing a couple of recitals.

Now that the album is complete, Tripathi will be releasing one song with a video, every month. The first song Khushgappiyan is based on a poem penned by contemporary writer and poet, Anamika.

“It talks about going back to your roots and is the story of anyone who comes to a big city for work and misses the simplicities of their home life,” she said. “The video is of a girl trying to go back to her small place in Himachal Pradesh and her memories of that place.”

Photo courtesy: Chinmayi Tripathi
Photo courtesy: Chinmayi Tripathi

Tripathi chooses the poems based on how they personally connect with her. “I’m not a scholar who can judge poetry,” she said. “Sometimes I read a poem and just start singing it.”

Before shortlisting the six poems she included in the album, she first created a list of 15 poems that were timeless and universal in their appeal. Her parents chipped in too – the Mahadevi Verma poem Jaag Tujhko Door Jaana, was her mother’s suggestion.

The entire project is in Hindi but Tripathi hopes to branch out to include poetry in other languages as well. “I’m starting with Hindi, tomorrow there can be nazms of Urdu or poems of other languages,” she said. “This project has the potential to grow into a movement which leads to music creation, events, workshops and even a music festival.”

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

Do you really need to use that plastic straw?

The hazards of single-use plastic items, and what to use instead.

In June 2018, a distressed whale in Thailand made headlines around the world. After an autopsy it’s cause of death was determined to be more than 80 plastic bags it had ingested. The pictures caused great concern and brought into focus the urgency of the fight against single-use plastic. This term refers to use-and-throw plastic products that are designed for one-time use, such as takeaway spoons and forks, polythene bags styrofoam cups etc. In its report on single-use plastics, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has described how single-use plastics have a far-reaching impact in the environment.

Dense quantity of plastic litter means sights such as the distressed whale in Thailand aren’t uncommon. Plastic products have been found in the airways and stomachs of hundreds of marine and land species. Plastic bags, especially, confuse turtles who mistake them for jellyfish - their food. They can even exacerbate health crises, such as a malarial outbreak, by clogging sewers and creating ideal conditions for vector-borne diseases to thrive. In 1988, poor drainage made worse by plastic clogging contributed to the devastating Bangladesh floods in which two-thirds of the country was submerged.

Plastic litter can, moreover, cause physiological harm. Burning plastic waste for cooking fuel and in open air pits releases harmful gases in the air, contributing to poor air quality especially in poorer countries where these practices are common. But plastic needn’t even be burned to cause physiological harm. The toxic chemical additives in the manufacturing process of plastics remain in animal tissue, which is then consumed by humans. These highly toxic and carcinogenic substances (benzene, styrene etc.) can cause damage to nervous systems, lungs and reproductive organs.

The European Commission recently released a list of top 10 single-use plastic items that it plans to ban in the near future. These items are ubiquitous as trash across the world’s beaches, even the pristine, seemingly untouched ones. Some of them, such as styrofoam cups, take up to a 1,000 years to photodegrade (the breakdown of substances by exposure to UV and infrared rays from sunlight), disintegrating into microplastics, another health hazard.

More than 60 countries have introduced levies and bans to discourage the use of single-use plastics. Morocco and Rwanda have emerged as inspiring success stories of such policies. Rwanda, in fact, is now among the cleanest countries on Earth. In India, Maharashtra became the 18th state to effect a ban on disposable plastic items in March 2018. Now India plans to replicate the decision on a national level, aiming to eliminate single-use plastics entirely by 2022. While government efforts are important to encourage industries to redesign their production methods, individuals too can take steps to minimise their consumption, and littering, of single-use plastics. Most of these actions are low on effort, but can cause a significant reduction in plastic waste in the environment, if the return of Olive Ridley turtles to a Mumbai beach are anything to go by.

To know more about the single-use plastics problem, visit Planet or Plastic portal, National Geographic’s multi-year effort to raise awareness about the global plastic trash crisis. From microplastics in cosmetics to haunting art on plastic pollution, Planet or Plastic is a comprehensive resource on the problem. You can take the pledge to reduce your use of single-use plastics, here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of National Geographic, and not by the Scroll editorial team.