Dev Chakraborty and Janine Bensouda
Dev Chakraborty and Janine Bensouda during an interaction with Gulf News. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: It was quite a unique experience for Moroccan opera singer Jenine Bensouda, lending her voice to a translated version of an original score written and composed in a language and set in a culture that was almost a quarter of a world apart! And yet Jenine makes it look, feel and sound so very seamless.

Her rendition, in Arabic, of the song ‘Ekla chalo re’ (‘… Go it alone’), originally composed and created in Bengali by Rabindranath Tagore, is truly mesmerising. But it was by no means an easy task.

“This was something truly different. I had this classical co-singer Dev Chakraborty singing the song in its original Bengali language. And then there was me, singing each stanza in Arabic, based on the beautiful translation by Dr Shihab Ganem. I had to constantly make sure that the tune and the rhythm were maintained, right through, just as they were in the original. It was a huge task and I’m glad that the results were so good,” Jenine told Gulf News.

On being asked what the biggest challenge was in a cross-cultural collaboration such as this, Jenine said: “I had to hold the tune, as it was in the original. At the same time, the translation itself was quite a challenging task because Arabic is such a rich language. It has long words or compound words for a single expression. Looking for synonyms to replace a longish word with something shorter, because it had to fit into the key, was really difficult. I troubled Dr Ganem a lot, asking him for shorter, simpler alternatives for certain complex words, and he kept on obliging! So it was Dr Ganem’s superb translation that actually made the whole performance appear so seamless.”

Jenine further said that for her, “Getting into the soul of this song was very important, in order to be able to reach out to an audience that was not familiar with the tune, and that’s precisely what I did”.