A.Song.A.Day – Scarborough Fair

simon and garfunkelWe bring you another legendary folk song, the English ballad called Scarborough Fair. Quite unsurprisingly, the origins of this folk ballad are also unknown. What is known however is that the songs was spread around by bards of Medieval England who took them from town to town and with each passing hand the lyrics and arrangement kept changing, which explains the numerous versions of the song today. The name Scarborough Fair, refers to a 45-day trading fair which used to happen in the seaside town of England called Scarborough. The song speaks of a man assigning his lover a set of impossible tasks, completing which would apparently qualify her to be a true love of his.
In 1963 Bob Dylan borrowed part of the famed English folk singer-guitarist Martin Carthy‘s arrangement of Scarborough Fair for his song Girl from the North Country which made appearance in his album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan and subsequently in other Dylan albums too. But this version is typical Dylan and doesn’t sound a lot like how many of know the song. The most famous and the most memorable version of Scarborough Fair to date remains the one by the American duo Simon and Garfunkel for their 1966 album Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme. The pair again adapted their version from Carthy’s arrangement, but didn’t credit Carthy in the album which led to a long-standing standoff between Carthy and the duo. In my opinion the beauty of the song lay in the contrapuntal arrangement of the vocals. A lot of artists have hence covered the song, including Al Di Meola, Justin Hayward, Sarah Brightman etc, but nothing has quite matched up to the charm of the Simon and Garfunkel version.
Another reason for including this song in our series was this adaptation of the song that I had once found in a Malayalam song of the 1980s. The song in contention is Deva Dhundhubhi from the 1986 movie called Ennennum Kannettante, composed by this once exceptional composer Jerry Amaldev who has given a lot of memorable songs to Malayalam filmdom. What makes this adaptation noteworthy is the way it has been made to fit into a totally Carnatic-oriented song. To clear any air of plagiarism, the tune of the song is totally original and it is just in the second interlude (to be precise 2:32 – 2:56) that Jerry Amaldev includes this Veena adaptation of the first stanza of Scarborough Fair. Below are the links to a few versions of Scarborough Fair, plus the Malayalam song. Shall be back with another song soon!

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