Vol. 4 Num 146 Tue. October 21, 2003  

Abdul Alim
Remembering a timeless meastro

Abdul Alim (1931-1974)a brilliant folk singer possessed a melodious and gifted voice which is yet to be surpassed by any other folksinger of our country. His presentation was simply magical. His songs epitomized the very essence of folk culture and mesmerized listeners across the country. Indeed, he played an important role in popularizing this form of music. With such a life of achievement it is unfortunate that his death anniversary was observed unceremoniously last month and he is now almost a forgotten chapter.

Alim migrated from Murshidabad of West Bengal, to Dhaka after partition, and joined the Dhaka Radio station as a staff artist.

From a very young age Alim's musical senses were honed from listening to the gramophone records. By the age of 14 he had already recorded two songs for the company. While performing songs at the Alia Madrasa in Calcutta he gained immense popularity among the connoisseurs of music.

In Dhaka he took lessons from Ustad Mohammed Hossain Khosru for sometime. During his career, as a folk singer he performed at a number of music conferences. At the All Pakistan music conference in Lahore, Alim was awarded five gold medals for his virtuoso performance and contribution to music. He recorded songs for 'Mukh O Mukhosh', the first film ever to be produced in the erstwhile East Pakistan. Subsequently, he continued to record songs at a prolific rate.

The folk songs are inherent treasures of our riverine Bangladeshi culture. The songs express the hopes and frustrations of young hearts and it also upholds the life and culture of the different regions. Bhatialy songs, sung mainly in riverine regions of Eastern Mymensingh and the low lands of Sylhet, are meant to replicate the energy and timelessness of the rivers that have been flowing from time immemorial.

People who have heard Alim's presentation of Naiya Rey Nayer Badaam Tuila, Duarey Aishachey Palki and countless other songs will find it difficult to forget his presentation and artistic skill in voice modulation and holding it to a tune without break which seemed like an eternity. Abdul Alim's talent in such Bhatiyali songs were a treat to the listeners. Many say his passion was contagious.

Folksongs are so central to our culture that it seems a shame that the works of such artistes as Abdul Alim are not readily available to the listeners. Radio Bangladesh should have taken initiatives to preserve the golden voices of the yesteryears. Our recording companies have a role to play too. Many countries put in rigorous work to preserve their national treasure of songs, either by reprinting, editing, re-launching (with new artistes); in comparison we seem happy to exile our artistes to footnotes.