Vol. 5 Num 295 Sat. March 26, 2005  

Looking back to the years of glory
Shujeo Shyam reminisces on the glorious days

Born in 1946, Shujeo Shyam has been singing since childhood. An eminent composer of widely rendered patriotic songs like Rokto diye nam likhechhi and Bijoy nishan urchhey oi, Shujeo Shyam had a long association with the Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra (SBBK) from the inception of the radio in April 1971.

"The memories are still vivid," says a nostalgic Shyam. "Whenever I remember those days I feel the same spirit I had 34 years back. The inadequately equipped radio station was in a two-storeyed building," he asserts. The artistes of SBBK used to sing with just a tabla and a harmonium, he recalls.

The station had only one tape recorder and two microphones: one for the singers and the other for the musical hands. There was no separate place for rehearsal. Says Shyam, " There was food and water shortage. We did not even have enough space to sleep. But we were such a cohesive group that all these hassles seemed no big deal to us. We had a single goal and that was to sing with dedication and inspire the freedom fighters and the people of Bangladesh."

The SBBK artistes would get little time for rehearsals and usually recorded three songs a day. "SBBK was a popular station and every one waited to listen to the latest news and the inspiring songs. It was a great feeling," Shyam recalls. The freedom fighters used to write letters to the radio station from unknown places. One such message said, "The songs you play keep us alive, give us the strength to move on and fight the war."

Shujeo Shyam reminisces on the contribution of the dedicated artistes at that time. Kamal Lohani used to write scripts for the kathikas (satirical plays) at night. "I remember lyricist Abul Kashem Swandip. He hardly had the courage to approach the senior artistes. Once this humble boy came to me and asked whether I would compose a song he had written. When I read the lyric, I was moved by the spirited words." The song is now widely rendered : Rakto diye naam likhechhi Bangladesher naam.

Shyam recollects the day of December 16, 1971. When they were rehearsing a song, the programme producer Abu Taher came and told them, "This song won't do, we need to sing the song of independence."

Describing his emotion at that time, Shyam recollects, "We were overwhelmed with joy. The feeling was incomparable and we could hardly believe ----. There was rumour that we might attain freedom very soon. So, when we actually won the war, our elation knew no bounds."

Lyricist Shahidul Islam told Shyam on the Victory Day that he would write a song and have the latter compose it for him. It took Shyam a fraction of a second to agree. "There was no quiet room for us to sit down and compose a song--everybody was excited and got carried away with the joy at the news of victory and also engaged in preparing for the telecast of the news. So, we went to the ground floor of the radio station."

Shahid wrote the antara (first stanza) and gave it to Shyam for composition. Shyam and singers Rothindranath Roy, Kaderi Kibria, Kalyani, Mala, Rupa and others, led by Ajit Roy, rehearsed the song. Shyam says, "We completed the song at 5:30pm and it was recorded after a skit the same evening. The song was played that evening after the speech of Syed Nazrul Islam, the then President of Mujibnagar Government who came to the station along with Tajuddin Ahmed, the Prime Minister."

Going back to those eventful times, Shyam says, " I can never forget those days. I am proud to have witnessed the most glorious days of the Bangalees and be a part of the struggle the nation went through during 1971."

Shujeo Shyam