Vol. 5 Num 955 Tue. February 06, 2007  

In conversation with Sumona
A modest artiste with a wide repertoire

She might not be one of the most sought after artistes in the country as of yet, but her renditions are bound to appease a music enthusiast's senses. Her vocals have that certain charm that defines minstrels of the golden era in Bengali music -- traces of Sandhya Mukhapadhyay's unmistakable lilt or Haimanti Shukla's melancholy melodies.

The only all-inclusive music award in the country, Citycell-Channel i Music Awards recognised Sumona's talents as well; she won in the Best Newcomer category in 2004.

Though she is still considered in the "newcomer" bracket, Sumona's background in music is quite extensive. She has had 18 years of training in classical music. Says Sumona, "I took music lessons from Ustad Rabiul Hossain and the credit for whatever skills I've mastered goes to him." Sumona and her family have been in Dhaka for last eight years, prior to that they were in Rajshahi. She completed her Master's in Economics from Rajshahi University.

Being in the music scene for 26 years, is she comfortable with the "aspiring/newcomer" label? "Certainly" -- Sumona's response. "I may have trained more than a lot of the artistes who have already managed to carve a niche for themselves, but in the Dhaka-based music scene I'd certainly consider myself an amateur. And though my conviction for the art runs deep, I'm not pursuing music as a profession yet."

Enlisted as a 'Grade A' artiste in BTV in Tagore, Nazrul and adhunik songs, Sumona had also taken part in radio programmes featuring classical music. Her first album Ketey Gelo Baroti Bochhor, produced under the banner of World Music, came out in 2003. Twelve original adhunik songs in the album were composed by Basudeb Ghosh. Of the songs, Ei korey choley gelo, O rangila pakhi and Bhul bhangley choley esho have been appreciated by the audience.

Her upcoming album Shudhu Tumi Ashbey Boley, under the banner of FM Tunes, features songs -- Jey akash bhasha bojhey na, Par koriyo and others -- that can best be described as folk fusion. Like the previous one, all songs of Shudhu Tumi.

.. have been composed by Basudeb Ghosh.

Her singles, like a patriotic song Proti poley poley jaar chhowa are aired on Falgoon music and she has been featured in Kichhu Kotha Kichhu Gaan (hosted by Syed Abdul Hadi) and Bhalobasho Mor Gaan (hosted by Ferdausi Rahman) on ntv.

Sumona, who was one of the judges in the district-level auditions of the popular talent hunt Closeup 1, points out the noticeable differences between grooming trends in Dhaka and mufassil areas: "In small towns, music students have less distractions. Teachers in these areas don't believe in time constraint; learning an art cannot and should not be compromised. In Dhaka, however, the students and their parents are always in a rush. The objective is to prepare an individual for the music market in the shortest possible time."

"However, in this day and age of music videos and concerts, being able to carry out a tune impeccably is not enough. Singing is now just a part of the whole 'performance' phenomenon. And when it comes to performance, Dhaka-based artistes usually outshine the out of towners," she adds.

The gifted artist aspires to do playbacks in films. According to her, "Of all the mediums, cinema has the most lasting impact. Audiences remember a noteworthy film song (soundtrack) and the artistes responsible, for decades; take Mitali Mukherji's Ei duniya ekhon tho aar...for example. I want to enjoy that kind of recognition."

Sumona Bardhan