Vol. 5 Num 1045 Fri. May 11, 2007  

Iffat Ara: A passionate follower of Tagore

Entering the spacious and airy home in Gulshan of singer and painter Iffat Ara Dewan one's sights turn to a colourful array of pottery, subjects often seen on her canvas.

With Tagore's birth anniversary taking place recently, it was fitting to talk to Iffat about her passion for Rabindra Sangeet. The singer has performed at home as well as in Kolkata, Delhi, US, France, Canada, Belgium and UK over the years. Likewise she has been a regular performer on TV and radio.

Iffat's first record by EMI, 45 rpm featured two Tagore songs from Dhaka and Kolkata in 1970Ami Rupey tomai bholabo na and Probhu bolo bolo kobey. In 1981, she came out with an LP of Tagore songs by Srotar Ashar, Dhaka. Then followed three LPs, six CDs and cassettes of Tagore songs, six CDs and cassettes of old Bengali songs by Bengal Foundation, Dhaka (1986-2004). These works were followed by a cassette and CD of songs by Atul Prasad and Rajanikanta Sen by P & M, Kolkata in 2003. Also in the ranks of her works is a cassette of Tagore songs by HMV, Kolkata.

"I am greatly drawn to Rabindra Sangeet," says the serene Iffat, explaining that it moves her with its rich lyrics and themes such as devotion, love, patriotism, a celebration of nature and the seasons of Bangladesh."

Iffat began to learn singing at the tender age of seven. Her mother, Sakina Dewan was a great source of encouragement. Her formal training at Chhayanat where she did a five-year course in music (1963-1968) was a major milestone for the upcoming artiste. Her guru was the late Waheedul Haque, who she says continued to be a major influence until he died in January this year. Another teacher she cites is Sanjida Khatun. Bengal Foundation too has promoted her greatly, she adds.

Why is Tagore's birth anniversary important for Iffat? In her words, "On this day we remember Tagore, pay homage to him and renew our pledge to continue singing his songs. The great poet continues to take us back to our roots and familiarises us with our rich Bengali culture and identity."

And Iffat is optimistic about the future of Tagore songs. The younger generation, she points out, now has access to many music schools even in small towns. Also the genre has not lost its appeal. "One feels proud to be a Bengali when one listens to Tagore," says Iffat.

Iffat Ara Dewan during a performance