Vol. 5 Num 1137 Fri. August 10, 2007  

In conversation with Ajit Roy
Veteran artiste on the state of Tagore songs in Bangladesh

For singer-composer Ajit Roy, Rabindra Sangeet is a devotion, which he claims has established him as a reputable artiste. His mother introduced him to Tagore songs in his childhood. Eventually, music became his profession and the guiding light of his life.

Though he is a renowned Tagore singer, Ajit Roy has also made major contributions to the 'Gano Sangeet' genre, especially during the movement against the Pakistani junta. He served as a music producer at Bangladesh Betar from 1972 to 1995. During his career in radio, Ajit Roy has composed several songs that attained much popularity including Shukh tumi ke rendered by Runa Laila, Ekti Bangladesh by Sabina Yasmin and Banglar mukh ami dekhiachhi. For his contribution to music, Ajit Roy received a state recognition -- Swadhinata Dibash Padak in 2000.

Initially, apart from Tagore songs, Roy used to sing 'Panchakabir Gaan' and Gano Sangeet. The Tagore centennial celebrations had a remarkable impact on him. He became a Tagore devotee. He started performing Rabindra Sangeet alongside Gano Sangeet at cultural and political programmes. Was Tagore songs appreciated at political gatherings? "Why not? When rendered with conviction, Tagore's patriotic songs have immense impact on the listener," responds Roy.

In 1971 Ajit Roy joined Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra and after the Liberation War, in 1972, he joined Bangladesh Betar as a music producer. Do Tagore songs get proper coverage in radio? Ajit says, "Yes, in terms of duration. Tagore songs get over two hours of airtime throughout the day. However, it is my observation that Tagore songs aired on radio and TV is losing its appeal and there are reasons behind that."

Ajit continues, "First of all, several novice artistes are performing on radio and TV who lack proper training. Apart from that quite a few music producers responsible for these programmes, do not take enough care during the recording sessions. As a result, often the programmes are substandard."

Commenting on the current scenario of Rabindra Sangeet practices in Bangladesh, Ajit Roy says, "I don't see enough talented upcoming artistes in the genre and several prominent singers these days have become commercial. They have lost the urge to do better."

Despite several renowned schools offering courses in Rabindra Sangeet, why is there a lack of upcoming talents? Roy responds, "After the era of Hemanta Mukharjee, Kanika Banerjee and their generation there was a huge void in India. Similarly, we are going through a tough time. There is another issue. I run a music school named 'Abbhuday Sangeet Angan'. It seems that the young singers are after fast fame. They are not interested in extensive training and preparation. To achieve expertise one has to practice scrupulously. And particularly in Tagore songs one needs greater understanding of Tagore's philosophy and has to incorporate apt emotions that the lyrics demand during renditions."

The veteran artiste however, has not lost hope. He is optimistic about the fate of Tagore songs in Bangladesh.

Ajit Roy