musings about bangla music
“There's a lot more to music than notes on a page….playing music is supposed to be fun! It's about heart! It's about feelings and moving people and something beautiful in being alive! It's NOT about notes on a page!”
- Richard Dreyfuss, as the character Glen Holland in “Mr. Holland's Opus”
I grew up in a household where music was a daily part of life. As a kid, I remember rummaging through the numerous tapes in “the drawer” yes, there was this single drawer on the bedside table in my parents' bedroom where they used to keep their much cherished music collection. The rock and pop renditions of ABBA, Boney M, Harry Belafonte, Nat 'King' Cole and Cliff Richard. Debobrata and Chinmoy's renditions of Rabindra Shangeet. The ghazals of the Jagjit and Chitra Singh duo and Pankaj Udhas. The adhunik songs of Hemanta, Lata, Shamol, Manna Dey, Asha, Bhupen Hajarika and Srabonti Majumdar. And of course, from our own soil, the works of Ferdous Wahid, Azam Khan, Fakir Alamgir and Pilu Momtaz.
The furniture may have changed through the years and the bedside table with it's designated drawer might look quite different now but those tapes belonging to my parents are still there my mother, being the better music aficionado of the two, has carefully kept them in as good a condition as possible so that when the mood strikes, one can still listen to Azam Khan belting out “Ischool Khuila Chere Mowla” or “Orey Saleka, Orey Maleka”.
Also, hats off to my parents for enrolling me in “Abbasuddin Shangeet Academy”, a music school run by Ferdousi Rahman (or Ferdousi Khalamoni as affectionately called by her students), Abbasuddin's daughter and an eminent singer by her own right. There I was taught by her and other veterans like Abdul Latif, to fall in love with, among others, bhawaiya, bhatiali, jaari, shaari, Lalon geeti and Hason Raaja's songs.
And I remember how when a bunch of us cousins or friends would get together, there would be a harmonium in the house or somebody would have an acoustic guitar, and we'd dance or sing along to the beat of someone doing a cover of the awesome rock and pop songs of the 80s and 90s era - Runa Laila's “Shilpi Ami” or “Bondhu Tin Din”, Sabina Yasmin's “Ei Mon Tomake Dilam”, Ferdous Wahid's “Biral'er Chana”, or “Amon Akta Ma Dena”, Feedback's “Melai Jai Re”, Souls' “Mon Shudhu Mon Chueyeche”, Miles' “Dhiki Dhiki Agun Joley”, Khaled's (Chime) “Shorolotar Protima”, Dolchut's “Pori” or “Gari Chole Na”, James' “Ma”…the list is endless!
Through all the great years of my eclectic experience of music, I have learnt one irrefutable fact the most prestigious asset of the Bangalis is their culture and the brightest element of Bangla's cultural heritage is its songs. One cannot deny that Bangla music forms an integral part of any Bangla cultural festival and that on any given day, when you are struck with a desire to indulge in nostalgic feelings, the best way to spark that particular mood is to listen to your favorite Bangla song be it a time-immemorial Rabindra Shangeet or a classic adhunik gaan.
It's no wonder that BBC Bangla recently had listeners nominate their top five choices for the all time best Bangla songs to create a top 20 list (see below). The local HSBC bank also decided to pay homage to Bangla music through compiling some of the most memorable Bangla songs composed over 100 years, from 1905 till 2005. They recently arranged a four-hour gala performance with the participation of some of the most prominent vocalists of the country. Starting with our national anthem “Amar Shonar Bangla Ami”, renowned songs like “Aji Bangladesher Hridoi Hote”, “Karar Oi Louho Kopat”, “Shedin Dujone Dule Chinu Bone”, “Oki Garial Bhai”, “Ranar Chuteche Ranar”, “Ore Neel Doria”, “Kobita Porara Prohor Esheche”, and many more, were presented to an enthralled audience. At the insistence of the invited guests and performers, HSBC later came out with nearly 5,000 audio CDs of the live performance, as gifts for their patrons and associates.
Needless to say, such efforts were received with great appreciation by the veteran members of the music industry; maybe due to the fact that so much attention is now being given to today's generation's need for fusion renditions, they were starting to feel a bit left out.
I am of a similar opinion.
Though fusion is a great step being taken by artists and bands like Dolchut, Habib, Bangla, and Fuad (of Maya 1, Maya 2, Re-Evolution and Variation No. 25 fame) to revive the interest of the youth in Bangla music, it is also important to ensure that complementary steps are taken to keep the original nuances and styles of these songs alive. Otherwise the historical impact of a language and culture that on the global front, are now the envy of many, will slowly fade from our hearts and memories.
As so beautifully put by Mr. Holland, we have to ensure that Bangla music holds on to its own special ingredient of 'feelings and moving people and something beautiful in being alive' for many years to come.
BBC Bangla “Shorbo Kaaler Shorbo Sreshtho Bangla Gaan”
1. Amar Shonar Bangla (Author: Rabindra Nath Thakur)
2. Manush Manush'er Jonney (Original Author/Composer/Singer: Bhupen Hazarika, Translated to Bengali by: Shibdash Benarjee)
3. Amar Bhai'er Roktey Rangano Ekushey February (Singer: Abdul Gaffar Chowdhuri, Composer: Altaf Mahmud)
4. Coffee House'er Shei Adda Ta Aaj Aar Nei (Singer: Manna De, Author: Gouriproshonno Mazumdar, Composer: Shupornokanti Ghosh)
5. Ek Shagor Rokte'er Binimoye Banglar Shadhinota Anlo Jara (Composer: Apel Mahmud, Author: Gobindo Haldar)
6. Ami Banglai Gaan Gai (Lyricist & Composer: Protul Mukharjee, Author: Mahmuduzzaman Babu)
7. Mora Ekti Phulkey Bachabo Boley Judhho Kori (Author: Gobindo Haldar, Composer & Singer: Apel Mahmud)
8. Tumi Aaj Koto Durey (Singer: Jogonmoi Mitro, Author: Pranab Roy, Composer: Shubol Dash Gupta)
9. Ek Nodi Rokto Periye (Author & Composer: Khan Ataur Rahman, Composer: Shahnaz Rahmatulla)
10. Dhono Dhanno Pushpey Bhora (Author & Composer: Dijendhrolal Roy)
11. Muchey Jawa Din Gulo Amai Je Pichu Daakey (Singer & Composer: Hemanta Mukharjee, Author: Gouriproshonno Mazumdar)
12. Salam Salam Hajar Salam (Singer: Mohammad Abdul Zabbar, Author: Fazle Huda)
13. Joy Bangla, Banglar Joy (Author: Mazharul Anwar, Composer: Anwar Parvez)
14. Khachar Bhitor Ochin Pakhi (Author: Lalon Shah, Singer: Farida Parvin)
15. Akbar Jetey Dey Na Amar Chotto Shonar Gaaye (Singer: Shahnaz Rahmatullah, Author: Mazharul Anwar, Composer: Anwar Parvez)
16. Karar Oi Louho Kopat (Author: Kazi Najrul Islam)
17. Ei Padma Ei Meghna (Singer: Farida Parvin, Author & Composer: Abu Zafar)
18. Chol Chol Chol, Urdhogogone Baajey Madol (Author: Kazi Najrul Islam)
19. Ak Tara Tui Desh'er Kotha Bol (Singer: Shahnaz Rahmatullah, Author: Gazi Mazharul Anwar, Composer: Anwar Parvez)
20. Tumi Ki Dekhecho Kobhu Jiboner Porajoy (Singer: Mohammad Abdul Zabbar)
By Simin Saifuddin
Photo: Munem Wasif
Special thanks to Geetali