Calling Sohrab Hossain one of the pioneering Nazrul Sangeet singers of our country would not be an overstatement. After the Partition (1947), except for Abbasuddin, Feroza Begum, Laila Arjumand Banu, Bedaruddin Ahmed and Sohrab Hossain, there were hardly any accomplished Nazrul Sangeet artistes here. Hossain had been an integral part of the revival of popularity of Nazrul's songs and maintaining the correct notations of the songs after they went through major distortion during the 1940s and '50s. A generation of talented Nazrul Sangeet artistes that include Shaheen Samad, Dalia Nausheen, Sadya Afreen Mallick, Sabiha Mahbub and Kamol Rodrigues trained under him.
Hossain died at Square Hospital in the capital yesterday morning. He was 91. Family sources said he was admitted to the hospital on November 29 after he complained of neck pain. He was also suffering from various age-related complications.
Hossain was born in Ayeshtola village, near Ranaghat of Nadia district, West Bengal, India on April 9, 1922.
As a 9-year-old, he first met Kazi Nazrul Islam at a gathering in Ranaghat. He heard someone singing and made his way through the crowd to take a look at the singer. He was fascinated not only by the words -- “Durgamo giri kantar moru dustar parabaar hey”, but also the zeal with which the artiste rendered the song. It was as if, one could not separate the singer from his song. According to Hossain, that song made an immense impact on him.
Sohrab Hossain was an artiste at peace with himself. No wonder, considering his commitment to music and his acclaim as a household name for his rendition of Nazrul's songs.
Before the Partition, he used to go to Kolkata often. Artistes K Mallick, Bedaruddin Ahmed, Bazlul Karim and Hossain would meet there. In a previously published interview with The Daily Star, Hossain recalled those days: “I had the opportunity to hear the legendary divas -- Angurbala and Indubala -- rendering Nazrul's songs. I'd also been to the staging of the popular play 'Nawab Sirajuddaula'. Most of the songs featured in that play were written and composed by Nazrul. I used to like different genres of songs but as I heard Nazrul Sangeet more, I felt a strong affinity towards the poet's work.”
Hossain's first lessons in Nazrul Sangeet during the pre-Partition days were from Zainul Abedin, a resident of Ranaghat, West Bengal. He continued his taalim under the guidance of Kiron Dey Chowdhury and Abbasuddin Ahmed, the undisputed maestro of folk songs. Ustad M Hossain Khusro gave him lessons in classical music. Later, Girin Chakravarty gave him lessons in Nazrul Sangeet.
After Partition Sohrab Hossain settled in Dhaka.
Nazrul researcher Professor Rafiqul Islam called Sohrab Hossain's voice “a gift from God.”
“The style of Nazrul Sangeet that is popular today in Bangladesh is perhaps best demonstrated in Sohrab Hossain's singing,” added Professor Islam.
Hossain's favourite Nazrul Sangeet were: “Phooler jalshaye”, “Ami chirotorey durey choley jabo” and “Shobar kotha koiley”.
The artiste and guru earned accolades and medals for his single-minded dedication to preserving and performing Nazrul's songs. He was honoured with the Swadhinata Puroshkar by the Bangladesh government in 1980.