The Mesmerizing Flute
They make various kinds of flutes all year long and sell these wholesale. The sale of their flutes flourish during the occasions of Pahela Baishakh, Janmaastami mela, Rath mela, Eid melas and during puja festivals within the district. “We make flutes such as Aar, Kalamkata, Pata, Naghini, Fuichura, Tipara, Mohan and Krishna”. However, the inner sorrow of the flute-makers remains unknown to the buyers of the flutes, the audience and the outside world.
A flute can transport one to the world of romance through its ever-appealing tunes. It can easily take one into the world of music with its mesmerizing notes. In our literature, culture and songs, the flute has always played an inspirational role for its spontaneous flow and appeal to the listeners. Great poets of Bengali literature have used the flute to compose many a romantic poem or song. In rural Bangladesh, the tunes of the bamboo flute played by the shepherds still amuse the passers-by with the tune flowing from the flute in the distance. However, today in the modern world, like most other parts of the world, our traditional culture has been blended with the western tunes, losing its original appeal and throwing many of our traditional musical instruments like the bamboo flute into neglect.
The four sons of late Hashu Fakir locally known as Hachhua Fakir and Mukul Jaan have, since childhood, followed their father's profession with passion and dedication. They make flutes and sell them in local markets. Their products also fly to foreign countries because of the high quality. Late Hashu Fakir was very popular in and outside the district for his tasteful technique of playing the flute. He is, till date, remembered and respected for his unforgettable talent by the locals of his area.
The four brothers- Khaleque Fakir, Malek Fakir, Nurul Amin Fakir and Qayyum Fakir along with their children, have followed in their father's footsteps with great passion. “To keep our father's love for playing the flute alive, he, late Hashu Fakir has always encouraged us to play the instrument since our early years”, said Khaleque Fakir, 56, eldest son of the late Hashu Fakir. They are from Korer Nagua (Majhiali) village of Mymensingh district. Khaleque Fakir also says that they learned to make and play the flute under the guidance of their late father who passed away last year.
The flutes made by this family over the last five decades have made Korer Nagua a well-known village to the people of Phulpur and its adjacent upazilas of Mymensingh, Sherpur and Netrokona districts.
Educated up to class five, Khaleque Fakir started playing the flute at the age of seven and later Khaleque's other brothers also joined their father after completing their primary education in the village primary school.
They make various kinds of flutes all year long and sell these wholesale. The sale of their flutes flourish during the occasions of Pahela Baishakh, Janmaastami mela, Rath mela, Eid melas and during puja festivals within the district. “We make flutes such as Aar, Kalamkata, Pata, Naghini, Fuichura, Tipara, Mohan and Krishna”, says Khaleque Fakir, father of three daughters and a son. He also added. "Only Kalamkata flute is exported to America, Canada, Japan and India and the other kinds of flutes are sold in local markets." However, the inner sorrow of the flute-makers remains unknown to the buyers of the flutes, the audience and the outside world. Even though their flutes are sold abroad at very high price, the amount of money the family earns from making the flutes is meager.
They collect Tarai bamboo, which is a special type of bamboo from Suryapur bazar in Haluaghat Upazila for making the flutes that they make and sell. “A flute costs about TK. 4 to Tk.5 due to an increase in the price of elements related to the flute-making processes in recent years. A flute is sold between TK.6 to Tk.7 locally, whereas a Kalamkata flute is sold at $2.50 in the USA”, says Khaleque Fakir. “A flute needs five colours and other materials like spirit, rajan, kaharba, ranamastaki as a finishing touch. These materials are needed to make the colour lasting and glossy”, says the flutist.
They now have an order for 20,000 flutes but now they are not very interested as the profit is not reasonable. “The middlemen and the exporters reap the fat profit gained from exporting these to USA, Canada, Japan and India but we are being deprived of reasonable price for years together”, added Khaleque Fakir.
“One Arun Karmakar in Mymensingh buys the flutes from us at lower price and he contacts with one Shah Newaz, proprietor of Jahanara Cottage at Aziz Super Market in Dhaka and thus we are deprived of fair prices as we do not deal with the exporter directly”, says Malek Fakir, now father of four. Malek who has a vast experience of traveling to large parts of the country for selling his products said that if they could export their products directly, it would be more profitable for them.
He travels to Dhaka, Chittagong, Rangamati, Cox's Bazar, Sylhet, Comilla, Rajshahi, Rangpur and different places of greater Mymensingh to sell flutes all year long.
Every month they get an order of 4000 to 5000 flutes but during the off- season the order comes down to half the number. Nurul Amin Fakir who visits the local haats and bazars of the district said that the sales of flutes is the same and the profit is not reasonable either.
He visits Goatala, Tarakanda, Rupshi, Amuakanda and Balia Bazar in Phulpur, Shakuai and Dhara Bazars in Haluaghat, Hughla Bazar in Purbadhala of Netrokona district. “I visit Mymensingh district town now and then on many traditional occasions and the sale is good”, said Nurul Fakir. “This profession is not like other professions, I find a kind of joy when I am on the road with a bag on my shoulder to sell my flutes”, said Nurul, a father of three. His only son is a HSC level student at Bangabandhu Degree College in Tarakanda Thana of Phulpur Upazila. Aklima, 14 Malek Fakir's daughter, Shilpi, 15 Nurul Fakir's daughter and Rina,12 Qayyum Fakir's daughter also make flutes with their fathers and uncles.
Khaleque Fakir also said that they need support from the government and non-government organizations to keep their work going and for earning a greater profit. “As our work is deeply related to our tradition and culture, people concerned in these matters should come forward to help revive the line of work as well as the artistes related to it”, he urged.
“We do not want to let go of our family tradition and holding on to it will only be possible for us if we can deliver our products directly without going through any middlemen”, he said. “They are the ones who eat up the lion's share of the profit”, he observed.
However, Khaleque also plays flute with the local baul artistes to entertain the local people. “As I have to wander around in different places including Dhaka, for earning my livelihood, I cannot always attend all their programs. However, I do try to satisfy my local people with the tunes of my flute”, Khaleque said. “I hope to continue my work as long as I can breathe. I am so deeply attached to the flute and its tunes that I cannot imagine life without playing it”.
A reputed company has printed Khaleque Fakir's photograph in their calendar and has written about him this year. This has spread his name and fame far and wide.
Photo's: Kakoli Pradhan
(R) thedailystar.net 2006