Vol. 4 Num 331 Wed. May 05, 2004  

Commemorative music
Celebrating special days

There is a close kinship between festivals and music in Bangladesh. Witness the celebrations that are held to mark birth and death anniversaries of poets, musicians and saints. Then there are important national days, Pehla Baisakh and changing seasons and folk songs that celebrate the hopes and aspirations of the rural folk. Now as the Nazrul and Tagore birth anniversaries loom near, it is a good time to look back at the role played by commemorative music in the cultural life of the country.

Tagore songs, composed by Rabindranath Tagore, are an integral part of the Bengali culture. The songs of the famous poet and Nobel Laureate for Literature are sung in every house and cultural functions, particularly on the occasion of his birth and death anniversary, national days and the Bengali New Year festival. The soft melody of Tagore songs has a transcendental appeal for its spiritual content, be it life, death, creation and nature.

Nazrul songs, composed by the National Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam, are even more popular in Bangladesh. To mark his life and contribution to literature and music, a year-long Nazrul Centenary celebration was held recently. The key elements of the function were songs, drama and discussions on his work.

His birth and death anniversaries are celebrated with fanfare. He is a household name, particularly his patriotic, devotional and romantic songs. Some of his songs on the distinctive beauty of each Bengali season, particularly spring and rainy seasons, have a lasting appeal.

Lalon Geeti is another genre of famous commemorative song in Bangladesh, named after the mystic poet and singer Lalon Shah. The devotional songs celebrate the mystery of life and universe and the glory of God's creation.

Every year a Lalon festival is held at his birth place in Kushtia, a city in northern Bangladesh. On this day, an elaborate programme with discussions and musical performances of his songs are rendered by the Bauls (mystic singers) from different parts of the country,

Likewise, Hasan Raja's mystical songs festivals are held every year to celebrate the birth and death anniversaries of this composer of devotional and mystic songs of Sylhet.

Another evergreen theme is the folk songs which revolve around the simple life, hopes and aspirations and hardship of rural folk. Among others, the compositions of Poet Jasimuddin and songs of Abbasuddin and Abdul Alim are very popular in every part of the country. Their birth and death anniversaries are commemorated by performances of their songs in different cultural organisations, radio and television.

Besides, the general category of music prevalent in Bangladesh, classical music--both vocal and instrumental--has a rich tradition. Among the well-known names are Ustad Alauddin Khan, Ustad Ayet Ali Khan, Dr Ali Akbar Khan, and Ustad Bahadur Khan of Brahmanbaria. Commemorative musical functions are held every year in their honour. Moreover, the religious festivals of communities like Muslims, Hindus, Christians and Buddhists are also marked by their respective devotional songs.

Lastly, there are the Independence and Victory Days which are celebrated with patriotic fervour in cultural functions.

The author is the chairman, Trustee Board, Nazrul Institute and former DG, Shilpakala Academy.