Vol. 5 Num 201 Thu. December 16, 2004  

The stellar role of cultural activists in our Liberation War
Rekindling hope through music
Anwar Pervez talks about his invaluable patriotic song

It was late in the night, sometime during October 1970. The entire country was going through a tumultuous time during the non-cooperation movement.

Anwar Pervez, a composer of hardly 26 years of age, had by this time, gained acclaim. Director Fakhrul Alam had asked him to compose a song for his film Joy Bangla. The song would have to reverberate with the emotional storm that was cloaking the country at that time.

'While I hummed a tune, Gazi Mazharul Anwar was quick in writing the lyrics. The house where we sat to write the lyrics was situated right beside the Sangsad Bhaban. While we worked on the tune, we could hear the footsteps of the military somewhere around the corner. Fearing arrest we waited till the heavy steps faded away. Each second seemed like a lifetime. But our excitement spurred us on and within the next half-hour, we had put the finishing touches to what would later become a priceless song. It was not that the song was composed for any particular party. It was rather composed at a time when people were united under a single banner for a common cause--independence,' says Anwar.

'When a composer sits down with a song, he has to depend on his basic instincts and his "third eye". That is his vision must not only focus on the context of the song, but also on the impact the song would have on the listeners. So, when I was asked to compose a tune for the particular film, the first thing I visualised was the half-fed and half-clad people in distress, having lost all hope of livelihood, but still holding dear the hope of independence. And I wanted to create a tune that would re-kindle that hope into an engulfing flame.

'I could not hold back my emotions as I went over the song, chord by chord. The air around the artists was highly charged. Abdul Jabbar, my sister Shahnaz Rahmatullah and a few other artistes lent their voice to the song. The song was recorded throughout the chilly night on a mono-recording system, at the International Recording Studio at Indira Road. Given the extreme limitations in the facilities, the final magic came from the chief recordist Abdul Majid. The song Joy Bangla Banglar Joy took less than an hour to materialise from simply an idea into rolls of tape' went on Anwar Pervez.

'When we came out of the studio it was almost dawn. To our amazement we found out that a huge group was waiting outside the studio, chanting slogans. We had to disperse quickly, fearing army intervention. And our fears were not misplaced: Such was the tension at that time, the movie title had to be temporarily changed to Sanghat'.

'But despite all the hurdles, it brings me to tears when I realise the millions of muktibahinis who had probably listened to that song, bruised and bloodied, lying camouflaged in the trenches. Even if for a moment that song had brought hope and inspiration, that would be an achievement worth a lifetime to me'.

The Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra played a vital role during the Liberation War. Apart from news, it presented skits and the inspirational songs to keep the spirits high at the camps. Joi Bangla Banglar Joi was the opening and closing song of the Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra for nine months. Then there were countless other invaluable songs of other composers like Purbo Digontey Shurjo Uthechey, Jonotar Shongram Mora Ekti Phul Key Bachabo Boley, that continued to inspire.

Having contributed so much to his priceless songs, such as Ekbar Jetey De Na Amaar Chotto Shonaar Gaye, Amai Jodi Proshno Koro, Ektara tui Desher Kotha Bolre, She Jey Keno Elo Na, and many more, it's perhaps strange that Anwar Parvez has rarely come into the public eye. No awards decorate his bookshelves, no plaques his walls. He seems visibly moved when asked why for the last 30 years the audience has not had a chance to see him, especially at the podiums of the Bijoy Dibosh celebrations. Maybe he has chosen to shy away. Should we?

Anwar Pervez