Abdul Wadud performs at a programme
Though he has been one of the most enthusiastic cultural activists and involved in organising many Rabindra Sangeet programmes and festivals since the '70s, it seems that as an artiste Abdul Wadud did not get the kind of major exposure he deserves. Listening to him sing Andhojon-e deho alo, mritojon-e deho praan, one wonders why.
His enunciation is immaculate, execution of the subtle melodic twists and turns precise but not flat, and intonation bold -- proving wrong the oft-heard allegation that male Tagore singers at times don't sound masculine enough.
Wadud's initiation in music happened in 1968. In 1973, he enrolled in Chhayanat's Rabindra Sangeet section. Among his teachers were renowned Tagore artistes, the late Zahidur Rahim, late Wahidul Haque, Sanjida Khatun and Selina Malek Chowdhury. Wadud trained in classical music under Ahsan Morshed, Narayan Chandra Basak and the late Ustad Phool Muhammad.
In his last year (during the five-year course) as a student of Chhayanat, he started teaching the children's classes at the institution. Since 1977, Wadud taught different classes at Chhayanat for 20 years without any remuneration.
For about 15 years, he was the joint-secretary of Chhayanat's directory board. When the organisation 'Zahidur Rahim Smriti Parishad' was extended and 'Rabindra Sangeet Sammelan Parishad' (RSSP) was formed, Wadud was actively involved in the process. For nearly 15 years, the artiste worked as the joint-secretary of the central committee, RSSP.
However, due to unresolved differences, Wadud left both Chhayanat and RSSP 10 years back. At present he is the programme secretary of Bangladesh Rabindra Sangeet Shilpi Sangstha (BRSSS).
The first recorded song by the artiste is Tumi nabo nabo roop-e esho praan-e. The song was included in a long play (LP) record titled Bishwabeena Robey, produced by the Information Ministry, Bangladesh Government in 1986 on the occasion of Tagore's 125th birth anniversary.
To celebrate the Bangla year 1400, a set of three LP records, CDS and cassettes, featuring songs (of renowned composers, between the Bangla year 1301 and 1400) -- by artistes of both Bangladesh and West Bengal -- were released. Wadud's rendition of Jyotirindranath Tagore's song Dhanyo tumi hey was featured in one of the records.
Among his solo albums are: Bashontey Bashontey tomar (produced by Bengal Foundation, 1994) and Poush Phagun-er Paala (Bengal Foundation, 1996).
Going over the contrasts between musical programmes and festivals back in day and now, from the perspective of an organiser-activist, Wadud says, "Arranging programmes in the '70s and '80s were not expensive affairs. For the organisers and activists it was a labour of love. Everyone would come together and the arrangements would always be collective efforts. Now many activists are moving away from that tradition. Corporate giants are getting involved. The informal approach is being replaced with rigid and often pointless formalities."
Changes are creeping in other quarters of the cultural arena as well, according to the seasoned artiste. "Many singers on BTV nowadays don't want to record live performances. They insist on lip-synching with tracks/ CDs," says Wadud, who has been an enlisted artiste at both radio and BTV since the early '80s.
This gifted, yet underexposed singer currently trains a few students and wants to continue his career as a singer, but on his own terms.