When Bangabandhu's birthday was observed a few days ago, the moment seemed apt for a remembrance of all the songs sung for him and in his name during the War of Liberation in 1971. Those of us who were in our teens in that year of terror and eventual dawning of freedom were glued every evening, in this city under the siege of Pakistan's occupation forces, to Shwadhin Bangla Betar. Transmission began with Bojro Kontho, essentially Bangabandhu's call for freedom made at his 7 March declaration in Dhaka. And then followed the other programmes of the day.
Shwadhin Bangla Betar will remain permanently etched in our memory and in history for the seminal role it played in inspiring the nation in the arduous task of waging a relentless war for freedom. Within that role came a tranche of songs that remain noted for the sheer patriotism they inspired in a nation of seventy five million people. Melodies were shaped around Bangabandhu, a famous one being Angshuman Rai's shono ekti Mujiborer theke lokkho Mujiborer konthoshorer dhoni protidhoni akashe bataashe uthe roni. You listen to the song today; and you get that old spirit back in your ageing bones.
Our own, inimitable Mohammad Abdul Jabbar gave us some equally poignant songs of patriotism in that annus mirabilis. Remember his sharhe shaat koti manusher aaj ekti naam . . . Mujibor Mujibor Mujibor / sharhe shaat koti proshner jobab peye gelam . . . Mujibor Mujibor Mujibor? Bangabandhu was a prisoner in a secret location in Pakistan at the time and yet songs such as this made it seem he was there with us --- and not merely in spirit. Jabbar had another song on the Father of the Nation, sung along the tunes of the old pastoral number, majhi baiya jao re. The song Jabbar sang went thus, Mujib baiya jao re / nirjatito desher majhi / jonogon-er nao re Mujib baiya jao re. A chorus often played in polli geeti style on Shwadhin Bangla Betar was amar neta Sheikh Mujib tomar neta Sheikh Mujib / arey netar neta hoyechhe Sheikh-er beta.
One of the most lilting of songs on Bangabandhu was sung by Sandhya Mukhopadhyaya days after the liberation of the country. The first time we heard this song was on Bangladesh Betar in a free Dhaka on the day our leader came back home in January 1972. Bangabandhu tumi phire eley tomar roktim shwadhin Bangla-e was the song. For some inexplicable reason, no one has heard the song since, all these years after our great battlefield victory.
Scores of other songs on the war and on our freedom fighters were played on Shwadhin Bangla Betar. Perhaps we will speak of them at some other time?
The writer is Executive Editor, The Daily Star