Nothing was going according to plan as I set out on my mission of interviewing Subir Nandi, the star singer. I was nervous, but a unexpectedly friendly conversation helped me find my ropes. I grew up listening to Tumi Je Amar Kobita, Amar Ei Duti Chokh Pathor To Noi, Ek Je Chilo Sonar Konna, Koto Je Tomake Beshechi Valo, Bondu Hote Cheye Tomar, Din Jaye Kotha Thake and many other super-hit songs of Subir Nandi. I would recognize his astounding voice anywhere. Disciplined, ever young and energetic, Nandi considers singing a meditation and prayer that provides him with peace and satisfaction.
Being born in Sylhet in the 1950's, he started his coaching on music in a friendly family atmosphere where his mother led the evening music jalsha. His family and his siblings were always there. Thus, Nandi considers his mother to be his first Guru. Later on, he learnt to sing from Ustad Babar Ali Khan. In a society where practice of music and extra-curricular activities were considered derailment, Nandi somehow slipped to the City Auditorium, center for all kinds of cultural practice, avoiding the gaze of neighbors. In 1967, talented Nandi found his success for his enormous passion and became second in a Nazrul Sangeet Competition in Dhaka following three successive auditions at the Sylhet Betar Kendra.
A Career in Music
Subir Nandi has been an icon of modern songs of Bangladesh for almost a half-century. Although his career began during the 1970s in Radio, Nandi started singing at a very early age of his life. He used to attend the music jalshas at different places during his high school life. Needless to say, unlike many others of his time, Nandi sang in Radio programs first that boosted up his career as a singer and brought him much fame. Following his popularity in the radio during the 1980's, he was invited to sing for movies. Earlier, a person named Shahin, popularly known as Disco Shahin, from the Disco Recording Center recorded the best songs of Nandi and released them in the market. It helped spread the music of that time in compact discs. Nandi considers Disco Shahin as the father of audio CDs in Bangladesh. After attachment with movie songs, he became a leading playback singer of Dhallywood. Until now, he has sung more than 2000 film songs, and he possibly holds the record of second highest number of songs sung by any male singer, only after Andrew Kishore. A unique opportunity came for him at the height of his career when he rendered songs at the House of Commons in UK in 1994.
In describing the present condition of our music industry, Subir Nandi digs deep into the experience of his time and says people are lucky enough to have access to technological equipments in recent times. Besides, he thinks that the approach to music has changed over time. Asked about the present condition of our approach to music, Nandi says, “The present scenario has changed a lot and people inspire music and consider it prestigious”. He says it was very tough for them to practice music at their time going against the flow of society. However, in terms of thematic and generic condition, Subir Nandi thinks people of these days are attracted to fusion types. Personally, he believes there can be no genre called fusion in music. For a singer like him, who always considered music as a harmony of texture (voice) with other instruments, experiment of music with over use of technological equipments might either create or destroy good things. To him, everything is like the wise saying of Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose that fragmenting the basic structure of anything might create or destroy. Accordingly, he thinks the quality of our present music has fallen.
“I think the present singers are lucky enough that they are getting technical help in music. They are passionate and have the desire of creating new things; they are also professional.” Saying these few words, he reminded that nothing can happen coincidentally in music and one must be passionate and practice every day in order to have success. Asked on the present trend of music, he said the young singers have ornamented the music keeping the melody and harmony. Personally, he does not find any fault with adopting things keeping the uniqueness of a singer. However, he notices a tendency of getting famous overnight among few singers of this time. He thinks music has to come from within and has to be nurtured and controlled through emotion so that one can shine. He believes in repeated practice of music which might help one being a singer. Prioritizing the notion that 'creation is always creative', he said music is very strongly rooted in creativity and it has the power to live through the ages.
Subir Nandi has always been involved with traditional music of this sub-continent. He has not experimented much with music. He is known for his melodious voice. Asked on his philosophy as a singer, Nandi said, “I would say I am a traditionalist as a singer”.
Singers: Manna Dey, Abdul Hadi, Sabina Yasmin, Akhil Bandhu Gosh
Movies: Monpura, Hirok Rajar Deshe, Moner Manush, Nawab Sirajuddoula
Actors: Abdur Razzak, Faruk, Alamgir, Anowar Hossain, Suchanda, Shabnam