Sixth child of A.B. Lutfi Ali, Razwan Ali was born in 1963 in Magura. At the age of fifteen, he took music lessons from Bholanath Bhattacharya of Magura Shilpakala Academy. Later, until 1983, he was a student of Professor Chandi Prashad Chatarjee. From 1984 to 1988, his teacher was Ustad Abdul Bari Khan – at the same time, he was taking lessons in Nazrul Sangeet from Bulbul Lalitokola Academy. He received the ICCR (Indian Council for Cultural Relations) scholarship in 1988 and went to Maharaja Sayajirao University, India for Bachelors and Masters. There, he took training in Gwalior Gharana (houses or family styles) classical music from renowned musicians like Pandit Shikantha Garage, Pandit Anilbhai Vaishnav, Pandit Ishwarbhai Yadav and Pandit Dwarakanath Bhosle. He also took training in Jaipur Gharana from Shubhada Desai and Kirana Gharana from Pandit Lakshmikant Pyarelal Bapat. He had the opportunity to learn Nauhar bani (stylistic variants) Dhrupad Sangeet from Pandit Harishchandra Chaturvedi. Again, during his research in Mumbai to took training from Pandit VR Athwale and Pandit Arun Kashalkar in Gwalior-Jaipaur Gharana. Most importantly, the style he follows as a classical artiste, his seven-year training from Pandit Narayan Patwardhan Rao of progressive Gwalior Gharana, and ongoing training from Kalpana Bhattacharya. In 2000, Rezwan Ali obtained Doctorate in Shastra Sangeet. He has been teaching at Chayanaut Sangeet Biddayaton since 1995.
For any hard working person, the common philosophy of life is that working hard honestly will bring success – I believe in this philosophy. Then again, the definition of success is wide and relative. I should rephrase the word 'success' – it is recognition. However, hard-working people don't do what they do only for recognition. Whatever recognition they receive brings satisfaction. An artist performs art because of their love and devotion for art, not only because they want to be recognized as an artist – art becomes a part of their life.
My love for South Asian classical music; from Dhrupad to folk, is my inspiration. I was very good in my studies. Then I got into sports – my father was a footballer of Mohun Bagan Football Club. After my high school, I discovered a new world, a world of classical music. I read all the books of classical music and Rabindranath we had at home. Reading those books and listening to music, I found a deeper joy in classical music than any popular music. I came to realize that the world of Raga music is vast and it may take me more than a lifetime but I had to learn it, and am still learning.
My guide Pandit VR Athwaleji will always be my idol. When I was in Mumbai, I became an admirer of Pandit Arun Kashalkar. I can't leave my gurujee Pandit Narayan Rao Patwardhan in the list of my idols. Returning from India after my masters, I became a fan of Shrimati Kalpana Bhattacharya from Agra Gharana. Although not a singer but a connoisseur, I find Alimur Rahman Khan to be another person I idolize. Very few in Bangladesh have the understanding and knowledge in classical music as Alimur Rahman. He and I have a great relationship. He admires my song and gives me advice and suggestions. He often helps me learn about my strengths and weakness in singing.
I am a teacher now, and I want to make my students think and learn the way I learnt from my teachers. Unfortunately, I find it a very hard of a task for me. We, the Bengalis have music running within our veins, but somehow our musical ground has weakened. We failed to view music from the professional aspect. Rather we consider music in its being from within. Still now, we lack the mentality to view music as something stylish. We don't approach it as a full-time profession which takes devotion and hard work. We have so many TV channels and radio stations, but unlike many other countries, we haven't had any music-summit yet. Out of 64 art forms music is number one, which is both dynamic and abstract. Musicians all over the world are one of the most highly respected, and highly paid, but unfortunately not here in Bangladesh. Sad to say, classical musicians in Bangladesh earn their livelihood through private tuition, not by their performances. Even the intuitional music is poor with horrible syllabus. Here, music is used as merely a tool to practice culture – it is viewed as a byproduct of culture, which has halted the progress of music. I am not all pessimistic about it. Although quality and standard is not improving, the number of institutions on music has increased so has the number of listeners. Bangladesh is a country of music. Each district has its own style of music. We don't lack singers with great voice and talent. I must admit that non-institutional or individual-based songs have progressed a lot. Performing art is about hard work, with a few years of devotion, Bangladeshi classical music can be at the same standard of any other country.
Interviewed by Zia Nazmul Islam