Literature, music and arts are a crucial part of any event that matters to the masses; they help people connect to the incident and be driven by the spirit. The Language Movement, often credited as the first scintilla that gave Bangladeshis the strength to fight for their rights and for their liberation, has had songs, poems, novels and artwork of various media portraying it, but one of those pieces stands out as an icon. “Amar Bhai'er Rokte Rangano Ekushey February, Ami Ki Bhulitey Pari” is a tune that every child learns in their very early days, and carries it around in a special place in their hearts.
Every year on this day, February 21, it is the words and the melody -- by Abdul Gaffar Chowdhury and Altaf Mahmud respectively -- that reminds each and every soul of the country of the selfless sacrifices made by a brave few to ensure we could express ourselves in a language that is ours.
Shawan Mahmud, daughter of Altaf Mahmud -- a cultural activist and a martyred freedom fighter who put the tunes on that song in its current version -- spoke to The Daily Star about her father, the song and its significance.
“This song was an important part of the entire period of 1952-71, and is still incredibly relevant today. And now with the recognition of February 21 as the International Mother Language Day, I think the anthem for the day will also remain. And so, my father is not just mine, or every Bangladeshi, but he belongs to the whole world now. So, as a Bangladeshi, I think it is a matter of immense pride; I've just heard the German, French and Japanese versions of the anthem -- in my father's composition, and I feel like there can be no bigger achievement for a child to have a father like him. For decades, the regret that remained inside of not finding him -- although he went away like a hero -- but this feeling eases that pain.
“I've recently sung and recorded the song, for the first time, with the band Obscure. I've tried to reach the whole song -- not just the six lines that is known -- to the younger generation, keeping its original tune and lyrics intact. You see, the song is divided in four parts: the first part is like a prayer, the second is the strong protest, while the third part delves into the love for the motherland and the final part is of spirited protest again. I hope today's generation get to know about the entire song, and the profound meaning it holds.”