A Musical Treasure Hunt | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 09, 2014 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:53 AM, March 08, 2015

A Musical Treasure Hunt

A Musical Treasure Hunt

Mustafa Zaman Abbasi

Mustafa Zaman Abbasi's daughter Samira Abbasi -- a musician, poet and engineer who lives in Florida, USA, writes about her father on his birthday, which was on December 8.

Today, I am going to tell you the story of a musician whose life has been like that of a treasure hunter. Typical treasure hunters have discovered cities, relics of civilizations, sunken ships and buried treasures and riches. Our treasure hunter devoted his life to find, collect and archive songs, tunes, lyrics in the beautiful vast land he calls his motherland, Bangladesh. He did not need maps, scrolls or hidden clues for his journey, just his unequivocal love for music and a heart made of pure gold. He also discovered many talented artists and musicians from the cores of unheard villages and streets and presented them to the nation as gifts. Yes, I am talking about Mustafa Zaman Abbasi, whom I am fortunate to call my father.

Ever since I was a little child, I remember him bringing back new people at our home almost few evenings every week, mostly from villages and outskirts of the-then Dhaka territory. He would softly tell my mom that there would be guests for dinner after they arrived, usually at least three to four at a time. My mother, being the loving gracious lady that she is, would always accommodate them with a smile. In our dinner table we met these unknown people, and we knew after dinner, a show was sure to follow. Most times these artistes my dad stumbled upon would sing till late and the aroma of their music would linger in the air as me and my younger sister fell into slumber. Their raw unadulterated voice, beautiful melody of dotara, ektara and dhol would fill our living room with ethereal bliss. Once these artists where discovered, he would present them to the Radio, concerts and when possible, foreign cultural delegations. Many rural artistes were first introduced in his own television programmes, either “Amar Thikana” or later in “Bhora Nadeer Banke” that he anchored for many years. Even before these programmes, this was a ritual in our house. Many of the famous artists of today were brought into fame and popularity after Abbasi introduced them to the audience in various forms.  

I still remember the three small cassette players my dad brought back from Japan and profusely used them to record folk songs whenever he was travelling within the country. Whenever the singers where available in the city he would record the new songs in reel tape. Hence he collected thousands of folk songs that would otherwise be lost in oblivion.  At one point the famous Smithsonian Institute showed interest in archiving his valuable collection of Bangladeshi folk songs.  He has already published two books on Bhawaiya music with staff notation of about 1,200 songs which is an asset to our musical collection. I am sure the singers of future will consider this as a treasure chest from which they can derive, learn and master these folk songs many years after the composers and original singers have passed away.

Abba has travelled to numerous folk melas throughout Bangladesh and this is also a rich venue where he discovered many singers, dotara players, Bauls and later brought them into the limelight. I have fond memories of travelling to Sureshwar Mela where we listened to all night renderings of fantastic musicians that till date stay with me.  

Mustafa Zaman Abbasi always considers himself a rich man, as he has thousands of songs bejeweled with the crispness of folk tunes, rich lyrics and old heritage.  I salute his lifelong
dedication and achievements.  

You have truly found the treasures. Happy birthday Abba!

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