“Although many people might not take it well, I want to say this because I've felt it for a long time.” Thus began Kamal Lohani -- one of the most revered cultural personalities of the country-- as he took the microphone at “Nazrul er Gaan er Prothom Record er Shilpi ra” (Artistes of the first records of Nazrul songs). The Daily Star-Bengal Arts Precinct had filled up to capacity already, not too long into the programme, and there were people standing at the back. “All my life I knew Nazrul as the 'Bidrohi Kobi', but after Liberation, he became our National Poet --and I think we sort of caged him into a smaller sphere by that. The Rebel Poet belonged to the world, but it was as if the National Poet belonged only to Bangladesh. It's natural that the nation would want to share the glory of such a towering figure, but I feel Nazrul should not have been contained within a nationalistic boundary,” Kamal Lohani continued.
Despite its being the first weekday of the busy third week of the month, the auditorium filled up before the performances began, with a discerning audience anticipating some fabulous music from some of the most accomplished of Nazrul Sangeet artistes of current times.
The soiree featured a selection of the first recorded songs of Kazi Nazrul Islam by noted artistes of his time – including the Bard himself. Renowned Nazrul Sangeet artistes Sumon Chowdhury, Dalia Nausheen, Sadya Afreen Mallick, Fatema Tuz Zohra, Khairul Anam Shakil, Nashid Kamal, Sujit Mustafa and Manas Kumar Das performed at the event. The artistes performed their best while lending their voices to diverse genres, including raga-based, kavyageeti, ghazal, tappa, folk and foreign melodies. They seemed to excel themselves in surpassing one presentation after another during solo performances.
The artistes set off the soiree with a prayer song, “Dao Shourjo Dao Dhoirjo”. The sublime words of the song are still relevant with regard to the turmoil in a belligerent world.
Although Nazrul's literary life did not span as long as many other literary greats of the world, the volume of work he left is massive, and till date, there is so much more left unexplored. As Sadya Afreen Mallick, eminent Nazrul exponent herself -- who conceptualised and compered the programme, said, “When people go to listen to a Nazrul Sangeet programme, their expectations are to hear 'Mor Priya Hobe Esho Rani” or “Noyon Bhora Jol Go Tomar', but we wanted to bring you his songs that portray the early essence of Nazrul as a songwriter and composer. As part of Star Melodies' regular musical programmes, we thought of bringing the first recorded songs of Nazrul to you. Some of these songs were composed and sung by some of the brightest names of Bangla music,” she said.
Kamal Lohani, in his address, also shed light on Nazrul's way of life. “Nazrul joined the British Army during the First World War, not because he wanted to serve them, but so that he could strike them from within, with the training he had received from them. 'Ei Shikol Pora Chhol Moder' is a glaring instance of that philosophy. He was uninhibited, he was fearless. He went to prison just for writing a poem; such was the power of that piece, 'Anondomoyi'r Agomone'. And he struggled all his life. His name 'Dukhu Miya' sort of followed him like a shadow, but it only made him a better, more creative and buoyant wordsmith,” he said. He also heartily praised The Daily Star for hosting such an event.
Earlier, in his welcome address, Mahfuz Anam, Editor and Publisher, The Daily Star, expressed his commitment to the newspaper's being more than just a newspaper, and the sincere efforts in turning The Daily Star Centre into a vibrant hub of arts and culture, in association with Bengal Foundation.
Khairul Anam Shakil first took the stage and rendered “Pashaner Bhangaley Ghum” (set on Raga Bheemkauns) that was first recorded by Kazi Nazrul Islam in 1932. The artiste generated the apt mood of the song. Shakil's rendition of a folk tune “Poddar Dheu Rey”, originally recorded by Sachin Dev Burman, earned him applause. He wrapped up his part with a Jaganmoy Mitra record “Shawono Raat-e Jodi” that evoked the melancholy of a monsoon night.
Sumon Chowdhury was on a musical high while offering a Gujrati folk melody “Keno Ka(n)dey Poran Ki Bedonaye”, set on raga Mand. K Mallick (Mohammad Kashem) first recorded the song in 1931. Kiranmayi Dashi also recorded the song near that time. Sumon's presentation of a Sindhura tappa “Jaha Kichhu Momo”, recorded by Janendra Prasad Goswami in 1934, was immaculate too. The artiste ended up with the number “Hey Priyo Amarey Dibo Na Bhulitey”, the first recorded Bangla song set on raga Patdwip.
Dalia Nausheen began her performance with a Kamala Jharia record “Keno Korun Sur-e Hridoypur-e”. The seasoned singer enthralled Nazrul enthusiasts with her beautiful presentation of the song “Jani Jani Priyo E Jiboney”. Juthika Roy originally recorded the song in 1941 while legendary musician Kamol Dasgupta composed it. Dalia's offering of a Mishra Khamaj song “Akash-e Helan Diye Pahar Ghumaye Oi” was also captivating.
Sadya Afreen Mallick also performed a folk-themed song “Mora Kushum Hoye Ka(n)di”, along with Manas Kumar Das. A touch of raga Jhinjhoti was incorporated in the number, recorded by Kamol Dasgupta and Juthika Roy.
Fatema Tuz Zohra started off her part with a Mishra Pahadi song “Pia Gechhe Kobe Porodesh”. The performance was melodious and seemed to echo a feminine plea in the hills. The singer later performed a Bhabani Das record “Phagun Phuraye Jabey”. Her expression and gesture conveyed artistic fullness while she swayed the music connoisseurs with a foreign tune “Momo Mayamoy Swaponey”.
Nashid Kamal first performed an Indubala record “Cheyo Na Sunayona”, a ghazal set on raga Khamaj. The artiste captivated the audience with an Islamic song “Khatun-e Jannat Fatema Janani” which legendary singer Abbasuddin Ahmed first recorded. Nashid Kamal's rendition of a lesser-known song “Cha(n)pa Rong-er Sari Amar” was superb. She precisely stirred up the essence of the light-hearted, upbeat song.
Romance together with melodic sweetness reigned supreme in Sujit Mustafa's rendition of a Behag-Khamaj song “Amar Kon Kuley Aj Bhirlo Tori”. The artiste also impressed all with an Angurbala Devi record “Eto Jol O Kajal Chokh-e”, set on raga Mand. Sujit captivated the audience with his last performance, a Bechu Dutt record, “Brojogopi Khele Hori”, based on Raga Kafi Sindhura.
Syed Badrul Ahsan, Executive Editor, The Daily Star, also picked up the microphone at the event, and seconded Kamal Lohani's opinion of how it is unfair to constrict Nazrul to the boundaries of National Poet. His signature style of blending humour and profound thoughts also injected a little more life to the event.
A large section of the audience stayed back till the end, despite the end being slightly delayed, and soaked in not just the music, but the aura of Nazrul that was effervescent at the soiree. While Sumon Chowdhury unfolded musical nuances of the compositions, Sujit Mustafa revealed some interesting information about Nazrul, the thinker. Sadya Afreen Mallick held the ambiance together with little nuggets of information interspersed between the performances.
Accomplished instrumentalists Pallab Sanyal on tabla produced lahora and sweet tehai every now and then, while Almas Ali on violin and Rooptanu Das Sharma on keyboard embellished the featured performances with their recitals.
The programme was held in association with Eastern Bank Limited, with Simantic Creative Concern doing a formidable job of researching and compiling the informative side of it, and Selim SH Chowdhury planning and designing the set.
(Today, 12 Bhadra, is the 38th anniversary of the death of the Rebel Poet).