Abdul Alim: A beacon of folk music | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 05, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, September 05, 2016

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Abdul Alim: A beacon of folk music

Forty-two years have passed since we lost Abdul Alim, one of the brightest stars of our folk music. The versatile singer died at 43 on this day in 1974 at the-then PG Hospital. During the period of undivided Bengal, Bangla folk music was refined and popularised among urbanites by two maestros -- Sachin Dev Burman and Abbasuddin Ahmed. They made folk music a brand.

Abdul Alim, hailing from Murshidabad (present-day West Bengal) almost single-handedly made Bangla folk music shine even brighter. His inborn melodious and versatile voice established Bangla Folk songs in the whole of erstwhile Pakistan, and also in the film industry. 

There was a time since early sixties till his death that almost all Bangla films, made in this part of Bengal, necessarily included at least one song of Abdul Alim. Although SD Burman and Abbasuddin were undoubtedly the pioneers of modern Bangla folk music, it was Abdul Alim who injected melody in folk songs thereby making them more appealing and popular among the people. His immortal songs like “Holudia Pakhi”, “Duarey Aaishachhey Palki” and many more are treasures of Bangla folk music.

I have a favourite childhood memory of this great man, watching him singing in the Television wearing a white payjama and panjabi, looking rather ordinary. But that was his style: the simplest way of delivering his golden voice. Unlike today when many of our established folk singers, who live a decent life earning quite a lot from the music industry, Abdul Alim had to remain satisfied with very little earning to take care of a big family. He could not leave behind any assets for his family before his untimely death, and his eldest son Zahir Alim, with his other siblings and their mother had to toil hard and struggle to maintain their livelihood for quite a long time.

One anecdote will possibly give an idea how popular he was among the general people of Bangladesh. One night, there was an act of theft at his Kamalapur residence. The thief took quite a lot of their belongings from his house. But after a couple of days, members of his family found a bag filled with all those stolen belongings with a small note, where the thief confessed that he did not know that he carried out the theft at the house of his idol Abdul Alim and, so being ashamed of his deed, he returned those belongings. This is not the only story about Abdul Alim, who was loved and adored by the people of this country. Many people from remote villages from all over the country used to come to his house almost every day just to have a glimpse of their musical idol. And this love of the people towards him was perhaps the greatest treasure-trove he cherished to take along with him during his eternal journey. 

The writer is a music and film activist. 

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