“Bashir Ahmed was one of the chief architects of the golden era of our Bangla music. Since his death in 2014 his musical presence has been a great loss. He was committed to music, and chose this as a profession unlike many who followed it as a pastime. It's a pity that many of our golden melodies will not be heard anymore,” remarked Syed Abdul Hadi, referring to the late singer and music director, Bashir Ahmed, whose birthday was on November 18.
Bashir Ahmed's talents were not limited to music. Eminent singer Ferdousi Rahman, reminiscing on Bashir Ahmed's reputation as a perfectionist, said, “After recording through the night, the crew was ready to pack up their equipment. However, Bashir Ahmed, requested me to give it another shot the following day. And that is the only time in my career that I re-recorded a song.” The song in question, “Katha Bolo Na Bolo Ogo Bondhu,” was composed by Ahmed for the film “Modhu Milon”. In those days, recording for playbacks were done throughout the night supported by a full orchestra.
Bashir Ahmed, originally from Kolkata, had already made his name with popular songs with Geeta Dutta. It was around the '60s, when renowned film producer and owner of Gulistan Cinema Hall, Mr. Dosani, arranged a special music programme in Dhaka where Talat Mahmood and Bashir Ahmed were invited to perform. After their tour of Chittagong and Mymensingh, Talat Mahmood returned to India but Bashir Ahmed, entranced by this country, decided to stay back.
From then on he would enrich the music world with his memorable hits in countless films such as “Talash”, “Chanda”, “Darshan” and many more.
Urdu films were a rage at that time in erstwhile East Pakistan and Bashir Ahmed captured the hearts of listeners. In 1967-68, “Pinjor Khule Diyechhi” became a sensation amongst his listeners. And then of course there was “Oi Akash Ta Ghurey Eshechhi / Meghe Meghe Je Koto Bheshechhi”. Another masterpiece duet by Nahid Niazi and Bashir Ahmed came about in an unconventional mix of Bangla and Urdu: “Duti Mon Matano Chhonde / Duti Phool Phutechhe Gondhe . . . Iss Mehke Hue Gulshan Mein / Ye Phool Ye Phool Ki Khushboo / Shey Ki Tumi Ar Aami / Ik Tum Ho Ik Main Huun.”
Many recall that Bashir Ahmed with his rendition of a Muhammad Rafi song, “Khoya Khoya Chand” entranced the audience at the Aloka Cinema Hall in Mymensingh in 1959. Much later “Onek Shadher Moyna”, the Baul based hit song, set in raga bhairavi, proved his mettle and taleem in classical music.
“Throughout his career he remained true to his own style, rather than follow the popular trend, which was unique,” said one of his contemporaries, noted singer Syed Abdul Hadi.
“When I took charge at the Shilpakala Academy in 1996, I took keen interest in preserving the works of our great masters of music. The infrastructure of a museum, and archive for the musical greats of our country was all prepared. These are our national treasures. We prepared to have research facilities, for great masters like Abdul Ahad, Samar Das, Altaf Mahmood to name only a few. We even traveled to Hong Kong, Thailand and Philippines to learn the technical aspects of preservation. A plan was chalked out to portray indigenous instruments at the entrance. But somehow things did not work out as planned, which I greatly regret,” commented Hadi.
With time, archival facilities have improved, but the transcription service at the government owned Radio has not taken the onus of preserving our golden melodies. Most of the tapes are run down and hence cannot be retrieved.
Culture changes yet culture survives. Most importantly, culture evolves based on contributions made by earlier generations. If we are to take pride in our culture, it is only sensible we preserve the work of earlier generations the best we can. Bashir Ahmed left an undeniable mark on our cultural arena, one can only wish it not be forgotten through apathy.