This year's Nazrul Award goes to Sadya Afreen Mallick, a multi-dimensional cultural personality who balances her prodigious talent as Nazrul singer with her professional persona as the well known editor of the Arts Entertainment page of The Daily Star. On the occasion of Kazi Nazrul Islam's 40th death anniversary, we took the opportunity to engage Sadya Afreen Mallick in a conversation about her evolution as a Nazrul singer.
Hailed as a child prodigy, Sadya Afreen Mallick had a meteoric rise in the realm of music. Talking about her formal training as a Nazrul singer, she recalls, “I was ushered into the world of Nazrul's works/music by Sudhin Das, one of the eminent Nazrul exponents of our country. One of my earliest memories was of his teaching my elder brother and me--all of eight years-- the finer nuances of the song "Jhiler Jole Ke Bhashale Neel Shaluker Bhela, Meghla Shokal Bela".
The lyrics were a bit bewildering to me at that age but the tune appealed to me. A year later, I started my journey at Chhayanaut. At Chhayanaut, I had the opportunity to receive training from names such as Sohrab Hossain and Sheikh Lutfur Rahman , amongst others, which was quite an achievement. However, I was too young to comprehend the depth of Nazrul's works back then. I may have learnt the lyrics and melodies of many of his songs, but it wasn't till much later in life that I was able to grasp the true essence of his music.”
It was the music institution Chhayanaut that truly gave her wings to fly. As Sadya states, “Chhayanaut played an extraordinary role in transforming us into talented performers. Their training combined with performance opportunities helped us overcome stage fright quite early on. I remember, for my first performance at Chhayanaut, Sohrab Hossain taught me the song 'Bishwo Dulali Nobi Nondini Khatun-e-Jannat Fatema Jononi', but as he was late for the show, Sheikh Lutfur Rahman accompanied me on the harmonium. He set the scale to D-sharp. Everyone was worried whether I would be able to pull off the piece. Fortunately, I sang with absolute ease and joy and I feel blessed to say that it has been a similar experience staging Nazrul's songs over the years.”
Another milestone in Sadya's singing career was the “incredible experience” of accompanying legendary Nazrul singer Feroza Begum on a tour of America for three months back in 1990. “We performed at various shows across a number of states over the three months, including the first North American Nazrul Conference, which was held on the 25 May1990, in New Jersey. This tour was infinitely rewarding for me as I constantly got to learn from the legend herself through observation as well as her constructive suggestions. Upon returning from the tour, Feroza Apa asked me to be ready to create a record which she would compose herself. The record was eventually released in 1991, and was yet another major accomplishment for me.”
Sadya is not happy about the direction in which Nazrul Sangeet is headed. “The past fascination for Nazrul and his creative contributions is somewhat missing today. It is true that there is an arsenal of young musicians in the industry at present, but they are not necessarily delving into our National Poet's songs. Unfortunately, even as a nation we are failing to pass on the wisdom and philosophy he has left behind in his words to the next generation.”
Sadya along with other Nazrul exponents is doing more than her bit to rekindle interest in the creative personality of Kazi Nazrul Islam. In the pipeline are productions of records and music videos on select Nazrul songs to inspire and motivate the younger generation as well as disseminate Nazrul's message of humanity and peace contained in his songs.