Ekushey Padak awardee and eminent singer Ferdausi Rahman celebrates her 79th birthday today. Born in 1941, she is the only daughter and the youngest child out of four. Her father was the legendary folk singer Abbasuddin Ahmed, popularly known as the 'Emperor of Bengali Folk Songs'. In 1965, she became the youngest recipient of the President's Pride of Performance Medal. Later, she was honoured with numerous accolades, including the National Film Award, Lifetime Achievement Award and Independence Award. The musical icon is the face of the programme, Esho Gaan Shikhi. In a candid chat with The Daily Star, the artiste looks back on her journey.
Wishing you many happy returns of the day. What are some of your fondest birthday memories?
Interestingly, I celebrated my birthday for the first time in 1956, when I stood first among the girls and seventh in the combined merit list in the Secondary School Certificate Examination of Bangla Bazar Govt High School. I won a gold medal. My father was very happy, and he arranged a get-together. That was the first and last big celebration we had for my birthday. Several singers, poets, and other cultural personalities attended the party, and we arranged a 'gaaner ashor'. I always celebrate this day very privately, with my family and we do not arrange anything formal or grand.
What do you remember the most about your father, Abbasuddin Ahmed?
My father was an idealistic man. He was an extremely busy singer. Despite that, he always took out time for his children. We planned yearly outings together. I have great memories of travelling to Darjeeling with my family for the first time. My father played the harmonium during my first stage appearance. The microphone was so high up that I had to stand on a stool to perform. As a person, I think Abba was way ahead of his time.
'Esho Gaan Shikhi' has been running for 56 years. The show has become synonymous with your name. Can you tell us a little about this?
On December 24, 1964, when television was newly launched in Bangladesh, I was fortunate enough to be the first person to perform music on television. However, more surprises were waiting for me. The first music lesson, Shongeet Shikkhar Ashor, aired on December 27, just three days after BTV was launched in Bangladesh. To my surprise, I was asked to be the teacher in this programme. I was not sure about accepting the proposal, because I was a learner myself and I still am. But the then General Manager and Programme Producer, renowned artist Kalim Sharafi and celebrated artist and producer Mustafa Manowar persuaded me to appear in the programme with twelve to fifteen students. The rest, as they say, is history. I am grateful to the audience for accepting me with all their heart.
You have witnessed some of the key social changes in Bangladesh. How do you think the music industry has evolved over time?
I believe our music slowly started gaining prominence after 1971. Before then, there weren't many musical artistes. Kazi Nazrul Islam's songs had a great impact on Bangladeshi music. However, the Liberation War was an intense motivator. Since then, budding and amateur musicians began to explore their skills in this profession. The music industry of today reflects that beginning and that spirit.