Today marks the birthday of two maestros in the world of music, Kamal Dasgupta and Feroza Begum.
Eminent musician Kamal Dasgupta was one of the greatest composers in the Sub Continent, credited for beginning the golden era of modern Bengali music. Born on July 28, 1912 in Narail, Jessore, of the then British India, he was a musical genius. He earned his doctorate in music from Banaras Hindu University in 1943 for his work on Meerabai, the composer and singer of Bhajans. Other than Bengali, Dasgupta sang modern songs in many languages, including Urdu, Hindi and Tamil. He composed more than eight thousand songs in his career, including songs for eighty Bengali, fifteen Hindi and eight Tamil films throughout his career, along with the background score for an American documentary film about war propaganda. His last project as a music director was the 1967 film, Badhu Bharan. His unique contribution in music is his invention of the shorthand method for swaralipi (notations).
In 1935, Kamal Dasgupta joined the popular HMV (His Master's Voice) Gramophone Company of India as a music director. During that time, he grew close association with National poet Kazi Nazrul Islam, and worked on nearly four hundred of his songs. The gramophone records for which Kamal Dasgupta composed music were very popular in the 1950s and 1960s. His memorable songs include Sanjher taraka ami (I am the star of twilight), Prithivi Amare Chay (The world needs me) and Ami bhorer Juthika (I am the jasmine of morning), among others. He also made a record of composing 53 songs in a sinlge month. Indo-Pak-Bngla subcontinent culture will forever be indebted to the brilliance of the legendary Kamal Dasgupta. Dasgupta passed away on July 20, 1974, at the age of 62.
Noted Nazrul Sangeet exponent Feroza Begum was also born on the same day in 1926 in Faridpur. Feroza started her career in music in the 1940s. She is regarded as the nightingale of Nazrul Sangeet for her contribution to the genre. She had an unconventional and powerful voice.
Feroza got the rare opportunity to learn music directly from Kazi Nazrul Islam and Kamal Dasgupta. She released 12 LP records, 4 EPs, 6 CDs and more than 20 audio cassette albums.
She was honoured with the Independence Day Award in 1979 by the government of Bangladesh, along with many other awards, including Ekushey Padak, Netaji Shubhash Chandra Bose Award, Nasiruddin Gold Award, Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy Gold Award and D. Litt from Burdwam University. Feroza also received a Gold Disk from the renowned Japanese audio production company CBS. She received state honours in both Bangladesh and India for her contributions for popularising Nazrul Sangeet and received the Nazrul Sammanana Award from the West Bengal government in India in 2012. She also got West Bengal's highest cultural award, the Bangla Bibhushan Samman, in May 2015. Feroza Begum passed away on September 9, 2014, at the age of 84.
Both artistes played an important role in taking the Bengali music industry to greater heights.
Kamal Dasgupta (who converted to Islam before his marriage and took the name Kamal Uddin Ahmed) and Feroza Begum were married in 1955. Together, they have three sons – Tahsin Ahmed, Hamin Ahmed and Shafin Ahmed.
Shafin Ahmed and Hamin Ahmed are lead singers of the legendary Bangladeshi band, Miles. "I was around five years old when we were in Kolkata. We used to celebrate this day with our family and relatives," says Hamin Ahmed. "Renowned musicians like Hemanta Mukhhyapadhyay, Nirmal Mishra Shyamal Mitra, Kazi Aniruddha and many other others celebrated this day with us. "Our maternal aunts also came over, and Ma used to cook for all of us. Those days were really special for us, and still are."
"After our parents' demise, every year before the pandemic, we went to the Banani graveyard to pay our respects to them. We provide food packets to the underprivileged communities on this day, and have a family gathering. We play songs composed by Baba and Nazrul songs sung by Ma," adds Shafin Ahmed.