It was an end of an era for the music industry in Bangladesh, when Andrew Kishore, breathed his last after fighting with cancer for nine months. The 64-year-old, also known as the 'playback king' passed away on July 7, 2020, in his hometown Rajshahi, at the residence of his sister Dr Shikha Biswas. Her home is also a partial clinic. According to reports, Andrew Kishore had been under oxygen support throughout.
The eight-time National Film Award winner returned home from Singapore following months of treatment for Diffuse Large B Cell Lymphoma (cancer in both Adrenal Glands) at Singapore General Hospital, where he underwent chemotherapy. He leaves behind his wife Lipika Andrew Eti, daughter Minim Andrew Songya and son Jay Andrew Soptok.
For young musicians today and entrepreneurs alike, the journey of Andrew Kishore — his passion for music, changing the scene and winning awards — achieving everything while showcasing modesty and humility, would probably seem far-fetched. Like all youngsters today, Andrew Kishore was also a dreamer. However, his dreams spoke of his zeal, the spirit with which he could cross all hurdles, an intense love for his homeland, and of course the dream to work with some of the biggest names in the industry.
And he did just that!
He left his home in Rajshahi for the capital and eventually debuted as a playback singer in the film 'Mail Train' (1977) where he sang Ochinpurer Rajkumari Nei Je Tar Keu, composed by Saley Alam Khan. Andrew Kishore was also lauded for his playback in the song Ek Chor Jay Choley from the film 'Protikkha' composed by renowned musician Alam Khan. In the early 80s, the famous song Daak Diyachen Doyal Amaare composed by Alam Khan once again, brought Andrew Kishore massive popularity. Even today, the song, re-structured and re-made by many contemporary musicians, namely Fuad Almuqtadir, is a popular number especially during stage lives where thousands of people sing their hearts out!
To the younger singers who looked up to him, including myself, Andrew Kishore had always been a star which could only be looked at but could never be approached.
I would often see him, of course, at recording studios or during sessions, however, I never had the courage to go up to him and say hello. The first time I actually gathered up the courage to greet him was back in the mid-2000s in Bappa Mazumder's studio located on the famous Kazi Officer Goli near the Ramna Police Station.
Even though he was used to the younger lot touching his feet for blessings, he was clearly embarrassed by this intrusion of mine. He smiled and put his hand on my head, shared words of encouragement and paid compliments on the recent project that I was working on with Bappa da. Not wanting to disturb the conversation between Andrew Kishore and Bappa Mazumder were having, I moved on to the lounge, screaming silently in ecstasy at the fact that Andrew Kishore was actually inside a studio listening to my recorded voice!
The Kazi Officer Goli was a well-known road amongst many for several reasons. The road was home to AB's Kitchen, the recording studio that belonged to the legend Ayub Bachchu and his band LRB. At the very end of the road, the porch in front of a two storied building would often remain crowded with recording artistes, session players, instrument players and programme heads of TV channels and Radio stations. The ground floor of the building was where famed singer song-writer Bappa Mazumder and his band Dalchchutt housed Bee Em's Studio. Right next to the studio was a production house that belonged to Andrew Kishore. Interestingly enough, Andrew Kishore was producing visual content for Television. I, of course, never had the audacity to ask him why he was doing so. Maybe he had a passion for TV production. But then again, it was and still is very common for singers in Bangladesh to take up a second career to help pay bills — unfathomable for fans and the general people, even today.
Growing up, listening to Andrew Kishore with the family, it was always apparent as to how he had a tendency to praise people and encourage ideas that belonged to Bangladesh. Music and lyrics being his first love, his heart would always reach out to the folk of his homeland through his melodies.
There is a story about how the Indian legend, the music director RD Burman had asked Kishore to stay back in Bombay (now Mumbai), after the completion of a recording session, and sing for the Bombay film industry, popularly known as Bollywood. Kishore, however, had denied respectfully and said that he was happy in Bangladesh and wanted to work in his country for the music lovers. Burman, instead of being offended at being directly refused, gave Kishore a tight hug, declaring him to be a bagher bachcha. Burman was right. Even for a singer of his stature, Andrew Kishore who was later dubbed as a 'playback king' of Bangladesh, spent a lifetime in an industry with no benefits and little respect for artistes; which definitely took a lot of courage and will power to stay back and continue to fight a war with no end in sight.
One wonders, however, what life would have been like for Andrew Kishore, if he had agreed to move to Mumbai in his early days. He would definitely have had a number of songs to his name, composed by RD Burman and other world famous composers. Would he have also owned homes, spaces and studios like the ones he had described upon his return to Dhaka from Mumbai, where he had witnessed composers, lyricists and singers living in comfortable quarters, palace like homes and serenity? Where they would all mostly think, discuss and research on the quality of music produced and how well the melodies were delivered, instead of sitting with drawing boards every night trying to create marketing plans, fighting corporatisation and figuring out what secondary gigs to pull for a singing career to be funded?
Times were probably different back then, and Kishore had definitely made the right choice of staying back and being with his people. In fact, there was a time when Andrew Kishore was one of the highest paid singers amongst his peers. Things changed with the course of time however. Today, musicians and artistes also yearn for global recognition the way Kishore and others did during their time. But today, the younger artistes also wish for better structures, especially with the rapidly growing and changing digital market.
Some of Andrew Kishore's famous numbers that people hum to even today are Jiboner Golpo Achhe Baki Olpo, Haire Manush Rongin Phanush, Amar Shara Deho Kheyo Go Mati, Amar Buker Moddhe Khane and Amar Babar Mukhe Prothom Jedin Shunechhilam Gaan, Bhalo Aachi Bhalo Theko, Bhengeche Pinjor, Beder Meye Jotsnay Amaar Kotha Diyeche and so many more.
In the 90s, some of Kishore's songs had also become a part of the curriculum at music schools where children were taught songs with elements of life, philosophy and respect were apparent, namely Amaar Babar Mukhe Prothom Jedin Shunechilam Gaan and Haire Manush Rongin Phanush Dom Phuraile Thush.
And just like that, the death of Andrew Kishore leaves a massive, gaping hole within each of us, yearning for someone to come and fill it up — with melody, talent, humility, simplicity, focus, passion and love for the fellow artiste.
Unfortunately, there can never be another Andrew Kishore; thus marking the end of the golden era of modern playback singing in Bangladesh.
The author is Editor, Arts & Entertainment and Star Youth. Her twitter handle is @elitakarim.