Kabir Suman and his ‘Jibonmukhi Gaan’ | The Daily Star
11:00 PM, November 22, 2009 / LAST MODIFIED: 11:00 PM, November 22, 2009

Kabir Suman and his ‘Jibonmukhi Gaan’


Kabir Suman during a recent performance in Dhaka. Photo: Mumit M.

Kabir Suman -- singer, musician, songwriter and activist -- is a showman par excellence. At a recent concert in New Delhi, titled 'Bijoya Sammelan: Adhunik Bangla Gaan', Kabir (originally Suman Chatterjee) effortlessly switched from guitar to piano and vice versa as he rendered a variety of Tagore songs and modern songs with strong socio-political overtones, otherwise known as 'Jibonmukhi Gaan'.
The largely Bengali audience were transfixed by his rendition of 'Rabindranath-er Gaan', mostly accompanied with the piano: “Shudhu tomar bani noy”, “Pothohara tumi pothik”, “Biroho modhur holo aaji”, “Aaji je rojoni jaye” and “Noyon mele dekhi”.
Inequity, clearly makes his blood boil as was evident in hard hitting songs about subjects ranging from child labour, the plight of adivasis -- reduced to helpless bystanders as their land and forests are grabbed in the name of development, to police atrocities, Ekushey February and an adaption of Bob Dylan's timeless song “Blowin' in the wind”.
The audience loved it. Many raised loud requests for his famous song, “Tomakey chai”, which he describes as a “love song that is also a political song.”
“I am the only Indian to write, sing and commercially record a song on Bangladesh's Ekushey February,” says Kabir, talking about “Je matir jonye”. In fact, the then 22-year-old Kabir and his brother strongly considered migrating to Bangladesh in 1971 in the aftermath of the Liberation War. Explains Kabir, “I would love to be in a country where my language is the mother tongue and the official language. I would be elated to see my language on my passport.” However, he hastens to add, “By no means am I a chauvinist, nor can I lay claim to being a great patriot either.”
There is another stronger Bangladeshi connection. He is married to Sabina Yasmin, whom he describes as “one of the most popular singers
“I met her on a trip to Dhaka and there we fell in love. That was in 1998,” says Kabir smilingly, going on to add that, “Sabina is a very busy vocalist. Whenever she finds time, she comes over to Kolkata where I live, or I go over.”
Over the last three years Kabir has also been very active politically. He has been elected as a Member of Parliament, representing the Trinamool Congress.
However, music is evidently still his passion. What's he recently been up to in the domain of music and what does he have up his sleeve? Over the last three years, he has recorded albums like the profoundly political "Nandigram", "Protirodh" and another album called "Rizwanur Britto", which recounts the real life story of the Muslim Rizwanur Rahman, married to a Hindu woman by the name of Priyanka Todi. Apparently the couple were hauled in by the police who ordered them to end their marriage. An outraged Priyanka protested that she had entered into marriage legally. The end was bitter for the couple: She disappeared and he was found dead along the railway tracks in Kolkata.
Nevertheless Kabir dares to dream: “I wish I could write my songs in Hindi so that they could touch many more people. I have seen that the Punjabis, Biharis, Maharashtrians, Kannadigas, Tamilians, Telugus and Malayalis are all very musical, at times more responsive to music than many Bengalis I have known.”
A viewpoint with which most Bengalis would beg to differ.

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