The many shades of Rabindra Sangeet | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 25, 2010 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, March 25, 2010

The many shades of Rabindra Sangeet

In conversation with Roquaiya Hasina Neely


Neely receiving her Citycell-Channel i Music Award from Ajit Roy.

Inspired by her martyred intellectual father Professor Rashidul Hasan, noted Tagore artiste Roquaiya Hasina Neely began learning music at the age of six. Though her father taught English literature in Dhaka University, he had a great penchant for Bengali literature and the creative works of Rabindranath Tagore in particular.
"My father was a life member of Visva Bharati University. I went with him to the University for several festivals, where I got close to legendary singers like Kanika Bandyopadhyay, Neelima Sen and Shanti Dev Ghosh. They inspired me to sing," says Neely.
In her early days in Birbhum, West Bengal, Neely had her initial musical lessons from Radhapada Sarker. Though she learnt Rabindra Sangeet for a few years at the Bulbul Academy of Fine Arts (BAFA), in the pre-Liberation years, her music education was further refined under eminent teachers like Waheedul Haque, Abdul Ahad, Dr Sanjida Khatun and Zahidur Rahim of Chhayanaut just after the birth of Bangladesh.
Amongst the themes of Tagore's songs like Puja, Prem, Prokriti and compositions from the bard's plays like "Bhanushingher Padaboli", Neely loves to render songs that have melancholic shades.
"Tomaye Amaye Milon Hobey" and "Amar Shokol Dukher Prodip" belonging to the Puja theme; "Durey Kothaye Durey", "Bhora Thak Smriti Shudhay" and "Kandaley Tumi Morey " of Prem; "Sawan Gaganey Ghor Ghanaghata" and "Gahono Kusum Kunja Majhey" from "Bhanushingher Padaboli" are among her favourite Tagore songs.
"The lyrics of Tagore songs make us think once again about the vastness of his creative domain. The tunes of his songs are global; for example "Kotobar Bhebechhinu Apona Bhulia" is an adaptation of a Scottish tune, "Drink to Me Only". "Phooley Phooley Dholey Dholey", "Purano Shei Din-er Kotha" and more are other good examples of adaptations where use of piano is noticeable," explains Neely.
Ottawa Bangladesh Society produced her first audio album "Rabindra Sangeet" in 1988 while her second album titled "Ebar Amaye Dakley Durey" was released in USA, UK and Bangladesh in 1997. O-series produced two of Neely's albums "Baajey Jharnar Gaan" (2006) and "Ki Shur Jagao" (2008). Neely's fourth album "Ki Shur Jagao" earned her a Citycell-Channel i Music Award (for the year 2008).
"An award recognises an artiste's skills. It also consolidates the career of an artiste making him/her more responsible towards his/her works," Neely comments.
Asked about the possible reason for the popularity of Tagore songs, Neely says, "Rabindranath was deeply inspired by Lalon Shah; many of his songs demonstrate this interest in Baul tunes. This explains how Rabindranath developed a proximity to the masses. Because of his closeness to the soil and people, two countries of the subcontinent have his songs as their national anthems."
"From this soil he soared to the world stage. To quote him, 'Mahabishwe mahakashey mahakal majhey, ami manob ekaki bhromi bishshoy' or 'Akash bhora shurjo tara bishwa bhora pran, tahari majhkhaney ami peyechhi mor sthan'," she adds.
Neely taught music at Chhayanaut from 1977 to 1993 and is now teaching at Government Music College, Agargaon, Dhaka.

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