Music in his blood | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, October 16, 2011 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, October 16, 2011

Music in his blood

In conversation with Rathindranath Roy (Part I)

Photo: Mumit M.

Renowned singer Rathindranath Roy's passion for music was articulated surreptitiously at a very young age. His father, the late Haralal Roy, was an eminent singer of Nilphamari. A young Rathindranath would steal his father's music notes (while he would be taking a nap) and sing the songs loudly in the fields far from home. He would maintain the tunes of the songs as his father would generally practise in the evening but didn't follow the scales, as he knew nothing of it at that time. According to Roy, his sonorous voice and command over his pipes can be credited to that practice.
His father joined Radio Pakistan just after the Partition in 1947, when his grandfather Chandra Mohan Roy, a landlord, decided to settle in East Bengal (now Bangladesh). The radio station was then (1960) located on Nazimuddin Road, Dhaka. The radio station organised East Pakistan Folk Festival in Dhaka in 1960.
“My father was assigned to bring a Bhawaiya troupe from Rangpur to make the festival a success. Rehearsal was on at our home. I was waiting for a chance to get into the rehearsal room and convey my wish to accompany the troupe. That day was very special for me; my father was surprised to know of my musical talent and offered to mentor me. I went to Dhaka and sang the Bhawaiya song, 'Paniya Golam Dangailey Mok Chapta Bata Diya'. That song was aired on the radio in 1960,” said Rathindranath Roy.
“Another instalment of the festival was held in 1962 at Dhaka Stadium. By the end of 1964, my father joined PTV's Dhaka station. Kalim chacha (Kalim Sharafi) was the chief of PTV Dhaka then. Noted singer Ferdausi Rahman hosted a folk music programme on TV at that time. My first TV performance was in 1964/65. I performed for 10 minutes and my father performed 5 minutes on that show,” said the artiste.
Rathindranath Roy passed his SSC in 1966. By that time he had already earned recognition as a talented singer. His family moved to Dhaka. The day after he reached Dhaka, his father took him to the TV station where they met Kalim Sharafi.
“I enrolled in Dhaka College. My cultural life was in full swing,” recalled Roy.
“From then on, if any artiste missed a scheduled programme on TV, I was the replacement. Kalim Sharafi's contribution to my making, as an artiste, was immense. He was literally my godparent.”
Rathindranath Roy was still in college when he did his first playback -- for a Khan Ataur Rahman film, “Shaath Bhai Chompa”. Roy and Moushumi Kabir recorded a duet -- “Konya Go Chhoy Mash-er Shopoth”. The artiste enrolled into the department of Bengali Literature, Dhaka University in 1968. He took part in almost all cultural activities on DU campus. Roy witnessed the mass upsurge of 1969, and the inevitable Liberation War in 1971.
“The DUCSU (Dhaka University Central Students' Union) was then culturally very active. Our teachers -- Dr. Moniruzzaman, Dr. Anisuzzaman and others -- regularly arranged traditional cultural programmes, including Rabindra and Nazrul Jayanti, Borsha Utshab etc. But as that turbulent time demanded, we also started singing Gano Sangeet. Whatever we performed -- Rabindra, Nazrul Sangeet or folk -- the songs were meant for the masses, to inspire a nationalist movement,” asserted the artiste.
Rathindranath Roy was one of the most prominent performers of Shadhin Bangla Betar Kendra. His powerful renditions inspired the nation during the Liberation War.

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