The incomparable Feroza Begum
It's not possible to consider the evolution of Nazrul Sangeet without considering her contribution. She more or less single-handedly repopularised Nazrul Sangeet in the 1960s, when the Rebel Poet's songs were not finding eager ears.
In her own words: “In 1962, HMV gave me an offer to record two songs for the Puja season. I told them that I would do it but the songs I want to record are Nazrul Sangeet. They refused but I held my ground. Eventually HMV agreed and I recorded 'Dur Dwipobashini' and 'Momer Putul'. They were huge hits.”
At her Indira Road residence in Dhaka, on a rainy afternoon, the living legend went over the most recent accolades she received, possibility of recording a new album after a long hiatus, truly talented artistes not getting enough exposure and more. Age may have limited her mobility somewhat, but it certainly hasn't managed to blunt her memory and passion for music.
Recent honours in Kolkata and Perth
On the occasion of Narul birth anniversary, this year in May, the Paschimbanga government honoured me with the Nazrul Sammanana-2012. Paschimbanga Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee handed over the award, at a programme organised by the state government.
Earlier in April, I was awarded the Maha Sangeet Samman -- also by the Paschimbanga government -- at the Bangla Sangeet Mela.
It certainly was overwhelming -- the realisation that I am still admired and my music is still appreciated in Kolkata, where my music career began under the guidance of Nazrul himself and composer extraordinaire Kamol Dasgupta.
I was honoured for my contribution to Nazrul Sangeet and Adhunik Gaan.
I also opened Nazrul Academy in Kolkata on the poet's birth anniversary.
Last month, Bangladesh-Australian Association of Western Australia conferred a lifetime achievement award on me. I rendered two songs at the event in Perth. My sons -- Hamin and Shafin -- also performed at the programme. It was a well-organised event.
Never did playback
Singing for movies is something I could never do. I sang Adhunik, Urdu Geet, Ghazal, Thumri, even Rabindra Sangeet but playback is something I could never agree to. This apprehension -- how my song will be used -- always deterred me. You can say, I'm very sensitive when it comes to my songs. My mentor and husband, Kamol Dasgupta, who was one of the most popular music directors of that time, requested me to do playback for him. This was one request from him I couldn't oblige.
Talent hunts and true talents
It's ironic. So many talent hunts and music competitions. So many young artistes getting national exposure. Yet, truly talented singers who can demonstrate longevity of their skills are rare. The gifted artistes I know, who are ready, don't get enough opportunities to showcase their talents on a national level. I had trained many aspiring artistes when I used to run a music school at Kobi Bhaban. When someone asks for my help, I still try to do my best.
Possibility of recording a new album
As you can imagine, my health is fragile. However, I can still sing. I haven't recorded any album in recent years because I couldn't find the arrangements to be agreeable. I have received some offers from Indian labels -- Saregama and Asha Audio. I'm contemplating an album and getting mentally prepared.
Observation on the current music trends
I think folk songs have found new audiences in the cities.