The art of recitation: Then and now | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 03, 2008 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, March 03, 2008

The art of recitation: Then and now

In conversation with Iqbal Bahar Choudhury

Photo: STAR

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Noted Broadcaster Iqbal Bahar Choudhury needs no introduction to the radio and TV audiences in our country. In fact, Bangla speaking people all over the world know the baritone voice thanks to VOA's (Voice of America) Bangla Service. Choudhury is in Dhaka to attend the 50th anniversary of VOA's Bangla Service -- being celebrated this month. The broadcaster whose career spans over almost six decades went over his experiences, reminisced over the good old days of recitation and his latest projects.
Though his career in radio is considered illustrious, Choudhury became involved in the local cultural arena through recitation. “I started recitation back in my school days. I took part in the Tagore Centenary (1961). Syed Md. Hussein, Ahmed Hussein, Golam Mustafa, Fateh Lohani, Lily Chowdhury and Khurshedi Alam were all prominent names in recitation back then. Selina Bahar Zaman, my sister, used to recite as well. Things were different then,” says Choudhury.
“Recitation was more of a pastime back in the day. Singers and actors received remuneration for performances but recitors did not. However, recently at a programme by Bangla Academy I was offered a cheque for reciting. It did take me by surprise,” he elaborates.
Choudhury continues, “In recent times, there's a lot of experimentation happening with recitation. Now one finds a significant number of CDs featuring recitation in the market. Songs and narration are often combined with recitation to offer the audience something new. The overall practice of the performing art is much wider now.”
Quite a few albums feature recitation by Iqbal Bahar Choudhury. Shudhu Tomar Bani features Choudhury and his three sisters. Selina Bahar Zaman and he did the recitation part and Tazin Choudhury, Nasrin Shams have recorded the songs. The album was directed by noted Tagore singer Sadi Mohammed.
The latest album that features recitation by Iqbal Bahar Choudhury is Anandolokey: Esho Natun Prithibi Gori. Highlighting the message of peace, the album is a novel approach to incorporating two performing arts -- music and recitation. Apart from Choudhury, noted Indian actor Saumitra Chatterjee and Madhumanti have rendered poetry. Among the singers who have recorded for the album is Choudhury's sister, Nasrin Shams. The album was recorded in Kolkata and was released there in 2007.
On the experience of working with Saumitra Chatterjee, Choudhury says, “Initially the album was supposed to feature only recitation by me and Saumitra. Our recording was done together. It was quite interesting.”
Iqbal Bahar Choudhury's passion for poetry runs deep as he continues performing at programmes overseas -- at the Bangladesh Sammelan, Ekushey progra-mmes, Rabindra and Nazrul anniversaries and more.

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