“Cultural contribution in 1971 deserves proper evaluation” -- Rathindranath Roy | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 13, 2008 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, December 13, 2008

“Cultural contribution in 1971 deserves proper evaluation” -- Rathindranath Roy


Rathindranath Roy was one of most prominent performers of the Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra. Recalling his early singing career, Roy mentioned inspirational songs such as "Purbo digantey shurjo uthechhey" and "Nongor tolo tolo" (composed by Samar Das), "Rokto diye naam likhechhi" (composed by Shujeo Shyam) and more.
He also sang some Rabindra Sangeet such as "O amar desher mati," which motivated Bengalis during the Liberation War. In Roy's view there are few parallels to these patriotic songs. In his words, "The spirit, the situation and the passion cannot be conveyed through words. Think about these songs rendered during the Liberation War. Nothing compares to them."
Roy has also done his bit to promote folk genres, especially 'Bhawaiyya' songs that are popular in the Rangpur area. In 2002 he founded the Bhawaiyya Academy in Rangpur. Now the institution has branches in Gaibandha, Kurigram and Lalmonirhat. The objective of this academy is to promote folk songs through teaching youngsters and organising cultural programmes. Roy also has plans to launch a research-oriented publication on 'Bhawaiyya' music.
According to Roy, folk music is deeply embedded in Bangladeshi culture. To quote him, "These songs are our roots; our true heritage. As long as the villages in Bangladesh exist, there will be folk music. Rock, pop or any other contemporary genre can never take away the appeal of folk music because it is a part of our national identity."
Roy used to performed songs such as 'Bhajan,' 'Kirtan,' 'Shyama sangeet,' 'Murshidi' and 'Marfati' at the Ramkrishna Mission as he had a deep interest in the sadhus. He says, "These sadhus are not only devoted to the religion but also wise and inclined towards social work." He has written and set to tune some spiritual songs such as "Bisswa bibek jagatey dhoraye eley Vivekananda."
Roy joined the Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra in May during the Liberation War. Reminiscing on those days, he says, "There were very few facilities at the radio station. It was quite challenging for the staff to carry out their work. We had our dining hall downstairs and the studio was not even sound proof. It was a one-channel machine with which we used to do all the recordings. There was no commercial aspect of this; all the performers, instrumentalists and engineers were dedicated to their respective mediums."
Roy began his career as an artiste in 1960. He became a regular singer on radio and television. Initially his guru was his father Harolal Roy and later Ustad PC Gomez. He performed in a good number of programmes when he was a student of Dhaka University.
Roy feels that the new television channels are not promoting folk songs, as they should. He says, "None of the TV channels has a professional studio, which is a must. His major complaint against BTV is that the channel, unlike the radio, does not telecast folk music at prime time.
Roy has a few reservations about stage shows as well. He says, "There are very few solo and group performances featuring folk songs on stage nowadays. This is because 'Adhunik,' rock and pop music are given preference over folk music." Roy is not reluctant to give credit to those who are popularising folk songs by remixing/ re-arranging them. But he does not consider the new versions as "true" folk music. The seasoned artiste is unwilling to perform folk songs with Western instruments.
Roy has also been a playback singer and has won many awards like BACHSHASH (Bangladesh Cine Journalists Society) Award in 1979 and 1981, The Ekushey Padak in 1994 and the Popular Folk Song Award in the World Youth Festival in East Germany in 1973.
Roy still regrets that the contributions of cultural activists during the Liberation War have not been given their due. According to the artiste, "Cultural contribution in 1971 deserves proper evaluation and artistes who had inspired the nation in its troubled times should be honoured accordingly.”

The article is a reprint of an earlier version.

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