It was 1971. Like many of his generation, Abul Umrah Mohammad Fakhruddin found himself at a crossroads of history. Guided by fate, he joined the Liberation War. During the war, he wrote a poem that described the seasons of Bangladesh. The poem ended with Poush (December). That year, Bangla Ma gave a Nobanno that was thought to be impossible: a new nation on December 16, 1971.
After the birth of Bangladesh, in 1972, Fakhruddin showed his poem to his friend, Alauddin Ali, who was working as an assistant to the music director Anwar Parvez. Although Alauddin Ali was exposed to music since childhood, he never composed a song. The lyrics read like Dwijendralal's Dhono Dhannyo Pushpo Bhora. Alauddin Ali mixed major notes with flat notes to bring out the melancholy in the lyrics. Thus was born O Amar Bangla Ma Tor: the first of hundreds of timeless melodies.
Alauddin Ali's first cinema as a music director was Shondhikkhon in 1975. He was only 23 then. Not too much happened in the next couple of years. However, in 1977/78, Alauddin Ali and Amzad Hossain teamed up for timeless movies and timeless tunes. Over the years, Alauddin Ali has directed music for more than 300 films. He has composed many tunes for radio and television as well. Arguably, Alauddin Ali is our SD Burman.
Alauddin Ali and SD Burman were two of one of a kind. SD Burman was to Hindi films what Alauddin Ali has been to Bangladeshi films and the music industry. Collaboration between Dev Anand and SD Burman created timeless tunes in timeless films like Taxi Driver (1954), Guide (1965), Jewel Thief (1967), and others. Collaboration between Amzad Hossain and Alauddin Ali did the same with Golapi Ekhon Train-e (1978), Koshai (1980), Jonmo Theke Jolchhi (1981), Bhat De (1984), and others.
SD Burman's timeless melodies established the two playback divas of Hindi cinema in Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle. Similarly, timeless melodies by Alauddin Ali cemented the positions of the two playback divas of Bangladeshi music – Runa Laila and Sabina Yasmin.
The list of accolades goes on and on. Alauddin Ali is our only music director whose tunes have been sung by artistes from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. All in all, he has gifted tunes to around 5,000 compositions. If you didn't know before, you know now. Before Alauddin Ali, for decades Kazi Nazrul Islam held the record for composing the highest number of songs in Bangla. That record now stands with Alauddin Ali and is counting.
Musicians and poets are the soul of a nation. They leave behind their words and their melodies. These words and melodies resonate in peoples' hearts long after they have gone. .
Today, December 24 is Alauddin Ali's birthday. Make a YouTube search under his name. Count the artistes who have had a hit song as a playback singer to his tunes. See how many timeless melodies you never knew were his tunes. Chances are very high that on talent-hunt programmes, the tunes of Alauddin Ali are the ones that will stand out. These are the tunes that will keep Alauddin Ali, the King of Melody in Bangladesh, alive for generations to come.
Asrar Chowdhury teaches economic theory and game theory in the classroom. Outside he listens to music and BBC Radio; follows Test Cricket; and plays the flute. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org