Rafi Hossain: Thank you for giving us your time, Nirupoma. I am truly delighted to be here with you today.
Nirupoma Rahman: I want to thank you and The Daily Star. I am looking forward to our lively discussion alongside singing.
Rafi Hossain: Generally, audiences sometimes avoid the classical genre of music. Can you tell us why that is?
Nirupoma Rahman: I think it's important to expose the audience to all kinds of music. The general audience often assumes classical music to be difficult, when in reality, all music is universal, and there is nothing complicated about it at all. One may not understand the composition or language, but the melody can be enjoyed by all. Even a popular song can be based on a pure raga. I believe it is also the responsibility of us artists to explain this to the audience clearly. Let me give you an example. If we were are both given same shades of three different colours to paint with, we would both draw entirely different paintings which reflect our personality, thoughts and insights. Just as playing with colours is called painting, playing around with specific melodic notes is known as raag. There are also different variations and history of Indian classical music.
Rafi Hossain: Could you tell us about Nazrul's contributions?
Nirupoma Rahman: Nazrul has brought a lot of aspects of Indian classical music, as well as other genres, into Bangla music. His not only composed so many songs which are based on different ragas, he also made his own ragas given the needs of his beautiful lyrics. In Hindustani classical music, melodic structure is vital compared to the words. Bangla songs, on the contrary, call for special attention to the words. To interweave the lyrical and melodic aspects, Nazrul even mixed different ragas in one composition very beautifully and with ease. Not only that, he also brought different genres of Indian classical music like Kheyaal, Thumri, Kajri, Dadra, and so on into Bangla songs keeping all the essence and purity of Bangla music and 'Bangaliyana'. And that was only possible because of his immense depth of knowledge in music and sheer talent in language. Each of his compositions are like a treasure with hidden beauties for the singer to discover and highlight in their own ways. And that element of exploration is something I really love and enjoy. His tutelage under Ustad Zamiruddin Khan, who is considered to be a maestro of Thumri, had made an enormous impact on his love and knowledge in Indian Classical music. There are many aspects of Indian classical music, which Nazrul pioneered in incorporating very uniquely in Bangla music. Later many musicians followed his footsteps. In relation to this, with great admiration, I will make a mention here about an esteemed and widely respected Azad Rahman, who has recently passed away. He has worked tirelessly and with great passion to compose and popularise Bangla Kheyaal.
Rafi Hossain: Tell us more about Thumri.
Nirupoma Rahman: The word Thumri has been derived from 'thumakna', which implies a sort of sensual and romantic nature. Usually when we hear the word 'Thumri , we assume it would be in Hindi or Urdu. However, Nazrul has introduced us to Thumri in Bangla music, keeping the melodic and rhythmic beauty of the genre, yet maintaining the essence of romantic and passionate imagery of Bangla literature. Nazrul created many Thumri compositions and experimented with different forms of their melodies in a really beautiful manner.
Rafi Hossain: You mentioned the word 'Kajri' ,
what is it?
Nirupoma Rahman: Kajri can fall under the Thumri category. The word Kajri means black thick rainy clouds. Kajri is usually sung to either express the feeling of separation, especially when it is raining and you don't have your loved one around, or to describe the rain itself. This musical genre related and relevant to the rainy season according to North Indian classical music. Bengalis have a very special and romantic connection to rain and monsoon, and Nazrul was the first to bring Kajri in Bangla music. Nazrul explored and studied these things thoroughly and added words and phrases from other languages that fit in perfectly with the Bangla songs. And that proves his immense literary talent.
Rafi Hossain: Do you think it's important to practice and become skilled at classical music before stepping into the genre of Nazrul's songs?
Nirupoma Rahman: I think learning classical music is an important step before pursuing any specific field of music. Understanding the form and structure of melodies is an important skill to acquire, whether you choose to pursue Nazrul sangeet, Rabindra sangeet , modern pop music or even band music. But for Bangla music not only the melodic part but also the understanding the lyrical part of it also crucial. It is very important to understand the connection between the words and melody of a song to perfectly express it. I believe that just like chefs keep tasting their food as they cook, as a musician it's important to understand and connect with the feeling behind the songs as you sing and practise. Otherwise, how can we expect to deliver the song meaningfully and connect to our audience?
Rafi Hossain: Will you be singing any of Sabina Yeasmin's songs for her birthday as it's her birthday today?
Nirupoma Rahman: I don't think I can properly honour any of her songs as she is such a legendary artist with exceptional music. However, I will express my love and respect for her through a Nazrul song, the lyrics of which portray my feelings exactly.
Rafi Hossain: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Nirupoma Rahman: I would say it's important to expose the younger generation to our classical forms of music in a more engaging and stimulating way, rather than blaming them for being unaware. It is our duty and the duty of those in the media to promote such music. Lastly, I want to thank you and the audience for listening to me and being with me today. It is truly a joyful experience to sing like this.