As the month of February sets in, we become emotional about our language movement. The month is thus titled 'The month of mother tongue'. This time, in its second year, the month commenced with the rendition of classical ragas, written in Bangla by Ustad Azad Rahman. Our heartfelt thanks go to Channel I, who have taken up such a worthy cause to promote classical music in our country. The evening of 31st January was marked with the inaugural where the organization Shonskriti Bikash Kendra was honoured. Late Ustad Yasin Khan received the award last year (2015).
Azad Rahman trained in classical music and he arrived in erstwhile East Pakistan, eager to contribute. This was the time I first met him. Along with my sister Naeela, we were asked to learn from him in BTV. He gave us songs to learn for our performances and since those early years of life Azad Rahman has been a close member of our family. He set tunes to various songs for my Aunt Ferdausi Rahman, especially for the movies and the proximity gave me some power to observe him with keen interest. He made his own debut movie 'Gopon kotha' and sang some powerful songs like “Dora kata dagh dekhe bagh kena jay, “Manushke ki dekhe chinbe bolo”. He gave tunes to the most famous patriotic songs of Bangladesh “Jonmo amar dhonno holo mago” sung by both Feroza Begum and later by Sabina Yasmin. He had the genius of being a pianist, performing Indian classical ragas in his piano and travelling the world with the same. Apart from his vocal rendition of Indian Classical Music he exhibited great originality as a composer, as a leader and as a friend of the musicians he stood up for many causes.
However, over the last twenty years, I have known Ustad Azad Rahman in a different capacity. Every time I have gotten his call, he urges me to learn another new classical piece. He is prolific in his work and has published two volumes of 'Bangla Kheyal' (Bangla Academy, 1999). He is working on further volumes. The book is complete with the introduction to the raga, the original lyrics in Bangla (written by him) and taans to be practiced by learners. For both learned artists and learners, it is a gem and quite an academic task. Not only that, he has a regular flow of students to whom he teaches these basics.
In recent times, he has established this one night classical presentation to be held every year in Channel I, one of the leading private channels of repute. The evening began with short speeches by Faridur Reza Sagar, Shykh Seraj and was illustrated with the presentations of the students from Azad Rahman's Kendra as well as eminent artists Khairul Anam Shakil, Salauddin Ahmed, his son Nishat, Rebeka Sultana, Dahlia Nousheen, Swaralipi Karim, myself and others. Instrumental music rendering classical music was also included, Feroz Khan in setar and Yusuf Khan in sarod. It was a moment of the listeners delight. The programme was telecast on air from 3am and ended at 9am on 1st February, making Bangla language an essential of classical raga as the country celebrates the month of 'Mother Tongue'.
The writer is an academic, Nazrul exponent and writer.