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Effervescent music that mesmerises

A. U. M. FAKHRUDDIN
 

Azad Rahman playing classical Raga music on the piano.

Music is like a garden of fragrant flowers that appeals to sensitive hearts. Music represents emotion and mood as colours symbolise feelings in painting. A man of refined manners, affable musician Ustad Azad Rahman has been in the realm of melody and harmony for the last half a century.
Listening to the Indian classical music, playing of the raga with endless idioms and nuances on the piano and composition of a considerable number of Bengali kheyal of this uncommon creative genius is an unforgettable experience as rendition of these mesmerises the listener with an effervescent musical enchantment.  
 Having graduated from the Rabindra Bharati University in Calcutta, he began way back in 1964 his career as Principal of Gopeshor Sangit Sangsad, a music college in India.
Creativity emanates from an earnest zeal and self-confidence. Ingenuity involves inventing and experimenting. To Azad patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet. The Latin adage ex nihilo nihil fit, meaning nothing comes from nothing, may connote intimation or indirect suggestion from within. Azad is assiduous in adopting the pace of Nature whose secret is patience. This commendable virtue has afforded him to keep on creating tirelessly.
Urbanites of this country as well as other countries of the world have accepted the synthesis of many cultural values of the West from language to attires that have influenced their way of life and everyday affairs. The cradle of the Western civilisation lay in the East many centuries back but few today try to remember it. Owing to our laxities, limitations and inadequacies, we have not succeeded in making our cultural values acceptable to them. Besides ignoring the wealth of our tradition and rich heritage we are indiscriminately imitating alien pop culture.
At this crucial juncture has come forward a singular personality, Azad Rahman, who presented to a select audience of Dhaka his extraordinary creation: Raga on the Piano.
 

Raga on the piano: a pioneering work
While the piano is a popular Western musical instrument, our classical music, that of the Subcontinent, has an exceptionally rich heritage— profound in quality, thought, performance and enjoyment. This music, an inestimable wealth of world music, is performed on our musical instruments such as the Sarode and the Sitar. Though Violin is a Western instrument nevertheless it is also used here, but we have its close sub-continental cousin here — the S?rang?, a bowed, short-necked string instrument of India.
 

Azad Rahman with his admirers who honoured him in Sydney, Australia, in 2011.

Western musicians, performers and music lovers have become familiar with the Subcontinental classical music primarily through the Sarode and the Sitar. But as these two instruments are not so easy to learn so they are mostly unable to present recitals though they wish to do so. It is this very problem that drew the attention of musician and composer Azad Rahaman who meticulously researched and examined the difficulties faced by Western music lovers.
He gave careful thought to the matter how best to simplify the subtleties of our classical music and make it easier for the outside world so they can appreciate and perform it without much effort. Doubtless it was a tough job if one considers the hard-to-accomplish details of various complex intricacies of the Ragas. After years of ceaseless dedicated effort Azad succeeded in perfectly presenting the Ragas on grand the piano, a popular Western musical instrument, in accompaniment with Tabla, an instrument producing regular sequence of beats or rhythm. By all means that was a pioneering work.
As a fine art music demands of the performer extensive in-depth studies, adroitness, and creative insight: and Azad Rahman is a vivid example. He enchanted listeners with his Raga on the piano a decade back at the German Cultural Centre in Dhaka. The complex subtle nuances of the Subcontinental classical music poignantly and expressively revealed in the hands of Azad who admirably delineated the very soul of it.
To enjoy his Raga on the piano was to be lost in a dream world of melodies and tunes flowing and filling the auditorium along with the drone of Tanpura. Indeed it was a living musical magic created dexterously. And it was possible for him to accomplish this task because he is equally expert in both the music of the West and of the, Subcontinent. No wonder, now that Azad has done it, Western musicians too will be able to perform our classical music.
At that performance celebrated playwright and music critic Sayeed Ahmad introduced the Ragas and Azad delighted the discerning listeners in effortless ease as he played the evening raga on the piano. This achievement of Azad Rahaman added a new dimension to the world of music which will remain a milestone in the history of music.
Meanwhile, Azad Rahman scored another first when he presented a couple of years ago a long playing record of Kheyal in Bengali. Before him none even possibly thought that Kheyals could be written in Bengali as these have always been in Hindi. His Bengali Qawali album, like the Bengali Kheyal, has been widely acclaimed.
 

Classical music and Nazrul
Rebel Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam was truly a literary phenomenon since 1921when his epoch-making poem Bidrohi was published in the Bengali journal Bijli, meaning lightning, in December that year. He was born into the nobility family of Kazi or adjudicator in Burdwan, India. [Vide Sangeet-Kosh (Dictionary of Music) by Dr. Karunamaya Goswami, 1985, Bangla Academy, Dhaka.]
 Nazrul burst upon the socio-cultural scene of Bengal and dominated there till 1938 as the intrepid voice of patriotic inspiration, resolute enemy of British imperialism through his songs, fiction, essays and newspaper editorials written with fiery passion. Nazrul Islam is credited to have composed some three thousand songs many of which are based on Hindustani classical raga. According to renowned musicologists the poet created 17 new raga, namely Arun Bhairab, Arunranjani, Sandhya Malati, Shiva Saraswati, Udasi Bhairab, Devayani, Asha Bhairabi, Shivani Bhairabi, Rudra Bhairab, Bonokuntala, Benuka, Minakshi, Yogini, Shankari, Nirjhorini, Dolonchampa and Roopamonjori. He adapted a wide range of North Indian musical styles such as dhrupad, khayal or kheyal, tappa, thumri and so on.
  Lighter than dhrupad, kheyal is the second branch of classical music which allows the artiste to freely play with various adornments. It is said that it originated from kawali, a form of devotional song, and modified into kheyal by Hazrat Amir Khasru (1253-1325).
Khayal was popularised by Niyamat Khan who was also known as Sadarang, and his nephew Firoz Khan also known as Adarang, both musicians in the court of Muhammad Shah Rangile (1719–1748). In our country Ustad Gul Mohammad Khan (1876-1979) was a singer of dhrupad and kheyal. Ustad Mohammad Hossain Khasru (1903-1959), founder principal of the Bulbul Lalitakala Academy or Bulbul Academy for Fine Arts (BAFA), was a consummate classical musician. He was a distinguished singer of kheyal and thumri.
 

Meaningful message through kheyal
Customarily the lyrics of Hindi kheyal are explicit and not quite sophisticated. Azad has distinguished himself by using refined words in his considerable number of Bangla Kheyal. Here are a few examples.
On Bengali, our mother tongue, he writes in the kheyal in Jojoyanti Tritaal: “Our heart soothes if we sing in our mother tongue which is ensconced in our thought and expression. Mother tongue enhances our individuality.”
Religious tolerance refers to respecting the fundamental human rights of people adhered to different religious beliefs.  In one kheyal in ‘Mawa Trital’ he writes: “Respect religions of others; do not build a wall between humans. Follow the road to peace and harmony and fellow feeling. Do not engage yourselves in internecine fratricide.
     Humanism is a point of view or thought that attaches prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters. It is a way of life that wants the welfare of humankind. Azad writes in the kheyal in Patadip Trital: “Humankind is above all; sing the song of humanity. Why do people are egoistic? Egotism breeds vanity and self-importance. So, shun haughtiness. Do not insult yourself.”        
During the war of our liberation the song “Poober akashay surjo uthechhe alokay alokmoy” composed by Azad was among the songs that became popular.
Composer, lyricist, performer and film maker Azad held various important administrative positions. He was Chairman of the Centre for Education Creative and Performing Arts, Principal of the Government Music College, Director General of the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy, Executive Director of National Performing Arts Academy, Music Director of Bangladesh Radio and Chairman of University Music Syllabus Committee. He won National Film Award in 1977, Bangladesh Film Journalist Association Award in 1978, Best Composer and Conductor of Orchestra Award in1980 and Zahir Raihan Film Award in 1975.
-----------------------------------
The writer is Associate Editor of the Holiday.

Comment

A. U. M. FAKHRUDDIN
 

Azad Rahman playing classical Raga music on the piano.

Music is like a garden of fragrant flowers that appeals to sensitive hearts. Music represents emotion and mood as colours symbolise feelings in painting. A man of refined manners, affable musician Ustad Azad Rahman has been in the realm of melody and harmony for the last half a century.
Listening to the Indian classical music, playing of the raga with endless idioms and nuances on the piano and composition of a considerable number of Bengali kheyal of this uncommon creative genius is an unforgettable experience as rendition of these mesmerises the listener with an effervescent musical enchantment.  
 Having graduated from the Rabindra Bharati University in Calcutta, he began way back in 1964 his career as Principal of Gopeshor Sangit Sangsad, a music college in India.
Creativity emanates from an earnest zeal and self-confidence. Ingenuity involves inventing and experimenting. To Azad patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet. The Latin adage ex nihilo nihil fit, meaning nothing comes from nothing, may connote intimation or indirect suggestion from within. Azad is assiduous in adopting the pace of Nature whose secret is patience. This commendable virtue has afforded him to keep on creating tirelessly.
Urbanites of this country as well as other countries of the world have accepted the synthesis of many cultural values of the West from language to attires that have influenced their way of life and everyday affairs. The cradle of the Western civilisation lay in the East many centuries back but few today try to remember it. Owing to our laxities, limitations and inadequacies, we have not succeeded in making our cultural values acceptable to them. Besides ignoring the wealth of our tradition and rich heritage we are indiscriminately imitating alien pop culture.
At this crucial juncture has come forward a singular personality, Azad Rahman, who presented to a select audience of Dhaka his extraordinary creation: Raga on the Piano.
 

Raga on the piano: a pioneering work
While the piano is a popular Western musical instrument, our classical music, that of the Subcontinent, has an exceptionally rich heritage— profound in quality, thought, performance and enjoyment. This music, an inestimable wealth of world music, is performed on our musical instruments such as the Sarode and the Sitar. Though Violin is a Western instrument nevertheless it is also used here, but we have its close sub-continental cousin here — the S?rang?, a bowed, short-necked string instrument of India.
 

Azad Rahman with his admirers who honoured him in Sydney, Australia, in 2011.

Western musicians, performers and music lovers have become familiar with the Subcontinental classical music primarily through the Sarode and the Sitar. But as these two instruments are not so easy to learn so they are mostly unable to present recitals though they wish to do so. It is this very problem that drew the attention of musician and composer Azad Rahaman who meticulously researched and examined the difficulties faced by Western music lovers.
He gave careful thought to the matter how best to simplify the subtleties of our classical music and make it easier for the outside world so they can appreciate and perform it without much effort. Doubtless it was a tough job if one considers the hard-to-accomplish details of various complex intricacies of the Ragas. After years of ceaseless dedicated effort Azad succeeded in perfectly presenting the Ragas on grand the piano, a popular Western musical instrument, in accompaniment with Tabla, an instrument producing regular sequence of beats or rhythm. By all means that was a pioneering work.
As a fine art music demands of the performer extensive in-depth studies, adroitness, and creative insight: and Azad Rahman is a vivid example. He enchanted listeners with his Raga on the piano a decade back at the German Cultural Centre in Dhaka. The complex subtle nuances of the Subcontinental classical music poignantly and expressively revealed in the hands of Azad who admirably delineated the very soul of it.
To enjoy his Raga on the piano was to be lost in a dream world of melodies and tunes flowing and filling the auditorium along with the drone of Tanpura. Indeed it was a living musical magic created dexterously. And it was possible for him to accomplish this task because he is equally expert in both the music of the West and of the, Subcontinent. No wonder, now that Azad has done it, Western musicians too will be able to perform our classical music.
At that performance celebrated playwright and music critic Sayeed Ahmad introduced the Ragas and Azad delighted the discerning listeners in effortless ease as he played the evening raga on the piano. This achievement of Azad Rahaman added a new dimension to the world of music which will remain a milestone in the history of music.
Meanwhile, Azad Rahman scored another first when he presented a couple of years ago a long playing record of Kheyal in Bengali. Before him none even possibly thought that Kheyals could be written in Bengali as these have always been in Hindi. His Bengali Qawali album, like the Bengali Kheyal, has been widely acclaimed.
 

Classical music and Nazrul
Rebel Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam was truly a literary phenomenon since 1921when his epoch-making poem Bidrohi was published in the Bengali journal Bijli, meaning lightning, in December that year. He was born into the nobility family of Kazi or adjudicator in Burdwan, India. [Vide Sangeet-Kosh (Dictionary of Music) by Dr. Karunamaya Goswami, 1985, Bangla Academy, Dhaka.]
 Nazrul burst upon the socio-cultural scene of Bengal and dominated there till 1938 as the intrepid voice of patriotic inspiration, resolute enemy of British imperialism through his songs, fiction, essays and newspaper editorials written with fiery passion. Nazrul Islam is credited to have composed some three thousand songs many of which are based on Hindustani classical raga. According to renowned musicologists the poet created 17 new raga, namely Arun Bhairab, Arunranjani, Sandhya Malati, Shiva Saraswati, Udasi Bhairab, Devayani, Asha Bhairabi, Shivani Bhairabi, Rudra Bhairab, Bonokuntala, Benuka, Minakshi, Yogini, Shankari, Nirjhorini, Dolonchampa and Roopamonjori. He adapted a wide range of North Indian musical styles such as dhrupad, khayal or kheyal, tappa, thumri and so on.
  Lighter than dhrupad, kheyal is the second branch of classical music which allows the artiste to freely play with various adornments. It is said that it originated from kawali, a form of devotional song, and modified into kheyal by Hazrat Amir Khasru (1253-1325).
Khayal was popularised by Niyamat Khan who was also known as Sadarang, and his nephew Firoz Khan also known as Adarang, both musicians in the court of Muhammad Shah Rangile (1719–1748). In our country Ustad Gul Mohammad Khan (1876-1979) was a singer of dhrupad and kheyal. Ustad Mohammad Hossain Khasru (1903-1959), founder principal of the Bulbul Lalitakala Academy or Bulbul Academy for Fine Arts (BAFA), was a consummate classical musician. He was a distinguished singer of kheyal and thumri.
 

Meaningful message through kheyal
Customarily the lyrics of Hindi kheyal are explicit and not quite sophisticated. Azad has distinguished himself by using refined words in his considerable number of Bangla Kheyal. Here are a few examples.
On Bengali, our mother tongue, he writes in the kheyal in Jojoyanti Tritaal: “Our heart soothes if we sing in our mother tongue which is ensconced in our thought and expression. Mother tongue enhances our individuality.”
Religious tolerance refers to respecting the fundamental human rights of people adhered to different religious beliefs.  In one kheyal in ‘Mawa Trital’ he writes: “Respect religions of others; do not build a wall between humans. Follow the road to peace and harmony and fellow feeling. Do not engage yourselves in internecine fratricide.
     Humanism is a point of view or thought that attaches prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters. It is a way of life that wants the welfare of humankind. Azad writes in the kheyal in Patadip Trital: “Humankind is above all; sing the song of humanity. Why do people are egoistic? Egotism breeds vanity and self-importance. So, shun haughtiness. Do not insult yourself.”        
During the war of our liberation the song “Poober akashay surjo uthechhe alokay alokmoy” composed by Azad was among the songs that became popular.
Composer, lyricist, performer and film maker Azad held various important administrative positions. He was Chairman of the Centre for Education Creative and Performing Arts, Principal of the Government Music College, Director General of the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy, Executive Director of National Performing Arts Academy, Music Director of Bangladesh Radio and Chairman of University Music Syllabus Committee. He won National Film Award in 1977, Bangladesh Film Journalist Association Award in 1978, Best Composer and Conductor of Orchestra Award in1980 and Zahir Raihan Film Award in 1975.
-----------------------------------
The writer is Associate Editor of the Holiday.


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