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Abbas Uddin: Legend of folk songs

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Prof Nurul Amin Chowdhury :
Beneath the mountain-king the Himalayas, rivers Torsa, Dhorla and Kalzani of Kuchbihar district are flowing over the village Balrampur. This village presented a wonderful child named Abbas Uddin Ahmad who became the legendary monarch of Bengali folk songs.
He was born on 27th October, 1901 in a respectable family and was brought up in a religious atmosphere. His father Moulovi Zafar Ahmad was a pious and famous lawyear as well as a well-to-do landlord. His mother’s name was Hiramon Nesa. He loved his mother very much and so the house he lived in the Dhaka city, located in Purana Paltan adjacent to the north-west corner of Dhaka G.P.O. was named Hiramon Manzil.
He spent his boyhood in Balrampur. The amazing natural beauty of his village, specially the enchanting waving flow of the river Torsa, Dhorla and Kalzani, the bewitching tunes of the heart touching Bhawaia songs of buffalo curt pullers hypnotised his tender heart. This hearty attraction of natural varities, beauties and tunes innately prepared him to become a singer. As well as he himself had an astonishing heavenly vocal capacity that miraculously helped and supported him to be a legendary singer.
He read up to B.A. During his student life he came to the golden touch of poet Kazi Nazrul Islam. Both of them became a tremendous pair of gem and diamond i,e poet and singer. Both of them were by born genius having extraordinary natural creative character. The difference was that one of them was remarkably bohemian poet and the other was a singer of very sober and of systematic character.
Abbas Uddin Ahmad was very particular in five times prayers. His son Mustafa Zaman Abbasi says, when Abba recited Surah in his prayers, he did it with full devotion with such artistic tune that I have never seen in any other's prayers. As well as all members of his family are always very particular in Namaz.
Abbas Uddin has established the basement of Bengali folk song on its prestigious structure. He took the rural and regional songs of Kuchbihar and Rangpur region i,e Bhawaiya, Khirol, Chatka etc. in his heavenly voice and placed those in the aristocratic atmosphere of elite people.
When he started his carrier as a singer that was the time of renaissance of Muslim Bengal. Kazi Nazrul lslam and other poets and litterateurs contributed to the awakening of Muslims by their writings and Abbas Uddin joined the awakening function with magical and musical tone, voice and songs. Thus he became an essential artist of renaissance period. For twenty years he lived in Kolkata from 1931 and had been very close to Kazi Nazrul lslam. Having inspired by Abbas Uddin Ahmad, Nazrul began to write Islamic songs and those heart-throb songs created wonderful waves all over the Muslim community of undivided Bengal. Nazrul wrote songs on Muslim renaissance, songs on Namaz, Roja, Hajj, Zakat, Hamd, Nat and many of those were sung by Abbas Uddin Ahmad which created rejuvenation among the people of Muslim society.
Thus the extraordinary contribution of both Kazi Nazrul Islam and Abbas Uddin culminated and reached the goal of successful attainment.
Poet Jasim Uddin was introduced with Abbas Uddin by poet Golam Mostafa in a musical programme held in Kolkata in 1931. From that day they had been tied with an intimate relationship which was intact for their life time. Both of them did their best to popularise folk songs not only to the elite people of the country, but also to the outer world.
Abbas Uddin was a king of the heart of rural people whose songs touched their heart and they got deep pleasure and satisfaction in his songs. He also used to sing patriotic songs, modern songs and used to practice classical songs. At first his songs were recorded in gramophone in 1930. Then all famous gramophone companies like Megaphone, Menola, and His Master’s Voice recorded his songs.
His younger brother Abdul Karim was a writer of folk songs. Kanailal Shil was a famous writer of folk songs and an expert musical artist of Dotara. Abbas Uddin was almost indebted to Kanailal Shil for his direct help which was the root of the pavement way for him to become a legendary folk singer.
Abbas Uddin had an unparallel capacity of singing in his own style and a kind of heart- touching rhythm of dearness of village atmosphere was present in it. He sang with deep ecstatic devotion and very distinct pronunciation. By nature he was very mild, gentle, free, frank and friendly.
After the partition he repatriated with his family from Calcutta to Dhaka and served as government official in the Department of Publication, D.P. and Agriculture. He also wrote poems and was a good recitationist. His handwriting was remarkably beautiful.His splendour expertness as a Bengali folk singer crossed the boundary of the country.
In 1955, he represented the country in the South Asian Conference of Folk Singers. In 1956, he joined in the Session of International Folk Songs Council held in Germany. In 1957 he had his last performance abroad in Yangon in a conference of Bengali foreign dwellers.
Pakistan Government honoured him with the most prestigious award ‘Pride of Performance.’ Bangladesh Government honoured him with ‘Independence Day Award’ after his death.
He wrote his auto-biography Aamar Shilpi Jiboner Kotha.
As a whole he was thoroughly an accomplished person of amazing personality and is hailed as the ‘legendary monarch of Bengali folk song.’ He led a splendid successful life. He breathed his last on December 30 in 1959.
We, the next generations will remember him with great respect, as we, the Bengali speaking people owe greatly to him for his unparalleled songs.

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