এখনো মাঝে মাঝে
মাঝরাতে ঘুমের ঘোরে
শুনি তোমার পায়ের আওয়াজ
যেন তুমি এসেছ ফিরে
(Even sometimes still now
In the depth of sleep at midnight
I hear the sound of your footfalls
As if you have come back!)
These are the beginning lines of a popular hit number of Bangladesh’s one of the heartthrob singers Asif Akbar. After making his debut in 2001 this popstar won hearts of millions of Bengali speaking people world over. An instant craze among youngsters, Asif became a role model for many.Bangladesh music industry found a new talent in him. If I am not wrong, his debut album “ও প্রিয়া তুমি কোথায়” (Oh beloved, where are you) became the best-seller perhaps of all time in the country’s music industry.
After presenting few more popular albums his presence and popularity in the musical landscape gradually tapered off. In his prime time he ruled the roost, but now has become a name of the past. He lives perhaps in the nostalgia of Bangladeshi music lovers, especially those growing up humming, shouting and crying out his songs. Young lovers found and still find in his songs elements close to their emotions. I don’t know what factored out in the decline of his career.
I am not updated of his recent involvement with music. Maybe now and then he makes some effort to bring out one or two albums. But, people do not seem to be that much enthusiastic about him. This surely is not a good news for Bangladeshi music. He, at least, moved attention of a big number of Bangladeshi music lovers who are otherwise addicted to foreign songs, especially Hindi and English, to Bengali songs.
As a post-modern global citizen I don’t foster jingoistic bias against things foreign. Good Hindi and English songs, in fact songs in any language can be our feast for ears if they are of good quality. But free flow of low-quality music items into our country and young generation’s uncritical acceptance of them is worrying. Bangladesh has a rich tradition of music, and many of our folk songs are world class in terms of their lyrical depth, philosophy and heart’s chord-touching quality.
This country is home to many reputed music maestros like Ustad Alauddin Khan. Lalon songs and Karim songs are resourceful in every sense of the term. We are also heir to a tradition of Bengali music of undivided Bengal. Our privilege is more pronounced than that of PaschimBanga since ours is an independent Bengali majority country, in terms of promoting whatever Bengali. Tagore songs and Nazrul songs are more popular in Bangladesh.
My contention is we can revive our folk songs and pay attention to improve modern music. Talented writers, lyricists and musicians should all sorts of patronization. Weak lyrics and poor composition mar the quality of songs, let alone bad voice. However, to take cue from the above mentioned lines of Asif’s song, I would like to believe “footfalls” of good days of Bangladeshi music “have come back”.