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Nidhu Gupta


Nidhu Gupta (1741-1839) popularly known as Nidhu Babu, musician and singer, was born in a village of west bengal, but later brought up in Kolkata. Apart from Bangla and Persian, he learnt elementary English from a Missionary School and got a job of a clerk in the east india company for which he worked at Chhapra in Bihar for more than two decades beginning probably from 1776. He hardly had any formal training in music while he was in Kolkata, but in Chhapra he seriously learnt classical music from a Muslim Ustad, named Ghulam Nabi, who had created a musical genre called tappa. After his retirement, he returned to Kolkata in 1794, and continued with the pursuit of music.

He realised that the type of tappa music he had learnt was not particularly suited to Bangla music and started improvising it. He succeeded in his experiment and created his version of this genre, which later came to be known as Nidhu Babur (i.e. Nidhu Babu's) tappa. Years later, he also experimented with what is called 'half-akhrai', another type of semi-classical music which was very popular, especially in and around Kolkata. Partly in order to spread his own style of music and partly for the love of it, he established a music school in Kolkata in 1808. He was a great musician who at once created a genre of music and made it popular. His songs were so popular throughout the nineteenth century that other musicians performed them widely, and more importantly, other lyricists wrote many songs imitating him and called them Nidhu Babur tappa.

Largely devotional in character until his times, Nidhu Babu brought about a significant change in the theme of Bangla lyrics and turned it into that of love. Even though his lyrics are not the best examples of poetry, this change from God to Man can be called a precursor of the profound thematic change witnessed decades later by nineteenth century Bangla literature and music. Apart from love songs, he is still fondly remembered for his song on Bangla language - 'Nanan desher nanan bhasha / bine svadeshi bhasha mite ki asha?' (Different countries have different languages, but without the mother-tongue can one be contented?). It was composed two hundred years ago.

The number of his songs is not precisely known, but in his Geet a Ratna (1837), he published one hundred and one songs with the names of the tunes in which they were to be rendered, and claimed in the Introduction that many of his songs had been distorted by others and that he was publishing the genuine ones so that no one could misrepresent them any more. [Ghulam Murshid]