Nazrul Songs combine the style of traditional Bangla songs and north Indian classical songs to create a new genre. His experience with leto groups as well as his school days at Trishal-Darirampur in Mymensingha exposed him to the folk songs of East Bengal. His life with the army acquainted him with western tunes through military bands. It was also here that he acquired the taste for Persian poems and learned the beauty of ghazals. Nazrul formally entered the world of modern Bangla songs in Kolkata in the second decade of the 20th century. Inspired by anti-British non-cooperation, khilafat and revolutionary movements, he started writing songs regularly from 1924.
Between 1924 and 1926, Nazrul wrote a number of inspirational songs such as Ghor-re ghor amar sadher charka ghor (whirl, my dear spinning wheel, whirl), Shikal para chhal moder ai shikal para chhal (to wear chains is our sport), Karar ai lauha kapat bhebge phel kar-re lopat (break the iron gates of the prisons and throw them out), Othre chasi jagadvasi dhar kase labal (O the peasants of the world rise and hold your plough firmly), Dhvangsa pather yatridal dhar hatudi (O travellers on the road to destruction, hold the hammers high), Durgam giri kantar maru (the mountains are impassable, the deserts are endless), Amra shakti amra bal (we are the strength, we are the force), Jago anashan bandi othre yata (O prisoners of hunger, wake up). These songs were essentially based on folk tunes, to which the poet added a verse and panache.
Nazrul began writing ghazals towards the close of 1926 at Krishnanagar and by 1930 he had composed many superb ghazals. The themes of Nazrul's ghazals are predominantly love. The wording is always important, though the Bangla ghazal lacks the wordplay of the Urdu ghazal. The tunes in most cases are based on ragas. Some of Nazrul's best-known ghazals are Ase basanta fulabane (Spring comes to the flower garden; vimpalashri raga), Bagichay bulbuli tui (the bulbul in the flower garden; bhairavi raga), Duranta bayu purabaiya (Wild wind of the east; kafi-sindhu), Eto jal o kajal chokhe (So many tears in those dark eyes; manda raga), Bhuli kemane ajo ye mane (How do I forget, you are still in my mind; pilu raga), Kar nikuvje rat kataye (In whose bower did you spend the night; gara-bhairavi raga), Keno kande e paran (Why does this heart of mine still weep; mishra behag-khamvaj raga), Cheyo na sunayana (Don't look at me, O possessor of beautiful eyes; bageshri pilu), Basiya nadikule (Sitting on the river bank; kalangda raga). He was quite close at this time to dwijendralal roy's son dilip kumar roy, who played an active role in popularising Nazrul's ghazals.
Nazrul's ghazals found a most suitable exponent in Dilipkumar who also presented Nazrul's anti-communal and patriotic songs, 'The mountains are impassable, the deserts are endless' and 'O helmsman, be alert', at the opening of the Bengal Provincial Congress session at Krishnanagar on 22 May 1922. Nazrul's ghazals composed in 1926-27 were recorded later in the voices of k mallik, Angurbala, Indubala, Harimati and Radharani.
Apart from Nazrul's ghazals, his songs compiled in Bulbul (1928), Chokher Chatak (1929) and Chandrabindu (1930) were also raga based. The songs in Nazrul-Gitika (1930) were categorised by Nazrul himself as Omar Khayyam giti, Diwan-i-Hafiz giti, thungri, ghazal, tappa, kirtan, baul, bhatiyali, dhrupad, kheyal, patriotic and inspirational songs, and comic songs. He applied ragas to all songs except kirtan, baul, bhatiyali, kheyal and comic songs.
The poet had studied classical music carefully and has experimented with different ragas. Between 1932 and 1934, six collections of Nazrul songs Sursaki, Zulfiqar, Banagiti, Gulbagicha, Gitishatadal and Ganer Mala were published. Most of these songs were based on ragas, while others were based on baul, bhatiyali, kirtan, etc. In 1930-31 Nazrul began composing Hindu devotional and Islamic songs. He composed nearly a thousand devotional songs that included shyamasangit, bhajan and kirtan of the Hindu traditions and hamd, nat, and marsia of the Islamic traditions.
The fourth phase of Nazrul songs saw the composition of modern songs, which helped in consolidating the foundation of modern Bangla songs. The fifth and last phase of Nazrul's songs, during which he experimented with raga-based songs, was the most significant. In this phase he adopted pure classical ragas of Hindustani songs to create new Bangla kheyals. These songs were broadcast from Kolkata radio station in programmes such as Haramani, Nabarag Malika, Mel-Milan, Yam Yojnar Kadi Madhyam and Prahar Parichayika.
Nazrul knew the intricacies of classical Hindustani music and was able to combine different ragas and raginis to create new ragas and raginis for Bangla music, for instance, benuka and dolanchanpa. He believed that the rasa that classical music could create could not be done with modern music. By composing Bangla songs in different ragas, he disproved the idea that classical kheyal, dhrupad etc could not be created except in Hindi.
By adopting on one hand the themes and tunes of traditional folk songs like kirtan and syama sangit and on the other hand, the structures and tunes of north Indian classical dhrupad, kheyal, thumri, tappa and ghazal, Nazrul created a new genre and carved out a firm place for himself in Bangla song. [Rafiqul Islam]