Biswas, Debabrata

Biswas, Debabrata (1911-1980) singer, was born in kishoreganj on 20 August 1911. He learnt music from Himanxhu Dutt, Anadi Kumar Dastidar, Pabkaj Mallik and Dhirendra Nath Datta. He had a sonorous voice and developed his own style of singing early in his career.

He popularised many relatively less known Tagore songs, by giving them his own interpretation through expression, delicate dramatisation and a lively tempo, thus, rendering the meaning of these songs clearer to the listener. He first recorded a couple of patriotic Tagore songs, in the early 1930s. In 1935 he recorded two songs of Nazrul Islam, following the direction of the poet. Around 1940, many more songs for HMV, but stopped recording in the early 1950s when the gramophone company asked him to sing 'modern' songs.

He was also well known for his ganosabgeet (people's songs). He joined the IPTA and Communist Party of which he remained a member until the 1950s.

When Devabrata started singing, the use of the tenor voice was the preferred style, which along with Pankaj Mallik and Hemanta Kumar Mukhopadhyay, he successfully changed to the bass voice. The trio also freed Tagore songs from the living room of urban educated middle classes and made them more mainstream as ordinary listeners found a relevance of these songs to their life. His unorthodox singing style, coupled with his use of many western and exotic musical instruments since 1964, led to criticism from the traditional and artists. Consequently, Vixva Bharati disapproved of many of his recordings, eventually leading him to abandon recording in 1971.

He supported the War of Independence in Bangladesh and in 1972 donated the entire royalty he had received from his songs on the War of Liberation to bangabandgu sheikh mujibur rahman. He died on 18 August 1980. [Ghulam Murshid]