Latif, Abdul

Latif, Abdul (1924-2006) singer, lyricist and composer. He was born in 1924 at village Raipasha in Barisal district. Although born in a conservative Muslim family Abdul Latif was attracted to music from his childhood. At one stage, his aunt being offended by his musical character, drove him out from the house. To her, singing was unislamic. Undaunted by the suddenness of this event, young Abdul Latif pleaded for a chance to let him sing a song for her. She agreed. He sang a Nazrul song full of praise for Allah and his prophet in the tuneful style of Abbasuddin. The song moved her deeply and she agreed to let him sing. This family consent set him on the way to pursue his career as a singer.

While a student of class Vll, Abdul Latif was selected for the 16th Bengal Battalion of the Indian Territorial Force in 1939. After six months this force was disbanded. He now began to live in Calcutta. Although he did not directly join politics, he became associated with politics-related cultural movement. Towards the beginning of the 1940s, he joined the literary group of the Congress in Calcutta. Here music lessons were given to politically conscious new artistes by a music teacher, Sukriti Sen. Abdul Latif became his student. He was the lone Muslim in the group. At about this time that Mahatma Gandhi came to Noakhali leading a peace mission to stop the Hindu-Muslim riot. Abdul Latif joined a group of Congress volunteers and boarded a steamer at Barisal to go to Noakhali. At a Noakhali-related public meeting at Calcutta's Vigyan College, Abdul Latif sang chorus before Gandhi.

Abdul Latif came in close contact with well-known singer Mumtaz Ali Khan, reputed singer and music director Abdul Halim Choudhury. Halim encouraged him to write songs to fill the vacuum created by the large scale departure from the country of Hindu singers and composers in the post-1947 political development. In 1949-50 Abdul Latif started writing modern songs and later folk songs.

Abdul Latif had in him the spirit of people's songs that he imbibed from the Calcutta-phase of his life. The chorus songs that he sang with the Congress literary group were people's songs. This became part of his bloodstream. His psychology was deeply rooted in the folk culture of his rural life in Barisal. He enriched his own voice with the tunes of such folk songs as kirtan, panchali, kathakota, Behular bhasan, royanigan, Kobigan , gunai jatra, jari gan and palkigan. This trend in due course brought him a distinctive position as a singer.

His songs have reflected the hopes and aspirations of the deprived people of Bangladesh. His most popular song, written during the historic language movement, was 'Ora amar mukher bhasha kaira nite chaye' (They want to snatch away the language of my tongue). In writing this song he desired to reflect the spirit and tunes of the folk songs of Bangladesh. It earned the position of a symbolic song to establish the heritage and rights of the people of the country.

Abdul Latif practised many areas of music. His intimate knowledge of the ways of rural life, its culture and traditions and its music helped him develop within himself a distinctive trait of his own. His songs amply reflected a non-communal people-oriented consciousness that grew out of his own liberal humanistic perceptions.

It has not been possible to collect all the songs written by him. His three books of songs have however been traced. His Bhashar Gan, Desher Gan was published by Bangla Academy in 1985. It contains 24 language-related songs, 51 patriotic songs, 95 people's songs, 2 jari songs and 8 songs on human rights. His other two books were Duare Aishache Palki (spiritual songs) and Dilraba. He died on 23 February 2006. [Shafiqur Rahman Choudhury]