Modern Songs

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Modern Songs originated towards the end of the eighteenth century through the tappa. nidhu gupta's tappa were mainly love songs. Towards the end of British rule, the Kolkata station of All India Radio introduced kavyasabgit or lyric songs, which were essentially modern songs. The Bangla term was for the first time used by dilip kumar roy. Dwijendragiti, Rajanikanta's songs, Atulprasad's songs, nazrul songs and experimental songs of other modern lyricists and composers were known as lyric songs. These were broadcast as modern songs for the first time by the dhaka radio station after partition.

Modern Bangla songs differ from classical music in that both words and tunes are important. In Indian classical music the musical notes are more important than the verbal expressions. Modern songs often draw ideas from the music of other countries, devise skills to apply tunes in a striking manner, avoid monotony in creating tunes, bring about variety in rhythm, etc. Modern songs also demand a knowledge of musical instruments and deftness in using them.

Among the early makers of modern songs in Bengal songs were Nidhu Gupta, Kalidas Chatterjee or kali mirza, Raghunath Roy and Sridhar Kathak. Nidhu Gupta composed Bangla tappa on the model of Hindustani classical tappa. This was the time when the British were building Kolkata. Foreign influence combined with local influence led to city-based music conferences and new types of music. In this sense modern Bangla songs originated in Kolkata.

During the colonial rule a large number of rural people moved to Kolkata in quest of livelihood. They carried with them folk songs, kirtan, kavigan, jatragan, ramprasadi, panchali, khewur etc. The class of nouveau riche that developed in the city under the patronage of the English rulers helped induct into Kolkata music rural tunes, style and themes. Nidhu Gupta and later rabindranath tagore ignored such music and helped create modern Bangla songs which were refined and rich in themes, expressions and tunes. This was a stream that began with Kamalakanta, Nidhubabu, Kali Mirza, dasharathi roy, Gopal Ure and Sridhar Kathak and attained fulfillment in Rabindranath, Dwijendralal, Rajanikanta, Atulprasad and Nazrul.

The period between the mid-19th century and the mid-20th century saw waves of social and cultural changes in the urban life of Kolkata. Among those who contributed to the new forms of music were Shaurindramohan Thakur, kshetramohan goswami, and krishnadhan banerjee. jyotirindranath tagore introduced an orchestra composed of mixed local and western tunes on 5 January 1867 at Jorasanko. This set the trend for combining western tunes and instruments with local ones to provide music for Bangla songs. The songs of Rabindranath and Dwijendralal are perfect instances of this experiment.

The process of modernisation of Bangla songs reflected contemporary historical and social conditions. This led to an era of five lyricists Rabindra, Dwijendra, Rajani, Atul and Nazrul who shaped the modern techniques of Bangla songs. Rabindranath's ability to apply different musical traditions and devise ever-new trends created a transformation in Bangla music. Tagore songs, which essentially blend classical and indigenous trends, greatly furthered the progress of modern Bangla songs.

Although influenced by Tagore, dwijendralal roy, rajanikanta sen and atulprasad sen showed distinctiveness in their respective styles. Nazrul Islam further enriched modern Bangla songs with his unique talent for composing songs based on distinct diction and tunes. Other contemporaries of Nazrul who earned fame as composers were Saurindramohan Mukherjee, Hemendrakumar Roy and tulsi lahiri. The appearance of gramophone records in 1907, Calcutta Radio station in 1927, and sound cinematography in place of silent pictures at about the same time brought modern Bangla songs close to the masses.

A special feature of post-Nazrul songs is that the music may be set by someone other than the songwriter or lyricist. Earlier, the lyricist composed the music as well or helped the singer to present the song. After Nazrul, the trend changed: the lyricist wrote the song and another person set it to music.

Lyricists of the 1940s/50s included Ajay Bhattacharya, Hiren Basu, Shailen Roy, Subodh Purakayastha, Nishikanta and Pranab Roy. Famous composers of the time were Himangshu Dutta, Dilip Kumar Roy, Raichand Baral, Krishnachandra Dey (Kana Keshto), Sudhirlal Chakravarty, Anil Bagchi, kamal dasgupta, Anupama Ghatak, Subal Dasgupta and sachin dev burman. Among the famous singers of the time were Dilip Kumar Roy, Kanan Devi, Krishnachandra Dey, Angur Bala, KL Saigal, pankaj kumar mallick, Jaganmoy Mitra, Dhananjay Bhattacharya, Shaila Devi, Sachin Dev Burman and Hemanta Mukhopadhyay.

Up to the Rabindra-Nazrul era, the dominant themes of modern songs included devotion to the creator, nature, patriotism, the mother tongue, and sexual love. Later themes concentrated almost exclusively on love and separation, although the theme of patriotism continued to inspire some songs. Some artistes of West Bengal who made far-reaching contributions in the 1950s/60s to modern Bangla songs were Salil Choudhury, Gouri Prasanna Majumdar, Anal Chattopadhyay, Hemanta Mukhopadhyay, Manna Dey, Bhupen Hazarika, Sandhya Mukhopadhyay, Shyamal Mitra and Kishore Kumar.

After partition in 1947, East Pakistani poets also composed modern Bangla songs and set them to music. Among the poets and lyricists were Talim Husain, farrukh ahmad, Sayeed Siddiqui, habibur rahman, Shamsur Rahman, Azizur Rahman, abu hena mostafa kamal, Muhammad Moniruzzaman, Gazi Mazharul Anwar, khan ataur rahman, samar das, altaf mahmud, Abdul Latif, Abdul Halim Choudhury, Abu Bakr Khan, ustad abed hossain khan, Khandakar Nurul Alam and Sheikh Sadi Khan. Although the words and tunes of their songs followed the earlier tradition, their themes were nationalistic. For instance, the moving patriotic songs that spoke of the people's struggles from the language movement of 1952 to the war of liberation in 1971 have remained sources of inspiration for successive generations. The vocal artistes who became famous for singing those songs included Mahbuba Rahman, Abu Bakr Khan, Anwar Uddin Khan, Muhammad Abdul Jabbar, Mahmudunnabi, Ferdousi Rahaman, Farida Yasmin, Syed Abdul Hadi, Anjuman Ara Begum, Fawzia Yasmin, Ismat Ara, Shahnaz Rahmatullah and Sabina Yasmin.

Since independence, there have been many changes in modern Bangla songs in Bangladesh. Improvement in scientific equipment and use of electric musical instruments have led to great variety. With a blending of classical tunes with folk tunes modern Bangla songs have assumed a new form. While there is a trend to imitate western music in tunes, instruments and presentation, lyricists, composers and singers are strongly aware of their indigenous roots which has resulted in a new genre of modern Bangla song alongside folk songs, baul songs, kirtan and classical music. [Khan Md Sayeed]