Mukhopadhyay, Hemanta Kumar

Mukhopadhyay, Hemanta Kumar (1922-1989) singer and composer, was born in 16 June 1922 in the Varanasi, and brought up in Kolkata. He gave up studying engineering in order to pursue a singing career.

He had his formal training in classical music from the maestro Fiaz Khan, and in light music from Shailesh Dasgupta. His first disc came out when he was only seventeen and the last when sixty-four; thus he had a musical career for almost half a century. Having recorded his first Hindi song in 1940, he later became one of the most popular Hindi singers and music directors; eventually producing some Hindi films as well. However, in Bengal he earned his fame by rendering Bengali film and non-film songs as well as Tagore songs. Along with Pankaj Mallik and Devabrata Biswas, he, on the one hand, freed Tagore songs from the living rooms of urban educated middle classes and spread them among ordinary listeners, and, on the other, popularised bass voice for singing. His first ever Tagore song disc (prabgane mor shirish shakhay and he nirupama, 1944) still remains popular.'

As a member of Indian People's Theatre Association (IPTA), he had a left leaning in the 1940s, and at the persuasion of another member, Salil Chowdhury, renowned composer and lyricist, rendered many of his songs belonging to a genre, known as ganosangeet, or people's songs; which would make the masses aware of freedom political and economic, and of an equitable society. The sequence started with gaonyer badhu or a village bride, and proved extremely popular.

Hemanta Kumar's contributions to the War of Independence (1971) in Bangladesh were significant. He generously participated in concerts to raise money for helping millions of refugees. He died on 26 September in 1989. [Ghulam Murshid]