Qasida an Arabic word, derived from the root qsd. It means solid and complete, brain or marrow. Another meaning of qsd is to desire. A poem that eulogizes the beloved is termed qasida. The range of the themes of qasida is very wide. It may contain beauty and love, the rise and fall of time, spring and garden, morality and wisdom, blessings etc. Although qasida is mainly a eulogy of the beloved, it also contains satire.

Qasida was first seen in Arabic poems. It was initiated by Arab poets during the pre-Islamic days. Qasida has three stages: nasbi or an amorous preface, poet's address to those he wishes to eulogies and, finally, the poet's words of praise or rebuke towards the person or clan he aims at. At the final stage some poets raise issues of moral teaching. Qasida spread out from Arabic poetry to other languages. Lately qasida has developed in Persian, Turkish and Urdu languages in different strains of their own.

In the Indian subcontinent, qasida was first written by Amir Khosru. In the pre-Mughal era, Salman Sawaji and Hummam Tabriji were quite famous as composers of qasida. During the Mughal period, qasida was composed in a special style known as subq-e-Hindi or Indian style. Among those who became famous as composers of qasida during the Mughal period were Faizi and Urfi in the period of Akbar, Naziri and Talib Amini in the period of Jahangir, Qudsi Mashhadi and Kaleem Abu Talib in the period of Shahjahan and Asadullah Khan of a later period.

In course of time the influence of Persian and Urdu qasida was seen also in Bangladesh. Not much is, however, known about the nature and source of qasida culture here except that a sizeable part of Mughal literature and culture in Dhaka consisted of qasida. In his book Dhaka Pachash Barash Pahle (Dhaka fifty years ago) written in the early part of the twentieth century, Hakim Habibur Rahman spoke about revival of qasida. His observation was supported by some other sources of the time. It is known that qasida got a new life through the patronage of the nawabs and sardars of the time. But qasida culture of the time became a fashion for the month of Ramzan. Collected documents of the time also suggest that qasida then transformed from entertainment at court to expression of religious devotion. It turned into a popular medium for waking up the fasting people at pre-dawn for sehri. The presence of social elites among the qasida singers at dead of night to seek blessings of Allah was also noticeable. Its widespread popularity led to a cultural competition. Areawise qasida brought it even nearer to the common people. Apart from being a source of religious blessings, qasida provided entertainment to the masses. This led to qasida texts borrowing popular tunes from the Hindi and Urdu films. This was in addition to the influence of tunes of qawwali, shahedi, marsia, naat-e-rasul, bhoirabi, malkosh and classical music that already existed. Ever growing demand led to composition of ever new styles of texts. The competitions used to be held during the month of Ramzan. Seven or eight singers led by a salar-e-kafela used to take part in group competitions. Salar-e-kafela played a lead role in composing the music, setting tunes and presentation. Those who were well versed in Urdu and scholars in religious matters used to be judges in the competitions. A primary feature of qasida was its rhymed lines of verses known in Urdu as kalam. Different poets and writers used to produce such kalams. These days almost every area of Dhaka presents qasida written by the city Urdu poet Talib Kabir.

Tune is very important for qasida and it has to be very melodious and pathetic. At times, new qasidas use tunes of old songs. In Husseini Dalan area of Dhaka, marsia tunes are often applied to qasida making it very touching. Qasida ought to be presented with a flair by someone who possesses a tuneful voice. His Urdu has to be very correctly articulated and he has to have good knowledge of tune and rhythm. He should not be a professional singer. He has to be the team leader or lokmadar. A group of seven or eight singers, called hadis, assist the 'lokmadar' in chorus.

An individual judge has to watch one of the four aspects of a qasida. One aspect is miyare kalam or its grammatical correctness. The second aspect is its talaffus or Urdu pronunciation. The third aspect is tarannum or its musical symmetry. The fourth aspect is timing or if the qasida is presented within the limit of 12 minutes. Everyone has to wear paijama-panjabi or qabli suit. The following are the different qasidas presented during Ramzan:

Chandrati amad the Ramzan moon appears with a message of blessings, affluence and mercy. The holy Ramzan moon brings a fresh kind of qasida known as 'chandrati amad'. It welcomes the moon during the first four or even five days of fasting. Its themes are basically the blessings of the month of Ramzan and praising of Allah and Allah's prophet. This qasida was in vogue upto the seventies of the 20th century.

Khush amdid its literal meaning is 'very welcome'. This qasida is sung during the first fifteen days of Ramzan expressing happiness at the arrival of the month. This qasida is known to some as 'sada' and to some others as 'khush gawali'. The themes of such qasidas are the glory of the month of Ramzan, praise of Allah and Prophet Muhammad etc. This qasida is not so frequently sung in the competitions in Dhaka.

Alwida is sung after the 16th day of fasting in lamenting tunes to mark the approaching farewell of the month. Its themes are basically pains for the departing month, expressing sorrow at the death of Hazrat Ali and description of qiamat or the day of judgment. This qasida is usually presented at the competitions in old Dhaka from the 20th to the 27th days of fasting.

Eid Mubarak this qasida used to be sung with a great deal of fanfare in the procession on the post-Eid day in Dhaka. Although musical instruments were absent in qasidas during the whole month of fasting, harmonium and tabla were used in Eid Mubarak qasida.

Special qasida is sung during sehri in Ramzan to wake up the fasting people followed no set rules. Nor was it customary for groups to sing. No particular types of qasidas were composed. These special qasidas were sung by the singers to wake up the fasting people as part of their religious duty. These singers did not participate in any competitions. [Shayla Parveen]