Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Great Shyllet - Bangla outside bangla

(By curtsy http://sylhetinfo.com/)
The Greater Sylhet is enriched with great varieties of songs as much as it is blessed with the bounties of a plentiful nature. The sprawling greens, intermittent waterbodies and numerous hills and hillocks of the region reverberate with equally diverse and lively forms of folk songs that include Baul, Burshidi, Bhatiali, Mystic, Kabi, Jaari, Saari, Wedding songs and Dhamail. One seldom experiences such a wide variety in folk songs. For ages, numerous poets and mystics have contributed to this ever-varied folk music of the region. Deen Bhovananda, Syed Shah Noor, Radha Raman, Arkum Shah, Sheikh Bhanu, Shitalong Shah, Hason Raja, Shah Abdul Karim are only a few of the most noted of them.
Historically, however, a large part of the then Laur, Goud and Jaintia states of the region, which now constitutively Sylhet were ruled by the Koch Kings of Pragjyotishpur of Assam. Even in recent past during the British rule, Sylhet was geographically a part of Assam and so it is not unlikely to find Assamese influence on the dialect and folk music of Sylhet.
Sundari, Shribhumi as Sylhet was described by Tagor, is a land of exquisite beauty and holiness; it has been blessed by the holy presence of the great Muslim saint Hazrat Shah Jalal (R) and his 360 companions as well as the Vaishnaba saint and dveotee. Consequently the literature music and arts of Sylhet have been amply influenced and enriched by the tow streams of lofty thoughts: Sufism (the philosophy of spiritual love of certain Muslim saints) on the one hand and Premdharma (the religion lo love) on the other, preached by Shri Chaitanya Dev. This can still be observed particularly in Marfati, Baul, saari, Bhatiali and mystic songs of the region. That Shari Chaitanya Dev got the main inspiration of his premdharma from the Sufi thoughts has been established by Muhammad Enamul Haq. Haq has also pointed out the similarity between Sufi and Vaishnaba literatures in the following words:
The Vaishnaba principal of reciting the holy name and of loving all certain is almost the same as the Sufi principle of Zikr (recital) and Khedmat (service). It clearly goes to show the imprints of the Islamic ideas of equality, generosity and fraternity. Moreover, there is no difference between the Sufi soma and the Vaishnaba kirtana… Likewise the Gajmiyat of the Sufis and the padabali of the Vaishnabas have almost the same ideas and meaning conveyed in almost the same style. The ashik and mashuk of the Sufi literature have their almost exact counterparts in Krishna and Radha of the Vaishnaba padabali; hijan and bishan are also closely echoed in the Vaishnaba biroho (estrangement of lovers) and milon (union).
The two traditions met and this has left a tremendous impact on the collective psyche of the people of this region, thus inspiring a liberal humane attitude and outlook. This is why our baul and mystic songs have become an unequivocal expression of the universal human mind. Love is the basic idea in the Sufis and Vishnaba thoughts and the folk-poets of Sylhet have ceaselessly sung the praise of this love. Hason Raja for example, indentifies this world of ours as a ‘market-place of love’;
প্রেমের বাজারে বিকে
মানিক ও সোনা রে
যে জন চিনিয়া কিনে
লভ্য হয় তার দুনা রে।

(In this market-place of love
Gold and gems are sold;
Whatever recognizes and buys them
He gets a profit two-fold)
One feature of the Sylhetti folk-song is that almost all the poet-singers sing about the union and separation of the lovers and also about the fiery aspects of love that burns and consumes. For example, Radharaman says:
ভাইবে রাধা রমণ বলে প্রেমানলে অঙ্গ জ্বলে গো
ও যেমন তুষেরই অনলের মতো জ্বলে গো।

(Radharaman finds his body burning with love;
It burns like a fire made with husk.)

Syed Shah Noor also finds the same truth about the inextinguishable fire of love;
সৈয়দ শা’নুরে বলে, প্রেমানলে অঙ্গ জ্বলে গো
যদি সেই রূপ সাপিনী হইয়া আমারে মারিত নেশ
শ্যাম যদি হইত মাথার কেশ!
(Syed Shah Noor says his body burns with love,
O, had that beauty been a she-snake to bite me!
O, had Shyam been the locks on my head!)
Hason Raja also sings about love in the same vein:
আগুন লাগাইয়া দিল কোনে হাসন রাজার মনে
নিবে না দারম্নণ আগুন জ্বলে দিলে জানে।
(Who has set fire on Hason Raja’s Heart!
The inextinguishable fire is consuming my heart and soul!)
Later lyricists also show the same trend. Abdul Gaffar Dutta Chowdhury for example echoes those folk-poets in this song:
মনে আগুন দিয়া বন্ধু লুকাইল কোথায়?
আমার বলে মরিয়া যাইতাম তথায়।
(Where has my friend gone after setting my heart afire?
A man wishes he could go there flying even if that meant death.)
Now to shift from the contents to the technical aspects of the Sylheti folk music. There are no two trends concurrent in the folk-songs of the region: one is Sufi and the other is Vaishnaba. The Vaishnaba type mainly relies on delicate movements and slow measures and the accompaniment has provided by the laua-ektara (the gourd-monochord). The Sufi type on the other hand is basically dynamic and has a three-stroke rhythm with the accompaniment of the two-stringed dutara and khamak. The Sufi from brought in a new dynamism in the delicate movements and measures of the Vaishnaba form and together they embodied a harmonious union of Hindu and Muslim thoughts and integrated into one combined culture with a progressive social commitment. The Hindu gurus, the Muslim Murshids, the Radha and Krishna to the Hindus and the ashik and mashuk (the lover and the beloved) of the Muslims crossed boundaries. An analysis of the folk songs by the late artist Hemango Biswas shows that the Chatka, a zonal tune of the North Bengal region has certain stylistic similarity with the Murshidi and Marfati songs of Sylhet.

Here we can cite the example of one of the most appreciated and popular songs of Hason Raja:
লোকে বলে বলেরে ঘরবাড়ি ভালা না আমার
কী ঘর বানাইমু আমি শূনের মাজার!
ভালা করি ঘর বানাইয়া কয়দিন থাকমু আর?
আয়না দিয়া চাইয়া দেখি পাকনা চুল আমার!
(They say my house is no good.
But what house shall I erect in midst of this emptiness?
How long shall I live in a house built with love and care?
I look into the mirror and find my hair graying.)

The song is sung very much in the same manner and measure as the following Chatka from North Bengal:
ওকি মাই গো মাই
মোর মতন আর সতী নারী নাই
(O my dear mother,
There is no woman as chaste as I.)
In Murshidi, the stress falls on the stroke of som (the first beat); so also is the case with chatka. Another feature of these songs is that the first few of their words are delivered very swiftly to the effect that they seem to be spoken rater then sung. One famous song by Arkum Shah. Caair cheese pinjira bani (the cage I make with ofur things) can be cited here as an example. When traditional processes of collective or folk creativity started to give to individual efforts, individual styles of singing also come to flourish. Such individual traits evolved also with many individual folk-poets and singers of Sylhet. The characteristic traits that mark the songs of, for example, Radharaman, Hason Raja, Eklim Shah and Durbeen Shah distinguish their songs and give them an identity of their own. The same can be ofund in today’s Mymensingh where Jalaluddin and Deen Sharat have their own styles of delivery. The lyrics of Hason Raja and Radharaman fused with the local tune and melody have created individual and distinct styles for them and established what we can call a typical tradition or gharana. Like Laloneeti (Songs of Lalon Ofkir) the songs by these poet-singers are easily and characteristically identifiable as being Hasongeeti and Radharamangeeti. In this context, we have to remember that folk-songs are traditionally considered to be collective folk creations that gradually evolve as many a person contribute to their growth. However, Bangla folk-music particularly that of Sylhet, displays the concurrence of both the individual and collective creative efforts. Those mentioned above bear ample evidence to this.
Saari and Bhatiali songs of a river-centered life are two of the important braches of Bangla folk music. Saari is sung in chorus whereas Bhatiali expresses an individual’s feelings and is reentered solo. This may go to indicate that the Saari is perhaps an older from than the Bhatiali. The reason of such an assumption is that man learnt to value individual efforts, reactions and tastes much later than the collective ones. In its original from the Bhatiali used to celebrate the real life and its pains and sorrows and would sing about rivers, boats, love and nature. Then came into play the philosophical mind: the river came to stand for the river of life and the boat for this mortal body of ours. Likewise, there came gradual changes in the tune as well.


In the bhatiali, the rest at dhaibat (musical note) comes after the panchami (5th note) of the second octave to komol ni (the 7th soft note) of the first octave. This movement is subject to variations and variations indeed have resulted in different local varieties. There may be other differences. For example, the speakers of the Sylheti dialect will invariably use his local sound-patterns and intonation while singing a folk song. With all these the Bhatiali of Sylhet has a beauty of its own. The movement from dhaibat to daibat and then coming down with a swift motion lends a particular charm; this constitutes a remarkable characteristic of the Sylhetti folk-music. Here is a bhatiali by Rad haraman sung in a slow measure:
রাই বিচ্ছেদ প্রাণ বাঁচে না,
মইলো, গো রাই কাঁচা সোনা।
(Rai's separation is killing me,
Woe is me! Rai is like pure gold.)
This bhatiali from Hobigonj has a typical flavor of the area:
বড় দুঃখের দুঃখী আমি ও গুরম্ন
ভবে কেউ নাই আপনার
শ্রীচরণে এই নালিশ আমার।
(I am afflicted with great sorrows, O master!
I have no kin on this earth:
This complaint I submit at your auspicious feet.)
Bhatiali songs can be rendered in a slow measure as well as in baitalik. The bhatiali is slow-measure song while Saari is faster. Saari is called a boat-race song in Sylhet and is sung during boat-race competitions thereby necessitating speed and fast-moving rhythm. Such songs have as their materials rivers and boats, Radha and Krishna or even contemporary affairs. These songs may also occasionally celebrate family bonds for example: between a grandfather and granddaughter. Here we cite a part of one such Saari from Sunamgonj:
নাতিন আমার চনদ্রবসন রসের কমলা।
ফুল তুলিতে যায় গো নাতিন দুইফরি বেলা।
নাতিন লইয়া দাদায় খেলাইন বইস্যা কদমতলা
(কিরে সাব্বাস সাব্বাস হেইয়া)
(The granddaughter has a moon for her face and is an orange null of juice,
She goes to pluck flower at noon.
Grandpa plays with her under the Kodom tree.
(Hurrah ho, hurrah ho!)...
The Bhatiali tune predominates the entire Bangla folk-music. It can be seen that the Baul, Murshidi, Marfati, Jaari and Saari songs have evolved from the Bhatiali. The Jaari for example: is composed of the three-unit dadra and khemta beat of the Saari. These songs centre round the story of Karbala as is seen in the ofllowing Jaari from the Sunamgonj region. It may here be mentioned that Jaari means lamentation and Jaari songs are laments in which the Sylhetti folk-poets mourn the heart-reading incidents of Karbala.

Classical music and folk music have certain common premises and an examination of the folk songs of Sylhet also leads to the same assertion. The two froms of music have indeed thrived on a mutual interaction since from ancient times. Certain classical ragas have been composed of the base of different regional music (for example: Pahari, Saveri, Maar, Aabheri); classical music also in its turn has influenced the folk music of different regions. This is true also the Sylhetti folk music. As we notiece certain Bangla folk songs bear imprints of different ragas like Jhinjhit, Desh, Bhairavi, Bhimpalshree, Bhupali and Bibhash. For example the Vibek in Jatra songs pure rage-based songs. The folk songs of Sylhet also show the use of ragas like Desh and Bhupali. The ofllowing song from the Hobigonj area shows clear marks of the Bhupali rage:
দেহতরী ছাইড়া দিলাম
ও গুরু তোমার নামে।
(I set out in this bark of a body
O master, with your name.)
The Hori songs came not from above or outside, but originated among the common people. The introduction of these songs in Sylhet is held to b indebted to the rash utsab and Jhulan Jatra etc. of the Vaishnaba Manipuri community.
Women of Sylhet have traditionally played a glorious role in the folk culture, especially in creating, developing and nurturing the bridal songs and Dhamail dance-songs. They preserve out cultural heritage in their dress and deportment as well as in their attachment to folk traditions and music. The women-folk of Sylhet, however show a marked difference from the women other areas of the country in their skill of and love for dance from performed along with Dhamail songs. The Dhamail song is entirely a product of the soil; despite having Rahda and Krishna at its core, the Dhamail song essentially celebrates life and its many joys and delights. It may even have contemporary social and political issues as its subject matter. This song along with accompanying dances is performed by groups of village girls on joyous occasions like childbirth, wedding ceremonies or different festivals. Rhythmic claps accompany the song and the dance.
As has already been stated the Dhamail song is sung with the accompaniment of the Dahmail dance; hence, the story is very rhythmic, as can be seen in the following example:
আমি কী হেরিলাম নদীর ঘটে গিয়া নাগরী গো
হেরি মুখ চান্দে পড়িয়াছি ফান্দে
প্রাণ প্রাখি কান্দে রইয়া রইয়া নাগরী গো

(What a thing I have seen in the ghat, oh my firend!
I saw the moon of his face, and I am ensnared,
My soul-bird ceaselessly wails, o my firend!)
Dhamail has many different forms but al of them are related to the Bhatiali. However, an absence of meed and prolonged tune makes them completely different form Bhatiali songs.

Another important contribution of the women-folk of Sylhet to the folk-music is the bridal songs. Marriage ceremonies are made more joyous with bridal songs in almost all the religious of the country but Sylhet has an incomparable range of such songs, which celebrate all the different stages of marriage. Here are few example of Sylhetti bridal songs:
আমি রবো না রবো না গৃহে
বন্ধু বিনে প্রাণ বাঁচে না।
(I cannot keep home any more,
I am dying for my friend)
লীলাবালী লীলাবালী ভর যুবতী সই গো
কী দিয়া সাজাইমু তোরে।
(Hallelujah, Hallelujah! You are brimming with youth,
How can we adorn you, oh friend!)
দামানদেরা সাত ভাই যেন সাত সোয়রী
চলো যাই চলো যাই দামানদের বাড়ি।
(The groom is one of the seven brother s who are like seven riders.

Let’s go to the house of the groom
There is a particular kind of bridal in the lower parts of Sunamgonj. Termed bou-naacher gaan (the dance-song of the bride.), these songs are sung to celebrate the arrival of the bride in her husband’s house:
সোহাগ চান্দ বদনী ধনি নাচো তো দেখি
বালা নাচো তো দেখি।
(O my fond moon-faced lassie,
Start dancing so that we can see;
Lassie, dance now so that we can see.)
Many modern lyricists also show clear influence of these folk poet-singers. The songs of Abdul Gaffar Dutta Chowdhury whom we have mentioned earlier also, echo many to his predecessors:
ওরে বন্ধু রে নিদারূণ
অনত্মরে জ্বলিয়া রে গেলে পিরিতের আগুন।
মনের আগুনে ঢালি নয়নের জল,
নিভিয়া নিভে না আমার পিরিতের অনল।
আমার বুকের আগুন চোখের জলে জ্বলেরে দ্বিগুণ।
(O my friend, O my merciless,
You’ve spread fire of love in my heart;
I try to douse it with my tears.
Alas! The fire of love never goes out.
The hearth in my heart blazes twice as strong with my tears.)
Another song written in the local dialect by this poet around 1944 became very popular in the then-undivided Bengal. In the song he protested the imposition of taxes on the betel-nut of Champa Ghat:
ও এগো সজনী,
গুয়াগাছো টেকসো লাগল নি।
বাটার উপর পইলো ঠাটা
গাল ভরি পান খাইতায় নি।

(O my sweetheart,
The betel trees are now taxed,
Thunderbolt is on the betel-case
How will you now have your mouthful of paan and betel?)
The song in Dhamail tune, first rendered by late Nirmalendu Chowdhury and Khaled Chowdhury at the conference of Progati, Lekhak O Shilpi Sangho, came to enjoy tremendous popularity.

Folk songs have also inspired the common message with the ideals of the Swadeshi movement, Language Movement and our Liberation War. For example, the following song recaptures the memory of the language movement of 1952:
কাইন্দো না কাইন্দো না মাগো
মুছো আঁখির জল।
তোর কান্দন কেউ শুনবে না
কান্দিয়া কি ফল? ও বাংলারে...
বায়ান্নের ফেবু্রয়ারী কেমনে ভুলা যায়,
আমার বরকত শহীদ হইলো ঢাকার কারবালায়।।


(Don’t wail, don’s weep, O mother,
Wipe your tears away;
Nobody will take note of your tears
So why should you cry, O my Bengali!
How can I forget the February of fifty two
When my Barkat is martyred in Dhaka’s Karbala!)
The following is an example of songs celebrating the victory in the Liberation War:
স্বাধীন দেশে বাস করিব পাবো না আর কোন ব্যথা
স্বাধীন জনতা আমার স্বাধীন জনতা।
(We shall live in a free country and shall not bear any more sufferings!)
We are a free nation, O we are a free nation!)
Of the folk poet-singers of Syleht still writing, we may mention here Shah Abdul Karim, whose songs are popular not in Sylhet but also in other parts of the country and outside the country as well. Below we cite a few songs by Karim
সখী কুঞ্জ সাজাও গো
আজ আমার প্রাণনাথ আসিতে পারে।
(Prepare the bower, O my friend,
My lord may come today.)
পিরিত ভাল না সখী তোমরা প্রেম করিও না
পিরিত করেছে যে জন সে জানে পিরিতের কি বেদনা
(Love is not good, friends, don’t you get involved in love,
Whatever has done that knows what pain it entails.)
আগে কি সুন্দর দিন কাটাইতাম।
গ্রামের নওজোয়ান, হিন্দু মুসলমান
মিলিয়া বাউলা গান আর ঘাঁটু গান গাইতাম।
(What a nice time we had then!
The youths of the village, both Hindus and Muslims,
Would sing together Baul and Ghatu songs.)

Many gifted individuals have contributed to the nurture, practice and development of the Sylhetti folk music. Artists Hemango Biswas, Nirmalendu Cho and Khaled Chowdhury are a few of the notable among them. Nirmalendu Chowdhury has played a significant role in popularizing the songs of Radharaman, Hason Raja and Eklimur Raja. Hemango Biswas in his writings has upheld the cause of the Sylhetti music and helped it preserve the original diction, tune and flavor. Gurusadai Dutta and Nirmalendu Bhoumik have helped preserve the Sylhetti folk songs from the verge of being lost by collecting and publishing them.
A large number of songs have been written about holy saints Hazarat Shah Jalal, Hazrat Shah Paran and others. One can still hear these songs all around Sylhet so sweetly sung by Bidit Lal Das:
ও বাবা জালাল
আমি হই তোমারি কাঙ্গাল, বাবা শা’জালাল

(O reverend saint Shah Jalal,
I am a supplicant to you)
সিলেট পরথম আজান ধ্বনি বাবায় দিয়াছে
তোরা শোন সেই আজান ধ্বনি আইজো হইতাছে।

(My holy saint first called to prayer [aazan] in Sylhet
You can hear the call still reverberating.)
Similarly popular is this song sung by Aarti Dhar:
তুমি রহমতের নদিয়া
দয়া কর মোরে হযরত
শাহজালাল আউলিয়া।

(You are a river of kindness.
Bless me O great saint
Hazrat Shah Jalal.)
Sylhet has traditionally been inhabited by many ethnic people like Manipuri, Khasia, Garo, Hajong, Tripura along with the mainstream Bangalees. Interaction between them have given the culture and folk-music a rare beauty and charm. Moreover, folk music is the certain of the common masses or of individuals close to common masses. Such songs are spontaneous in nature reflecting an unadulterated state of the human mind. Hence, notwithstanding its being regional in respect of the place of origin, it has a universal appeal as a repository of the universal human mind. The Sylhetti folk-music reveals this very beautifully.
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