Chandana Majumdar, whose ascent to fame as a folk singer have been tied to her strong voice and authentic singing style, occupies a special niche in the music industry. Following an interview, the singer shared her memory of growing up in Kushtia, besides her dream about establishing a music school, Tanzil Rahaman of New Age outlines some of the defining moments of her life and career.
Born in September 15, 1971 to the acclaimed singer Nirmal Chandra Majumdar and late Anima Majumdar, Chandana Majumdar has created an aura about herself, which only testifies to her engagement with the genres she has shown a clear mastery over rather than becoming just another name to fall back upon.
She grew up in her parental home on the bank of the River Gorai at village Kundopara in Kumarkhali upazila of Kusthia. Eldest among the four siblings, Chandana childhood was permeated by art and culture. The village was situated close to some of the culturally significant places in the region, including Kangal Harinath Majumdar’s home, Rabindranath Tagore’s Kuthi Bari, Mir Mosharraf Hossain’s ancestral home, Lalon’s akhra in Kushtia.
Chandana’s early childhood spent in natural setting gave her an opportunity to enjoy a typical village life. She used to play with her next-door friends. By the time she was admitted to school, her surroundings have changed a lot. When she was only a small child, a huge crowd of people used to gather at night to sing traditional songs and these soirees would run till the wee hour of morning.
His father Nirmal Chandra Majumdar was a Lalon devotee. A large number of sadhus used to gather at their place. Chandana began receiving training in music from her father at an early age.
‘I was born in a musical family – my childhood was filled with music. I had to render songs during the Durga Puja. My father taught me a Nazrul song “Kanan giri sindhu par”. I learnt the song only in two days and when performing on stage I forgot the tunes of harmonium and lyrics in the middle of my performance. I was trying to recall the songs for five munities and then started the song again. It was one of the greatest memories in my childhood,’ said Chandana with a hearty laughter.
Chandana Majumdar’s schooling was in Kushtia and Dhaka as her father held a job that often transferred him from one place to another. She finally completed her secondary level education from Kumarkhali Girls’ School in 1989. Then the family shifted to Dhaka she got admission into T & T Collegein in Dhaka. Later she had to move to Kusthia once again and finished her higher secondary level education from Kumarkhali College in 1991.
‘I didn’t complete my higher education because I was fully involved in music. Music is the only thing that gave me serenity and pleasure at the same time. I don’t even spend a single moment without music. When I decided to get admitted into Music College, my marriage was fixed. I married renowned singer Kiran Chandra Roy in 1989. My husband supported me a lot in pursuing a music career. I did not finish my academic education though,’ said Chandana Majumdar.
Her father Nirmal Chandra Majumdar groomed her into a seasoned singer. He was a singer, theatre activist and musician and was associated with Bangladesh Television and Bangladesh Betar. Her mother, late Anima Majumdar, inspired Chandana to pursue a music career.
‘My mother was a music enthusiast who used to like music a lot. Without my mother, I would not have been able to reach the stage I find myself at now. My father was very busy with giving music lessons to his students. He didn’t think much about his children. My mother always inspired me in music,’ added Chandana.
‘A large number of music enthusiasts and sadhus used to gather at their house every day. The music show used to begin at 10:00 pm and ran till morning. Her mother cooked food for the enthusiasts while I, a little girl at that time, also did a lot. I grew up seeing this,’ said Chandana.
Chandana’s father Nirmal Chandra was a folk music singer but he wanted his daughter to be a Nazrul Sangeet exponent, a different genre altogether. She did a five-year course on Nazrul Sangeet and received lessons from acclaimed Nazrul singer Yakub Ali Khan for ten years at a stretch. However, the genres she grew up listening to nstayed with her — she became the country’s renowned folk singer.
‘I have been passing my time singing Nazrul songs. When I first heard the songs of the mystic bard Fakir Lalon Shah, I become absorbed in it. I let myself flow with Lalon songs. I grew up listening to the songs of renowned Lalon singer Farida Parveen on radio. She was the top Lalon singer at that time. Then I decided to sing Lalon song though the genre seemed beyond my capacity at first,’ said the singer.
‘I first took lesson in Lalon song from late Fakir Moksed Ali Shain at Rampura. He had a close relation with my father. My father asked whether I would be able to prepare for Lalon songs. I learnt songs from him for more than five years. Following which, I took lesson from Khoda Box Shai who came to Dhaka as a lecturer of a Diploma Music Course. He stayed at our house and I was very fortunate to remain in touch with from close quarters for more than ten years. My classical music training continued alongside my education in Lalon songs,’ recalled Chandana.
Chandana Majumdar was enlisted as a singer with Bangladesh Television in 1979 and Bangladesh Betar in 1980.
‘I went to Bangladesh Television through Khoda Box Shai. Bangladesh Television and Bangladesh Betar had chalked out various programmes marking the death and birth anniversary of Fakir Lalon. I got a chance to perform as a child. I got the chance for audition because of Khoda Box Shai and I passed the audition. I was enlisted with BTV and Bangladesh Betar,’ said Chandana.
Chandana Majumdar has released number of solo albums in her lifetime. Jane Alam, who had contacts with various music companies, gave Chandana Majumdar the much-needed break — thus began the work of her first solo album in the early 80s. The album was an eponymous one and it comprised of 12 Lalon songs.
‘Jane Alam is the person who introduced me to the music industry in 1983. I had no connection with the industry. At that time, there was no special title for any album. They used to release albums by the artistes’ names and included a volume number which went like — Chandana Majumdar Lalon songs volume No 1,’ said Chandana.
Her second album was released under the banner of Sargam Music Station and it was a collection of folk songs. Titled Palligeeti-2, the album’s maximum songs received immense popularity and earned kudos from the music lovers across the country. The songs included, ‘Kankher kalashi majhi giyachhey bhashi’, ‘Orey kon bajhare bashirey’, ‘Keba jaila bashirey’ and others.
‘I have released a number of albums from Concord, Sargam, Don and others. The albums covered a wide area — folk songs, Lalon songs, Kirtan and others. I am very grateful to the listeners. My albums were commercially successful,’ she added.
In the 80s and 90s, an artiste had to record a song in a single take. The musicians, music director and the artistes were very alert since they knew that in case of any mistakes, the artistes would have to redo the full song.
‘I have recorded twelve songs of an album at a stretch. It takes whole night for recording. The days were amazing but one realises in such circumstances how dedicated the artistes, composers and instrumentalists are. There was no break while recording a song,’ said Chandana.
When asked about her struggles in the music industry, she replied, ‘I have not struggled at all because of my father. My father’s name helped me a lot when I chose to pursue a career in music. But to make a name for myself, I had to work hard. I had to compete with my contemporary artistes. I take music as a passion that is why I got name and fame. As a woman, I have to maintain a balance between my family and music. My father- and mother-in-laws are ill and they are living with me. I have to take care of both of them. It is indeed very tough for me running music and family simultaneously.’
She had performed on stage in various countries including India, China, Japan, Sweden, Singapore, Qatar, Uzbekistan, Switzerland and others.
Chandana shared a memorable experience while performing at a concert held at Zurich in Switzerland.
‘I would not forget my experience in Switzerland. The auditorium was full of Bangladeshi diaspora community living in Switzerland and Swiss fans. I went on stage for my performance. The audience were singing and dancing with me. A number of audiences came to me and gave me two garlands, made of Swiss francs. I was shocked and thinking what was happening here. It is one of the most memorable moments in my music career,’ shared Chandana.
Chandana Majumdar has lent her voice in numerous playback songs in her lifetime. The films include Madhu Chandrima, Maa, Gulbahar, Manpura and others. She won the National Film Award for being the best playback Singer for the film ‘Monpura’ in 2009.
‘The use of folk songs in Dhallywood films is very uncommon. I got the chance to lend my voice in Gaisuddin Selim-directed film Manpura. While recording the song, I gave two take for the songs and Selim bhai said it was OK. He said that he got what I needed for his movie. I am very grateful to Selim bhai for choosing me for the song. The song received immense popularity among the music lovers across the country and it is still popular,’ said Chandana.
She is currently involved with Chhayanaut in Dhaka where she is working as a senior classical music teacher.
When asked about her recent works, she said that there are recently released albums under the banner of Bengal Foundation namely Pranabandhu Bihoney, Bashanta Batashey, Tomar Aupar Nile, Amare Ke Rekhe Gelo, Chokh Gelo Pakhire and others are a showcasing of folk and popular songs by popular bards famed for devotional songs.
‘The albums consist of songs by Lalon Shah, Shah Abdul Karim, Radharaman Dutta and Kobial Bijoy Sarkar. All the albums are solo albums. I hope to release albums songs of legendary baul artiste Jalal Uddin Khan, mystic bard Hason Raja, renowned mystic singer and song composer Ukil Munshi and others in near future. I hope the music lovers will find the songs entertaining. Besides, I am performing on stage at various places,’ she informed.
When asked about the practice of folk songs in our country, she said, ‘The practice of folk songs hit a low ebb in the last few years. It is only recently that it has started improving gradually. The younger generations have been practicing folk songs in the 21st century which is a positive sign. If they are singing the folk songs in their original tunes and lyrics, they will do better in future.’
Chandana Majumdar has a daughter named Shatabdi Roy Majumdar. She is currently doing her masters in media studies at a university in West Bengal, India.
‘My daughter is a music enthusiast. She is also learning classical music under the supervision of Shuvra Guha. I hope that she will pursue music in the future,’ she said.
When asked about the contribution of women to music industry, she said, ‘Women are contributing in all genres of music for years. Tagore singers Sanjida Khatun and Rezwana Choudhury Bannya, Bangladeshi folk singer Nina Hamid, eminent Lalon singer Farida Parveen, in Nazrul songs Fatema Tuz Zohra, Ferdous Ara and others made significant contribution to our music scene. Their contributions to our music scene cannot be forgotten.’
Faced with the question, why the contemporary songs have a short life, she said, ‘We need a combination of lyrics, tune and voice. If these three things gelled well, a song will occupy a permanent place in the heart of the music lovers. Without dedication, it won’t be possible. I have seen my father who had worked at a private organisation. After returning to home, he used to practice songs for the whole night with a large number of people.’
‘Nowadays lyricists are sending songs through Facebook, WhatsApp, Viber and other social media and asking a composer to make a tune to go with them. The composers make a tune within a few minutes. The singers are lending their voice within minutes. That is why they won’t be able to create quality songs that will remain forever in the public memory. One must take time while preparing a song,’ Chandana observed.
When asked about her plans for the future, she replied, ‘I have passed most of my professional life in making music. I have a plan to establish a school for teaching music. Creating some singers for the future — one who will lead our music industry to greater heights.’
‘My father has established a school named Kumarkhali Sangeet Bidyalaya at Manikganj that received government grants. I want to establish a school like the one my father founded — the goal would be to produce talented singers. It is my only dream to create some singers who will promote our music on the global arena. Music gave me the kind of satisfaction that soothed my soul,’ she concluded.
Photos by Sony Ramany
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