August 1, 2010

It is rare that we at creativeBangladesh get an opportunity to converse with the younger school-going generation. Today we are very excited to have BASHMA SHEEA represent the 2nd generation of Non-Resident Bangladeshis who not only have to assimilate to their adopted homes but also retain the heritage of their parents and the motherland. A tough act of double-duty if there ever was one. A big welcome to Bashma!

– Labiba / creativeBangladesh


Tell us a little about yourself – where you grew up, what you like to do for fun, hobbies, etc.

I was born in Bangladesh and came to America when I was 7 years old. From the very beginning, I loved to draw, read, and play with Barbies just like any other kid does in her childhood. Believe it or not, I hated to sing. I hated to learn songs and found myself dreading each voice class and session. But after I came to America I started to find myself through music and learned that it’s not something to dread but to enjoy.

You attend the famous Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts in New York. What made you decide to major in music?

What made me decide? Well, when I look at adults I know- mom, aunts, and uncles- they all complain about their jobs saying how boring and dull it is. I didn’t want to end up with a job like that; I wanted something that would leave me satisfied and happy at the end of the day. Music is something that moves me – that keeps me motivated to do more and that’s why I decided to make something out of my hobby.

Who is your role model and why?

My role model is my mom because she’s very straightforward, kind, and caring. She puts other people’s wants and needs before hers and will do anything to make them happy. She’s shown me to do things full heartedly and I love her very much.

Who from the music world is your inspiration?

Artists like Green Day, Kelly Clarkson, Linkin Park, and many many more. They are very talented and are not afraid to tell the truth, to express what they feel about something. They inspire me to step out of the box and think about what’s going on in the world.

If you could be a character from a book, which one would you be and why?

I’d be Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series. She gets to be Harry’s close friend, which I really to be, and she gets to be a wizard. I mean, how cool can that get? Magic really intrigues me because it something that ultimately doesn’t exist and Hermione gets to experience and learn about it everyday. She also has a lot of brains, guts, and strength that I love about her. It shows that she’s not just some sidekick who does what the leader tells them to do. I’d love to be her on any given day.

What is your favorite place to visit when on vacation in Bangladesh?

My favorite place to visit in Bangladesh is Dhaka because that’s where all of my family is. We all get together- my cousins, uncles, aunts, grandparents- and just eat, laugh, and remember old times. No matter where I go in Bangladesh, if my family is with me, then I always have a great time.

Which was more fun – middle school or high school? Why?

Middle school was definitely more fun. That was the period where I didn’t give a care about the regents or what college I want to go. I had recess and a trip to Wendy’s every other week. It was a time of carelessness and freedom, where I felt like I had all the time in the world. But now, I feel like I need more time because I have so many things to do. I wish I can go back to 5th grade.

If you weren’t studying music, what would have been your second career choice?

Honestly, I really don’t know. It’s one of those hypothetical things. I might have gone with a major in math because it’s my next favorite subject after voice. I’m really good in math and I actually love doing it so it’s kind of like my 2nd passion.

If you were asked to do a cover version of a popular song, which one would it be and how would it be different from the original?

I really don’t know which song it would be because there are so many popular songs that I love. But if you give me a pop song by Lady Gaga, I’ll turn it into an acoustic/rock song. I have my own way of interpreting songs and each interpretation is different. For example, No One by Alicia Keys which is an R&B song sounds like a soft rock song when I sing and play it on the guitar.

What piece of advice you would give to young Bangladeshis your age growing up outside Bangladesh?

Don’t forget your roots. It’s easy to become westernized or modern or whatever you want to call it, maybe “cool”- I don’t know. But do not forget your culture, your religion, and your traditions. It is a part of who you are and who you will be as a person. It doesn’t matter that you live in America, England, or even France. What matters is that you don’t leave behind the origin of your ancestors.

BASHMA SHEEA, besides going to school and majoring in voice/music, is also part of the three member band – ‘Tin Konna’. The band has already played at a few gigs in New York to very positive audience response. The name, ‘Tin Konna’, was conceived by Shahnaz Yousuf of Adhunika Foundation.


photos: Roshni Basu / Raad
graphic design & layout: Labiba Ali for creativeBangladesh



Event Gallery (july)

August 1, 2010

New York

LUBNA MARIUM and her troupe
“In Search of Creative Unity Through Dance”
July 18, 2010
Presented by Adhunika Foundation
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
405 West 55th Street (at 9th Avenue), New York, NY 10019


New York

BIPA – Bangladesh Institute of Performing Arts
Open Air Concert / Live Dance and Musical Performances
July 16, July 23 and August 6, 2010
Athens Square Park
30th Avenue at 30th Street, Astoria, NY


photography & editing: Labiba Ali for creativeBangladesh
music: ‘Esho Shyamolo Shundoro (Raag Desh)’ by Srikant Acharya and Rajib Chakrabarty.


April 25, 2010

On April 14, 2010 we ushered in a new Bengali year – 1417. While we celebrated our Pohela Boishakh with many festivities all around the world last week, let’s take a step back today into the past to listen to the evergreen folk songs of the great ABDUL ALIM. As I listen to his throaty voice rendering songs like Padma-r khul nai, Holudia Pakhi, I feel nostaligic for the colors of Boishakh and the smell of belly phool. I wish all the creativeBangladesh readers a very beautiful Pohela Boishakh!

-Labiba / creativeBangladesh


 ABDUL ALIM: the King of folk songs

A forgotten chapter

By Sadya Afreen Mallick

from Daily Star, July 25, 2004

‘Every artiste is identified by his/her tonal colour,’ said Abdullah Abu Sayeed, chairman of the trustee board of the Biswa Sahittya Kendra. ‘Only the radiant ‘golden glow’ can match that of Alim’s admirable vocal range and tonal quality,’ he added. ‘He displayed unparalleled talent in songs such as Premer mora jole dobe na, Holudia pakhi shonar boron, Amare shajay dio nowshar shajey, Porer jayga porer jomi, Mone boro asha chhilo jabo Modinay, Sharbonasha Padma nadirey, Babu selam bare bar, Shab shakhire par korite nebo ana ana, Ujan ganger naiya and many more,’ Sayeed said.


The Folk Music Council (FMC) recently gathered to pay rich tributes to the folk maestro Abdul Alim at the Biswa Sahittya Kendra. Chief guest Sayeed, special guest Tax Inspector M Khurshid Alam, eminent artistes Nadira Begum, Abdul Latif and others spoke on the occasion.

The founder president of FMC, Indra Mohon Rajbangshi took great pride in organising the programme commemorating the birth anniversary of the legendary singer for the first time in Bangladesh. ‘Abdul Alim’s talent in Bhatiyali songs was a treat to the listeners. His melodious and gifted voice is yet to be surpassed by any other folk artiste. Alim played a vital role in popularising folk music and epitomised the very essence of folk culture,’ said Rajbanshi.


Nadira Begum, a prominent folk singer, reminisced on how Alim often spent time with her father Abdul Aziz, a noted lyricist. Alim had often visited her house and stayed over to collect songs. ‘In those days cassettes were not common. Gurumukhi bidda or learning from the Guru was the only way artistes developed themselves,’ she said.

‘Once, while returning from a programme,’ Nadira said, ‘our train was halted for several hours by the local people at Akhaura, keen to have a glimpse of the great singer Alim. And this was not an uncommon feature,’ she added. ‘Often the other accompanying artistes fled from the scene, fearing audience reaction once Alim declined to perform any more,’ Nadira added.


Abdul Alim was born on July 27, 1931 at Talibpur village of Murshidabad, India. Soon after the Partition, he came to Dhaka and joined the Dhaka Station of Pakistan Radio as a staff artiste. His musical talents flourished from a very young age. He grew fond of music through listening to records of the Gramophone Company. At the age of 14 he recorded two songs for the company. It is said that Sher-e-Bangla A K Fazlul Haque, was so moved by his voice that he gifted him with a handsome honorarium.

Once he settled here, he started to take music lessons from Mumtaz Ali Khan and Mohammad Hossain Khasru. Later he got in touch with Poet Jasimuddin, Kanailal Shil, M Osman Khan, Abdul Latif, Shamsher Ali and others.


He recorded over 300 Gramophone records and sang playbacks in over 100 films. He recorded songs for Mukh O Mukhosh, the first film ever produced in the erstwhile East Pakistan. He won the National Award 1974 posthumously for playback in Shujan Shokhi directed by Khan Ataur Rahman. During his career, he performed at a number of music conferences. Alim was awarded five gold medals for his virtuoso performance and contribution to music.

I vividly remember our music classes at Chayyanaut. Eminent Nazrul singer Sohrab Hossain, a very close associate of Alim, often filled us with humorous anecdotes on their long friendship. ‘He was very afraid of heights, and dreaded the government delegations which were sent to far away countries by plane. Then there were times when the microphone had to be kept at a fair distance to avoid distortion while recording a song because of his powerful vocal range,’ Sohrab Hossain would reminisce.


Stout and short in stature with deep penetrating eyes, Alim was a man of simple habits. Many of you who have seen Alim perform on stage or at the BTV will remember him in his simple dress of white pajama-panjabi. Popularity never drove him into illusory glamour.

With a life of great achievement, it is unfortunate that his work is gradually fading.  BTV has stopped airing the recorded programmes of Alim, which are now mostly damaged due to the sheer negligence of the authority.

It was however, praiseworthy and heartening to see Bibi Russell organising Alim’s popular songs to be presented by his children at the recently held Aarong Bangladesh Fashion display.

The Bangladesh Betar is the birthplace of so many talents. The authority should wake up and take immediate steps to preserve the golden voices of yesteryears. Let’s not pay tribute to the legends who left a powerful footprint in the realm of music in death only.

Let’s give folk music a boost!

source, The Daily Star







image: photographs are from varous sources in the internet. 
graphic design & layout: Labiba Ali for creativeBangladesh.


November 1, 2009

In honor of ABBASUDDIN’s 108th birthday, creativeBangladesh pays tribute to this great legend of Bangla folk singing. For this feature, I have dug out my old collection of some of Abbasuddin’s popular songs to share with you. While listening to these songs take note of the lyrics – some talk about love and heartache while others talk about the villagers’ relationship with the river and nature. Also, listen to the do-tara (string instrument) and ban-shi (flute) playing in the background. I hope listening to these rare old recordings, you will go back to the roots of Bangla culture, to gram Bangla, and to village philosophy, which is the backbone of our heritage.         – Labiba / creativeBangladesh


ABBASUDDIN AHMED (Bangla: আব্বাসউদ্দিন) popularly known by his first name, was a Bangla folk singer. He was born at Balarampur in Tufanganj subdivision in the district of Cooch Behar. His father, Zafar Ali Ahmed, was a lawyer at the Tufanganj Sub-divisional Court.

Abbasuddin’s interest in music grew through attendance at cultural functions at school and college. He was self-taught, except for a brief period when he learnt music from Ustad Jamiruddin Khan in Kolkata and Ustad Kader Buksh in Murshidabad. He sang different types of songs such as folk songs, modern songs, patriotic songs, Islamic songs, and Urdu songs. But Abbasuddin became renowned mainly as a singer of folk songs.

Vocal: Abbasuddin Ahmed

Vocal: Abbasuddin Ahmed

Initially, he became famous for bhawaiya, Ksirol, Chatka in Rangpur, and Cooch Behar. He became increasingly popular with his rendition of jaari, sari, bhatiyali, murshidi, bichchhedi (songs of estrangement), marsiya, dehatattwa, and pala gaan, especially when these were made into gramophone records. No other singer could surpass his emotional, full-throated rendition of folk songs. He also sang songs on Islamic themes composed by Kazi Nazrul Islam, Jasimuddin and Golam Mostafa.

In Kolkata, Abbasuddin made a number of gramophone records with His Master’s Voice (HMV) as well as with Megaphone, Twin and Regal. By singing at various functions in villages, towns and cities as well as by recording his songs, Abbasuddin made music acceptable and popular in conservative Bengali Muslim society.

Vocal: Abbasuddin Ahmed

Vocal: Abbasuddin Ahmed

Abbasuddin stayed in Kolkata from 1931 to 1947. Initially, he worked temporarily as a clerk in the DPI office and then in the Department of Irrigation in a permanent post. When A. K. Fazlul Huq was Chief Minister, Abbasuddin was given a government job as a recording expert. In the 1940s, Abbasuddin’s songs played a significant role in raising the Muslim public opinion in favour of the Pakistan movement. In 1947, after partition, he joined the Department of Information and Broadcasting as an additional song organiser. As a representative of Pakistan, he participated at the South East Asia Conference in Manila in 1955, at the International Folk Music Conference in Germany in 1956 and at the Bengali Cultural Conference in Rangoon in 1957.

Vocal: Abbasuddin Ahmed

Vocal: Abbasuddin Ahmed

Abbasuddin wrote an account of his life as a singer in Amar Shilpi Jibaner Katha (1960). For his invaluable contribution to music he was posthumously honored with the Pride of Performance Award in 1960, Shilpakala Academy Award in 1979 (posthumously) and Swadhinata Dibas Puraskar in 1981 (posthumously). His eldest son, Justice Mustafa Kamal is a former Chief Justice of Bangladesh and former Chairman of the Law Commission. His daughter, Ferdousi Rahman, his youngest son, Mustafa Zaman Abbasi, and his granddaughters, Nashid Kamal and Samira Abbasi, are also renowned singers. His great grand daughter Armeen Musa is also an upcoming artist in Bangla music.  

 –source, Wikipedia


[above image: Abbasuddin with daughter, Ferdousi Rahman. photo source: The Daily Star.]


image: all photographs are from varous sources in the internet. 
graphic design & layout: Labiba Ali for creativeBangladesh.


September 6, 2009

all copyrights reserved

I first heard Sohini in Boston at an AMRA KOJON concert for Pahela Baishakh. I don’t remember the exact name of the song she sung, but I will never forget the raw passion of her voice. Her voice transplanted me to rural Bengal, to the baul folk songs, to the boat races on the mighty Padma. It awoke emotions and a feeling of being close to the land. I hope when you hear her songs today, you will also embark on your own emotional journey. Sohini – thank you for sharing your music and thoughts with us!    – Labiba   /  creativeBangladesh


ON MUSIC – Sohini Alam 

I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember, mainly because my mother, Hiron Alam, was an accomplished vocalist and music teacher.  We used to sit together at home in London, while she taught me how to let my voice go as far and loud as it would. Sometimes, my recollections of those times are sweet. At other times, I remember how weary I was of her patience in holding one note down on the harmonium while waiting for me to get it pitch perfect. 

Back then, I itched to get out of music lessons. I used to slink out of classical lessons at every opportunity. Even after my mother died and my aunts took over my musical training in Bangladesh, I slipped away as often as I could get away with it. Nevertheless, I did enjoy the sessions with my family when my grandfather, aunts, uncle and cousins would gather to make music together. My maternal grandfather was the reason any of us did any music at all. I used to listen to him playing the harmonium and singing ragas, and he was superb. All his children were musically blessed, but the youngest of my aunts was able to venture furthest into music as a career. 

From childhood, I learned all kinds of songs, but my family being all about Nazrul Sangeet, I learned the most about that particular kind of music. I used to accompany my aunts to the Nazrul Institute, and we learned from the amazing Shudhin Das and Sohrab Hossain. At the time, I didn’t really grasp how fortunate I was just to be there. Of course, I only got to go because the two legends were teaching already well-known artistes in the genre. My aunts were two such artistes, and I was their “chaperone”. 

When my aunt, Jannat Ara, passed away, I lost my second music teacher. She had specialised exclusively in Nazrul Sangeet, and she taught me many of the ghazals and classical Nazrul songs that I sing to this day. My youngest aunt, Ferdous Ara, kept teaching me despite my resistance. Training was made easier because we all lived in the same house for as long as I lived in Bangladesh. I was lucky to have had more than the usual dose of musical training despite my efforts to sabotage it all, simply because of birth and circumstance. I don’t take it lightly any more. 

My musical inspiration comes from many places. In addition to the Bengali music at home, I grew up listening to The Beatles, Elvis and Hemanta on my father’s record player. Then came U2 and Queen on TV in the UK. After I moved to Bangladesh, my cousin, Ahir Alam, introduced me to the Doors. Then came Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Pearl Jam and so many more exceptional bands. I remember being entranced by the extraordinary Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan at an age when my friends had no idea who he was and did not understand my fascination with Qawwali music. That changed when the video for the Afreen Afreen remix came out. Suddenly, everyone was asking if I’d heard of him. 

Lyrics & music: SALIL CHOWDHURY
all copyrights reserved

As a child, I was never given a microphone when performing on stage because I was so loud. The older I got, the more I realised that my vocals were nothing like the generally accepted high-pitched South Asian style. There is a tendency to give women songs that are “meant” for women. It is a difficult attitude to change in the Indian subcontinent, but change is certainly taking place. 

I spent a long time away from music while I pursued my Bachelors and Masters degrees in the US. The only music I did then was during annual International Student programmes. After graduation, I moved to Boston and began singing with a group called Amra Kojon, led by the incomparable Mohitosh Talukder Taposh. With AK and Taps, I started singing again, and after moving back to London, I continued to sing with Drishtipat Creative. I checked out the Bangladeshi music scene in London and did a few shows on TV before deciding that I needed to work with a group of musicians on a regular basis to create the kind of sound I hear in my head when I sing certain songs. 

Lyrics & music: KAZI NAZRUL ISLAM
all copyrights reserved

Eventually, I met some truly gifted people, and as a result, I ended up singing with three different bands. Kishon Khan’s project, Lokkhi Terra, combines Afro-Cuban music with Bengali songs and features some fine musicians on instruments like trombone, piano and congas. AfterArt, with Sajib Azad is an electro-acoustic project while Khiyo is a purely acoustic band. Khiyo features the outstanding Oliver Weeks and Ben Hillyard of Moushumi Bhowmick’s band, Parapar, as well as a sarod player I cannot rate highly enough: Soumik Datta. 

I have incredible friends who come to my gigs and support my music. I have a family that gave me support and training that I did not want but needed. I know that now. I’m in full-time work mainly because I love my job. I manage a centre that assists disadvantaged youth, and my staff is brilliant. My day-job also means that I have the freedom to work only on musical projects that appeal to me. While this means that making music takes more time than usual, when the work is finally done, I think I can happily say that the wait was worth it.

Cover of a song from an old Bangla movie starring Uttam Kumar and Mala Sinha and sung by Geeta Dutt.
all copyrights reserved


To hear more songs from SOHINI ALAM and her bands, please visit the following:

Also, for more information on the band KHIYO, please visit their facebook fanpage at

image: #1, 4, & 5 – Arif Hafiz. #2 – SOHINI ALAM, family album. #3 – Alice Forbess.
graphic design & layout: Labiba Ali for creativeBangladesh.


July 19, 2009

Today we are extremely lucky to listen to a selection of music from multi-talented and award-winning music composer SUJAN E BIN WADUD. Last month he won the Grand Prize of a PBS sponsored music competition on the music website Indaba Music. His winning composition will be featured in a Music Instinct album distributed by PBS. Without further ado, let us join him as he takes us through his musical journey; from his childhood years in Qatar to his current exciting projects in the media.


I was born in Chittagong in 19~ (ha ha!). My father worked at the Chittagong Steel Mill. Shortly thereafter, we moved to Qatar, where I grew up among other Bangladeshi expatriates. In fact, my fondest memories to date are from the 13 years that I lived there, up to the point when I came to America for my undergraduate degree. No, not in music – in Chemical Engineering.

While in Qatar, my father would point to electronic keyboards displayed in the glass shelves and tell me that one day he would buy me one, when I was old enough. He did buy me a Casio 5-octave keyboard with built-in speakers (these days termed “home keyboards”), and my musical journey began.

In retrospect, I can trace back the genetic framework behind my passion for music to my parents. My father, who grew up in a remote village in Bangladesh, was raised in a fairly rigid Islamic culture in which singing was not viewed to be a talent of “good sons”, or a talent at all. But he would sing on his way to school, while among friends. In fact, some of his teachers had heard him singing in the courtyard a few times. My mother was and still is a huge fan of Indian Cinema. She told me that her highlight in the day was quickly taking her morning shower, and rush to be the first to turn on the radio – to listen to songs.

Today, this son of the secretive singer and the Bollywood fan (before it was ever referred to as such), finds love, refuge and therapy in composing music. During the years in Qatar, my mother would select songs from the golden era of Hindi film, and I would play them on my keyboard. I had taken introductory piano lessons from a great friendly teacher, Mr. Srinivasan. What he taught then, something that I practice even today, is how to listen to a piece of music. It wasn’t my set of fingers that got trained, but my ear. Thereafter, I’ve learned everything myself – guitar, drums, bass – though not to a maestro level, but just enough. I don’t remember a single year when, had I entered, I didn’t win first prize for music competitions at school.

After moving to the US, my father again invested a large sum of money to buy me a professional keyboard, with an on-board sequencer – full 16 tracks. The real fun began then. I’m including most of the pieces that were composed on that memorable Korg X3 keyboard. Music seemed to flow; I never had the problem of sitting on my keyboard, and not being able to churn out something satisfying (to me). 


In Qatar, I heard a chart-topping song named “You” by the band Ten Sharp. I loved the song (still do), and from that time on, I had this desire to one day compose something and call it You”. The Korg X3 broadened my horizons enough to be able to fulfill that tiny desire. I had wanted the music to flow easily, and convey the warm feeling of thinking about a loved-one.

I saw a movie starring Wynona Rider – didn’t like the movie much – but this phrase was repeated several times in it, and it got stuck in my head. With music being my outlet, my daily diary of a sort, I composed this piece that, to me, hinted at a place “Where Love Resides”.

It was a nice weekend, and as I pulled the blinds, this beautiful sunny day greeted me. I sat down on the keyboard, and this thing just came out. This is one of 2 pieces of music that was composed instantly after experiencing something. And why not – it was such a good day. Recently, this piece was used in a TV natok (drama) “Chena Ochenar Golpo”, at a point when the guy says “Marry me, please,” the girl finally agrees. “A Good Day” for him, no doubt!

Recently, I’ve taken to composing on more sophisticated computer software – that enables me to do almost what the pros do in the studios. Again, I’ve learned the tricks of the trade by reading up on stuff myself and using my ear as judge, jury and executioner. This piece was requested by a friend who wanted a theme music for a show on TV, called “Probasher Janala (The Emigrant’s Window)”. It had to have elements of Bangladeshi sounds and tones, as well as western influences. Back then I used to travel a lot for work, and while driving back home, I started thinking about what he had said, and this tune just popped in my head. By the time I reached home, I had the whole musical arrangement percolating in my head.

I’ve composed few more tunes for other TV shows, which can be heard online:

Last month, I entered a competition that was sponsored by PBS, and hosted by a music website called Indaba Music. We had to used given stems of music by famous artists, and come up with a unique theme music for an album of songs. The top prizes would be selected by the producers of a PBS show called ‘The Music Instict’. No one was more surprised that I when I opened the page and it declared that I won the Grand Prize! It is a great feeling, being recognized for what you love doing anyway.

My win was a personal catharsis. My father, one of 2 adorable people who have shaped me, passed away less than 3 months ago. I didn’t know if I had any more music in me, if the music also got buried in grief. This win means a lot more to me.

Currently, I’m enthralled by my 6-month-old daughter. Also, I’m working on scoring music for a TV film. If I have time, I write poetry for my 2 blogs. With any extra time, I write screenplays. At the end of that, with any time that I may have left, I work as Senior Scientist at Philips-Lumileds Lighting Company – my day job!



To read more about SUJAN E BIN WADUD’s winning composition for Indaba Music / PBS, please visit here

MONIRUL ISLAM’s paintings used in this feature are:

1. Songs of the Road. Mixed Media. 66 x 156 cm. 2004
2. Red Tulip. Oil on Paper. 50 x 78 cm. 2004
3. Undefined Self. Oil on Paper. 104 x 74 cm. 2004
4. Crying Women. Mixed Media on Concrete Board. 66 x 90 cm. 2004
5. Memories of the Last Spring. Oil on Paper. 74 x 104 cm. 2004
6. United. Mixed Media on Grey Board. 67 x 79 cm. 2004
7. The Blue Mirror. Mixed Media on Concrete Board. 67 x 80 cm. 2004

All prints of paintings taken from the exhibition brochure, “MONIR 2004: The Artist and His Work”.