Saturday is the 115th birth anniversary of Qazi Nazrul Islam, the muezzin turned rebel against fascism and oppression.
“What can one say? Qazi Nazrul Islam was a poet, writer, musician philosopher and revolutionary all in one,” senior musician Dr Chandrnath Chatterjee said on Friday, the eve of the 115th birth anniversary of the man who is regarded as a sensitive rebel.
Dr Chatterjee is a PhD on Nazrul, the legend, and his seminal work earned him a national award.
“Rabindranath Tagore called him Saraswatir Varputra (boon-child of Saraswati). Nazrul was just seven when he wrote his first folk song, Dukhu-mian. It’s what many called him for his sensitivity to suffering, for he emptied his pockets to the poor despite being poor himself.”
Nazrul started as a muezzin, calling the devout to prayer. “It could be said that the mausiki (musicality) and pucca sur (perfect notes) in his compositions came from rendering of the azaan in prescribed scale and pitch daily,” said Bashar Nawaz, noted lyricist-poet. “A contemporary of Rabindranath Tagore, he carved a path that lifted him to be considered his equal. His timeless works are a mix of sufi with folk idiom.”
At its core, Nazrul’s poetry and music espoused an Indo-Islamic renaissance and an intense spiritual rebellion against fascism and oppression. His impassioned activism for political and social justice earned him the title of the Rebel Poet. In fact, he is recognised as the national poet of Bangladesh.
His activism was born in the theatre groups he worked with and developed through the time he served in the British Indian army, after which he took up journalism in Calcutta.
“The way he castigated the British, preaching revolution through works like Bidrohi (Rebel) and Bhangar Gaan (The Song of Destruction) and the publication Dhumketu (The Comet), often saw him on the wrong side with the authorities and he was often imprisoned,” Dr Chatterjee recounted.