Arunendu Das, a pioneer in Bangla alternative songwriting, passed away in London on February 3 at the age of 81. He played an integral part in composing music for Moheener Ghoraguli, in the band's later years.
While the influence of Moheener Ghoraguli as an act on Bangla music as we know it, cannot be understated, it was Arunendu Das who held the privilege of being the first Bengali guitarist to specifically design compositions and lyrics around guitar tracks. Many of Moheener Ghoraguli's timeless hits, including Ghore Ferar Gaan, Kisher Eto Tara, Ke Ke Jabi Re, Shara Raat among many others were composed by the pioneering musician.
Arunendu Das was born in Yangon, Myanmar in 1938 to Jodhulal Das and Amiyabala Das. The family had to move to Bikrampur, Bangladesh soon after the outbreak of World War II. Having spent his early days in Bangladesh, Arunendu had to find his feet in Kolkata, and he did so by joining a scout group in the Bhowanipur Mitra Institution, during the travels of which he wrote his first documented lyric named Chanchal Ek Dal Scout Bhai in 1955. During his time at the Bengal Engineering (BE) College, where he studied architecture, he gained popularity among his peers with his prowess with a Hawaiian guitar. He would not be exposed to a steel-string until later years, on which he composed most of his music on.
Arunendu's talents would have remained relatively unknown if not for his meeting with Gautam Chattopadhyay, one of the founders of Moheener Ghoraguli in 1987. Gautam's brother, Pradeep Chatterjee, also a founding member of the band, was exposed to Arunendu's music in BE college and eventually told him about it. Gautam had visited Arunendu's residence, and the two's bonding saw Arunendu's songs included in all four of Moheener Ghoraguli's albums after the band's original line-up disbanded: Aabar Bochor Kuri Pore, Jhora Somoyer Gaan, Maya and Khyapaar Gaan.
Arunendu's simplicity and straightforwardness showed in his lyrics and tunes, as they are still covered by generations of musical successors. Gautam Chattopadhyay was famously quoted saying that he was a 'predecessor' to Moheener Ghoraguli, even though his music surfaced much later. “So many songs we sing on a daily basis are written by him, and so many of us do not even know that he wrote them”, wrote ace singer Sahana Bajpaie on her Facebook, while posting a picture with the late artist. Heartfelt tributes poured in from the musical fraternities of both Bangladesh and India.
The final time the great musician was on stage was in 2013, at a show in Kolkata. He had been living in England since the late 60's, sporadically travelling to India for shows. Arunendu Das's passing is the irreplaceable loss of an often underappreciated icon in Bangla music.