Bhawaiya Sangeet Academy O Parishad Cooch Behar, West Bengal India, recently honoured renowned Bangladeshi dotara artiste Nirmal Kumar Das with Sangeet Churamoni Samman. In conversation with The Daily Star, the artiste shared his experiences. “I am really happy to receive the award as recognition to my dedication to Bangladeshi folk music,” says Nirmal Kumar Das. “They scrutinised different aspects prior to selecting me for the award. They are very serious and sincere about nurturing folk music because of their rich legacy. Legendary singer Abbasuddin Ahmed was born in Cooch Behar.”
According to Das, singers in Cooch Behar perform folk music with instruments like harmonium, dhol, dotara and flute. Because of the passion shown by the folk musicians in both the countries, plans are being made to organise musical exchange programmes in Bangladesh and India.
“As they are farmers by profession, the spirit of Bhawaiya is closely associated with their life style," says Das. "They practice from morning till midnight. There is also a museum here containing many folk musical instruments along with daily life farming tools which are thousands of years old.”
Hailing from Fatikchhari, Chittagong, Nirmal Kumar Das started his musical career by singing Bhatiali, Bhawaiya and folk songs of Chittagong. He even won a complection, performing in front of legendary singer Abdul Alim when he was a child. But dotara recitals by his father, Bijoy Kumar Das, moved him so deeply that he decided to take up the instrument in 1968. He also received dotara training from legendary folk artiste Kanai Lal Sheel and his youngest son, Abinash Chandra Sheel.
He was enlisted as a dotara artist in Bangladesh Betar in 1972 and later joined folk musician Abdul Latif's team to sing for the Green Revolution Movement. “Bangabandhu had inspired us when we had gone to meet him,” recalls Das, who was also a regular dotara and mandolin artiste at Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy (BSA).