Tahmina Shafique The Complete Portfolio

10Nov/060

‘I haven’t changed much but life has’

As a five year old she would spend afternoons with her father singing folk songs and Rabindra Sangeet in the idyllic village of Keshobpur in Kushtia. She would play with her friends and run in the open fields of her beautiful village. Life was simple. She loved singing with her father, who was passionate about music. She loved the river and most of all she loved her village. In the span of a year Nasrin Akhter Beauty’s life has changed at such a fast pace, in spite of her fame and all the praise it has earned her, she is struggling with her new surroundings.

In 2005, soon after she had completed her school leaving exams, Beauty’s father made her sign up for ‘Closeup1-Tomakei Khujchhe Bangladesh’ the popular musical talent hunt which had the whole country riveted to their television screens and sending in their SMS votes to determine the outcome. Her first rendition of classic Lalon geeti ‘Itorpana Karjo Amar’ created a stir among the judges and audience nationwide. It did not take them long to realise that she had talent, and sure enough she became one of the winners.

More affectionately termed ‘Lalon Kanya’, after her lauded renditions of Lalon songs during the competition, Beauty has become a household name, in a span of one year. For most people, she is the simple Bangladeshi village girl. There is something about her simplicity, her humble personality and her innate passion that has earned her considerable fame, in a short time.

Despite being the second runner-up, experts see real promise in this young artist. Not only has she gained popularity here, but also in the US where she has performed twice already. At present she is preparing for her next album with the eminent singer Mumtaz. ‘It is an honour to be able to sing with some like her in the same album,’ says Beauty.

Despite her reputation as a rising star, there is not much that has changed about Beauty. She seems to be the simple girl she was, when she had stepped into the spotlight, for her first audition for Closeup1. ‘Even though I have not changed much, life has changed a lot,’ she says ruefully. ‘I like the attention, the fame and the whole idea of being in this new world, but at the end, my heart longs to go back to my village, to live there forever; there is nothing like the village life’.

Beauty grew up with her five siblings in Keshobpur. Her mother, a housewife and father, a farmer, had always been supportive of her singing. ‘I learnt my first song from my father. So basically he was my first teacher,’ says Beauty. Despite, having no professional training, Beauty was in constant practice with her father, who encouraged her to take part in small competitions in her school and community programmes. ‘Music had become an integral part of my life by the time I was around seven. We would hum songs all day and my father would explain the significance of the lyrics — most of which would be about our land and culture.’

It was not until four years back that Beauty took professional training in music. ‘It was more because of people in my village, they felt I had a great future. So, I received further training from Amanullah Khan, Rezaul Karim and Abbas Ali. It was because of my music training that my family had to move to Morbhanga, a small village close to Keshobpur. The place is equally beautiful and peaceful.’

‘Singing was more of a hobby but I wanted to be a nurse. I guess, the inspiration came from people around me, who felt I had the rare gift of caring and healing. Although I am not pursuing nursing as a career now, I feel I will be able to heal people through my songs. Songs are a medium of healing and loving are they?’ she asks.

Beauty speaks of her family and village in almost every experience and achievement she describes; it is evident that she has a strong bond with both. ‘My family has been everything for me and nothing can change my affection towards them. In the last one year, I have been away from home for my recording and shows in Dhaka and abroad. I wish to go back home all the time. Back home everyone is happy with little things and I am everyone’s favourite- my parent’s are my biggest support system,’ she adds with a hint of sadness, perhaps yearning to go back home.

If anybody has been Beauty’s strongest support and inspiration in being what she is today, it’s undoubtedly her father. ‘He has always supported me. Even a year back, it was my father’s confidence that made me take part in Closeup1. I still remember how terribly nervous I was,’ she giggles like a teenager as she recalls the experience. According to her, the opportunity of being a part of Closeup1, made her realise her true talent. ‘Somehow, the seven months of the rigorous training during the competition, gave me an immense confidence in myself. It made me realise that music was my true calling.’ But there remains a hint of disappointment when she speaks of her feelings of being the second runner-up. ‘I guess, my expectations were higher. I felt that even if I received less votes through sms, the marks I had received in the three rounds and the judges’ comments would enable me to have

a better position. But, now that I look back, I don’t have regrets; a year back, I couldn’t ever imagine that I could achieve so much. I am content with what life has given me.’

She also speaks of the accident that her family had met while coming to attend the final round of the competition. ‘When the winners were being announced, my family was in the hospital. At that moment the only thing I wanted was to see them fine. Although they were upset about the results later on, I was happy that my family was fine.’

There is no doubt that Beauty’s voice has the making of a true artiste. As the renowned artist and judge of Closeup 1, Agun, had put it, ‘she is the one who just does not sing but believes in music and most importantly can get the message of her songs across the audience well’. This was proved in the very first audition of Closeup 1 in Faridpur, where she created quite a stir nationwide singing Lalon’s timeless classic, ‘Itorpana Karjo amar’.

‘I had no idea of what I should be singing. I found out from a contestant that the judges were looking for a versatile singer who is comfortable with different genres. I had heard the Lalon song and liked it very much. I bought the tape and learnt the song. I sang that in the first round and it changed my life forever.’

It was in the first round that the noted artist Agun, was moved by the passion shown through her voice. ‘It was Agun bhai, who made me realise that my strength is in Lalon geeti.’

What remained to be memorable moment and brought tears to Beauty’s and many others’ eyes, was renowned artist and one of the judges, Ahmed Imtiaz Bulbul’s comment. ‘He said, I sang so well that if I was his daughter, he would have been a proud father. He also said, if he were to reincarnate, he would pray that I get to be his daughter’. For me that will remain to be one of the rare achievements of my life,’ she says holding back tears of pride. She remains silent for a long moment, perhaps reliving that cherished moment. ‘Yes, that was the best moment of my life. I came from a village. I was just an ordinary girl; the fact that I have been given the opportunity to pursue my talent is the greatest gift for me.’

While talking about her recent visit to the US, her mood brightens up. ‘New York is the city of dreams,’ she giggles. ‘I had never imagined that I could go to USA. I loved the people, who made me feel like a part of their family. Before going there I use to think, they will not value my songs, but I was taken aback by their love for Bangla music. There were times we could not satisfy them, as they would ask for more songs,’ says Beauty beaming.

Beauty visited the US with seven other contestant last year as well. ‘It was right after the competition. The last visit was much more fun because we all performed together and stayed together. I didn’t miss home much. But this time we all had to sing in different places and in many occasions, I missed home terribly.’

Beauty’s recent visit to USA was right before Eid. ‘That gave the opportunity to shop for Eid. You would not believe the kind of jewellery, cosmetics and perfumes they have. It’s simply amazing! I bought a lot of those for my sisters and mother,’ she beams like a child who has discovered a new world.

So how was Eid this year for her? ‘I spent this Eid in my village and as usual it was wonderful. I bought a lot of gifts for everyone, other than myself! That’s because I was showered with gifts from everyone, including my fans,’ she says laughing.

‘I didn’t feel like coming back home. I just sometimes wish I could work there, do the recordings and shows in the village. Everyone thinks Dhaka is a great place to be in, but you only realise it once you stay away from village,’ she adds.

So, what is it about Dhaka that she wants to get away from? ‘It’s the crowd, the busy life, the loneliness and the complexity. I guess its part of the city life. But in village, you are happy with little things in life that sometimes slip away. I still remember Eid a few years back- it was about red bangles, a red hairband and a red dress. These would make it the best Eid for all of us.’

So what’s next for this young artist? ‘I want to continue singing. I am inclined to songs that speak of this land and render a message of love and peace. As I said before, I want heal people through my songs. If my songs can touch even a handful of listeners, I’ll consider my purpose of singing justified.’

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