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Pronab Ghosh (1950-2007)

Music is your own experience, your own thoughts, your own wisdom. If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn. They teach you there is a boundary line to music. But, man, there’s no boundary line to art.’

— Charlie Parker

His music too, knew no boundaries. For all those who knew him, heard him and worked with him, Pronab Ghosh was a legend. Artistic, passionate, dedicated, admirable, awe-inspiring- this singer and music composer could be described as each one of these. And even many more.

‘The music he composed was a sparkling work,’ says singer Kabir Bokul. ‘Perhaps it is because he used imaginative combinations of tunes. There were numerous times when he would come up with a composition- a fresh tune in a matter of two minutes. That was how strong and boundless his music was.’

On August 15, as Pronab took his last breath at the BSMMU, we lost one of the most versatile and talented music composers of all time. During his career that spanned for more than three decades, Pronab managed to give birth to some of the most timeless and classic tunes. The music of songs like Shob Kichu Charte Pari, Amar Jokhon Moron Hobe, Tumi Kemon Acho, Amar shesh chithi are just a few of his timeless creations.

‘His music was unique,’ says singer Subir Nandi. ‘Each of his compositions did justice to the essence of Bangladeshi melody. Each note, each tune had that epitome of bangla.’

Even though Pronab has composed more than 300 songs, he was also a prolific and passionate singer. ‘Music was his life,’ says his wife, Sabiha Chowdhury, fighting back tears. ‘He has been singing since his childhood and went on to become the most popular singer in Jessore by the time he was sixteen.’ His wife, a singer and also his childhood friend grew up seeing Pronab experiment with different tunes. ‘He was full of zeal and energy. He was a man who celebrated life and lived every moment to the fullest.’

Born on February 3, 1950 in Badhmara Para, Jessore, Pronab grew up in a family that believed in discipline and commitment. His father Profullo Kumar Ghosh was a lawyer.

By the time he was 15, he joined the Khulna Betar and started winning hearts with his music. ‘In Jessore, even as a teenager, when he sang in gatherings, the passion and dedication he had was clear to everyone,’ remembers his wife.

During 1971, Pronab was one of those singers who rebelled and joined the Shadhin Betar Kendra. While his seven siblings and parents moved to India during 1975, Pronab stayed back and pursued his passion to the fullest. And indeed his passion was awe-inspiring for everyone. ‘His music came from inside him,’ says Kabir Bokul fondly. ‘It would take him a moment to imagine a tune that would come out of nowhere. At the end he always managed to combine the tunes freely, openly and honestly and create some of the most timeless music ever.’

When he moved to Dhaka from Jessore in 1979, his popularity as a playback singer only increased. But the best was yet to come. ‘At that time, he was still experimenting with tunes,’ says his wife.

‘He came to Dhaka as a singer and went on to become undoubtedly, the music composer who shaped the audio industry of our country. It is needless to say that his contribution to Bangladeshi music was immense,’ says Nandi.

It was after coming to Dhaka that he started working with Sheikh Sadi Khan during 1980 and his popularity began to soar. ‘He came to me as a singer,’ remembers Khan. ‘He could pull off lively and funny songs very well. He started spending a lot of time with me- going to places and looking at how I work. Soon, I got him to sing Akhoni Shomoy for a movie directed by Abdullah Al Mamun.’

The success of the first movie meant he would go on to sing for movies such as Kolmilata and Bongshodhor. ‘Working with him was a delight,’ says Khan who was also Pranob’s guru and guide. ‘He was very fun-loving and enthusiastic.’

On March 21, 1984, Pronab converted to Islam and married his childhood love and best friend, Sabiha. ‘Life with him was always wonderful,’ she says with tears welling up in her eyes. ‘He was like a little kid. Very stubborn and at the same time loving. He would never listen to me or take care of himself. There were times he would rush out to the studio just because a tune had struck his mind in the middle of the night.’

By the end of 80’s Pronab tried his hands in music composition. ‘Since he was an apt singer only in a single genre, there was very little scope for him to demonstrate his talent,’ adds Khan. But as he ventured into uncharted waters, his compositions became more successful than the songs he sang.

All who have worked with him, say that there was something very unique about him. Bokul who also worked with him, says, ‘I just cannot put a finger on it, but there was something about him that was truly wonderful. Probably, it was his enthusiasm, passion, dedication but then again we would talk forever if we want to talk about Pronab’s good qualities. Something that caught my eye was that he was very punctual and proactive.’

In recent times, Pronab had spent countless hours in the many medical centres near his house, where he would donate money to the poor for their medical needs. ‘He was a man with a big heart and always willing to offer his help. It is amazing how he managed to make a huge difference in people’s lives just by being a part of it,’ says his wife.

Maybe it was because he was willing to experiment or because he was constantly looking to create something new. But these qualities always drove him to give young artists a shot, in anticipation of finding a gem. Aside from contributing with his compostions and singing, Pronab has played another pivotal role for the industry. Because of him, countless artists were born and they all learned their trait from the master. ‘Pronab was always willing to give young artists the opportunity and it was through him that countless artists were born,’ says Nandi.

Last year, he released two songs, Buk Bhora betha and Bidhi ajke amar moron. ‘His demise was our loss. He had much more to offer,’ adds Nandi.

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