23 April 2016

Kabir Suman


Kabir Suman's first album Tomake Chai was released on 23rd April 1992 by HMV. It revolutionized bengali music forever. Before the advent of this album, there was stagnation in bengali music. Nothing path breaking was happening. After the so called Swarna-Yug of bengali music came to an end around the late seventies, nothing much happened throughout the eighties. Then this album came in 1992 and conquered one and all. He liberated bangla songs from their moribund traditional form. This rebel bard gave a fresh lease of life to bengali songs. It was like a gust of fresh wind in an otherwise stale and boring environment. This album ushered in a new genre. The gleeful media instantly labelled it as Jibonmukhi. Suman Chattopadhyay was and still is dead against the use of this word. He prefers to call his music as modern bengali songs. The word Jibonmukhi actually first appeared on the album cover of Nachiketa Chakraborty's first album, Ei Besh Bhalo Aachi

When Suman Chattopadhyay was in America, there was a special store in Washington D.C. from where he could buy the albums of Holly Near. It was in this very store that he found the music album of the Cuban singer-songwriter Silvio Rodriguez. This album was from the genre known in Cuba as Nueva Trova. This genre of songs came to be known as New Song throughout Latin America. This genre inspired Suman to write new songs in bengali and start off a new movement. The musical revolution which he started in 1991/1992 in West Bengal was similar in nature, content and form to its Cuban variety. If anyone is interested then please listen to Silvio Rodriguez's Ojalá, Playa Girón, Unicornio, La Maza, Fusil Contra Fusil, Canción del Elegido and various other classics on Youtube.   


In 1992 I was ten years old. Around that time a lot of articles used to come out in newspapers and magazines about Suman Chattopadhyay. And I had a habit of reading newspapers and magazines from a very young age. I clearly remember one article, most probably at Ananda Bazar Patrika, where he was quoted as saying to the interviewer, Amar Bari-tey Aashtey Holey Pechchhap-er Gondho Maariye Ashtey Hobey. Another article was about how the singer-songwriter used to abuse others on stage. His use of profanities on stage was fast becoming legendary back then. As a child I used to wonder why on earth would a man abuse others or use obscene language on stage and also say rough and harsh things to reporters? Around that time I never went to any of his concerts and only read reports about his stage performances in the media.

In the early nineties, I was too young to listen to this new genre of bengali music. In those days I used to only listen to the songs which were broadcast on the radio, mainly Akashbani, and watch the hindi songs shown on RangoliChitraahar and Superhit Muqabla. But from the mid nineties I started choosing my own favourite songs and gradually started listening to the songs of Suman Chattopadhyay, Anjan Dutta, Nachiketa Chakraborty and Shilajit Majumdar. I also started listening to the cassettes of Mohiner Ghoraguli, Cactus, Parashpathar, Abhilasha, Nogor Philomel, Chandrabindoo, Miles, LRB etc. 

In those days Anjan Dutta was my most favourite singer. Till Class X, I preferred Anjan's songs. Throughout the nineties I used to listen to Anjan's cassettes day in and day out. Around that time I listened to Suman Chattopadhyay's songs also but most of his songs were so intellectually rich and profound that they used to fly far above my head. I did not understand them properly. Anjan was my preference and first choice, because most of his songs were simple and easy to understand and fall in love with. But Anjan Dutta himself has confessed many times that Suman Chattopadhyay was his inspiration and only after the release of Tomake Chai, he decided to record his own songs. 

I still remember that in 1996 I saw a black and white picture of Pete Seeger and Suman Chattopadhyay performing together at Kala Mandir, most probably in The Telegraph or may be in The Statesman. As a fourteen year old child, I really felt proud that a bengali singer was performing on the same stage with an internationally acclaimed icon. In those days we used to keep both these papers in our house. Back then my father used to say, If you want to learn English, then read The Statesman. I wish some one had taken me to this concert. Later on I came to know that there was no audio or video recording of this concert. The then ruling Left Front Government eagerly saw to it that no audio-visual recording was made of this historic concert.  

Before the release of Tomake Chai, Suman Chattopadhyay was involved in a musical group called Nagorik. He composed songs for this group and mainly played musical instruments in their performances. He also sang solo sometimes, but mostly sang in choruses. I have the albums Onnyo Kotha Onnyo Gaan and Nicaraguar Jonnye. In the first album the song on the Bhopal Gas Tragedy of 1984 really touches one's Soul.   

An article was published in The Telegraph Magazine on 6th April 1997 titled Bards Of A Feather which talked about the new wave in bengali music. The article mentioned the names of Salil Choudhury, Hemango Biswas, Mohiner Ghoraguli, Nogor Philomel, Suman Chattopadhyay, Anjan Dutta, Nachiketa Chakraborty, Shilajit Mazumdar, Ranjan Prasad, Anushree and Bipul, Shuvendu Maity and even the musical archaeologist Kali Dasgupta. It was here that I first came across the name Wolf Biermann, a German singer-songwriter. Suman was influenced by his style - a guitar in hand, talking to the audience as if engaging in an adda, quoting from poems, cracking a few jokes and also taking a stance on various political and non-political issues. I just loved this article as a fifteen year old boy and re-read it many times.  


From Class XI, around the year 2000, my focus shifted from Anjan Dutta to Suman Chattopadhyay as I started drowning myself in the multiple layers of the latter's songs. Once I entered Suman-ville, there was no coming out. Suman's chakravyuha surrounded me completely and engulfed me with all its might. Then Suman became my first and only choice. I used to keep on listening to his cassettes day and night. Sometimes I used to rewind the same song over and over again and try to figure out the finer nuances of the song. And I knew each and every lyric by heart. 

There was a time when I was so depressed in life that I really wanted to commit suicide. This was around 2003. I had lost total interest in life. Suman's songs had saved me back then. They opened up a whole new world in front of my eyes. I used to darken my room, switch off my cell phone and listen to his songs for hours during the daytime. Sometimes I used to listen to his songs throughout the whole night till dawn. Then around dawn I used to go to Rabindra Sarobar and take my Sony Walkman with me. I used to listen to Suman's songs while enjoying the cool morning breeze there. I never went for any morning walk. I just used to go there and sit on one of those benches and listen to Suman's songs on my Walkman. Suman's Jatishwar song haunted me tremendously. 

I also loved all his jingles and the title songs that he composed for bangla TV serials. In the 90's, Durga Puja meant watching Chhuti-Chhuti on Bangla Doordarshan. In one such season the title track of Chhuti-Chhuti was composed and sung by Suman Chattopadhyay. Back then, the last four lines of the song really had touched my heart. Durga Puja holidays for me meant waking up late, going to sleep very late at night, unbridled fun, delicious food, lazying around, no school, no tension and not even a single care of the world. But somehow somewhere at that age those last four lines had disturbed my inner peace. The lines were : 

Jey Chheley-ta Kaaj Korey Khaai 
Raastar Cha-er Dokaaney 
Taar Chhuti Paalalo Kothaai 
Taar Chhuti Aachhey Kon Khaaney...

Then suddenly in the year 2000 Suman Chattopadhyay changed his name to Kabir Suman and embraced Islam in the month of May. In an interview, Suman explained that he decided to get rid of his Hindu Brahmin identity on the day that Graham Stuart Staines and his two boys, Philip and Timothy, were burnt alive, by Hindu fundamentalists in 1999. After much thought and deliberation, Suman zeroed in on the name, Kabir Suman, because he wanted to keep the name given to him by his parents and then he wanted to take the name of Kabir, after Sheikh Kabir, a Bengali Muslim poet who had written Baishnab Padabali. Sheikh Kabir had written songs about Krishna, Radha and the Vaishnava culture. He had transcended the barriers of a communal or religious divide. After converting to Islam, Kabir Suman married Sabina Yasmin. I love their album Taero and specially the song Tomake Aamake. Especially these four lines: 

Tumi Aami Ek Dhoroner Bidroho
Noyaini Matha Bikoini Ei Mon
Ontorey Nei Munafa Korar Moho
Bondhu Ekhono Royechhey Koyekjon...

Around this time, I started attending the concerts of Kabir Suman. My first live Suman concert was at Kala Mandir and I was totally blown away. It was like entering a different universe altogether. Starting then, till date, I have attended almost all his concerts in and around Calcutta. In 2003 Kabir Suman released an album of only English songs titled Reaching Out. That year in the month of September, there was a duet concert at Gyan Manch, where Suman sang his English compositions from Reaching Out and Anjan Dutta sang his English compositions from his album Bandra Blues. I was there at that concert. I clearly remember that the price of the ticket was sixty rupees. The two singers had ended the concert together with Bob Dylan's Blowing In The Wind. However after this song ended, Anjan Dutta instantly started singing Kotota Poth Peroley Tobey Pothik Bola Jai. The audience just loved it and could not stop clapping. I personally believe that Kabir Suman should have recorded many more English songs and should have released many more English albums. It is a sad thing thing that he did not do it. 

I started attending Kabir Suman's concerts from the early 2000's. I regret now that I never went to his concerts in the 90's. I know a man who has been to all his concerts in and around Calcutta from day one. He told me that in the 90's, Kabir Suman was like a powerful meteor on stage juggling effortlessly through his guitar, his harmonica and his synthesizer, singing songs, reciting poems, quoting from literature, cracking jokes, reminiscing about his past, and also spewing venom on the CPM. Once while he was performing on stage, a red light was focused on him. He commented, Oi Lal Aalo Ta Bondho Korey Din, Oi Lal Aalo Ta Amar Shojjyo Hochchey Naa...

Kabir Suman was always politically very conscious. This consciousness has always reflected in his songs. From the days of the Kanoria Jute Mill movement to the rape and murder of Anita Dewan, From Sanjib Purohit to Suhrid Ganguly, from Singur to Nandigram, from the plight of the Adivasis to Operation Greenhunt, from Shahbag to Saffron Terror, his songs cover all issues and help to create awareness among the general public. He is interested not only in local issues but also about world politics. From Dhara Paltay Mao Tse Tung-er Chin to Shono Taliban Taliban Aami Tomar Dol-ey Nei... As far as I know, there is no official recording of the song Anita Dewan in any studio album. However here I found a link in Youtube. 

The Singur movement started in 2006. Suman had a concert on 2nd December 2006 at CU Institute Hall. I was there. He opened the concert by reading that day's newspaper headlines about Singur and how Medha Patekar and students of Presidency College and Jadavpur University were detained and arrested by the Police. From the stage he declared that he would fight against the Left Front Government and see to its end. If I remember correctly then in this concert, Kabir Suman sang the song Amar Bhitor Bahirey, and asked the audience to sing along too. One line was sung by men and the next line was sung by women. It created a wonderful effect inside the auditorium. 

Three months later the Nandigram massacre happened on 14th March 2007. Everybody stood up against the evil CPM. Kabir Suman had predicted such a scenario way back in 1998 in his album Nishiddhyo Ishtehaar. Back then he had written Ekdin Hobey Gono-Obbhyuthhan, Sedin Amar Gaan-er Bhaarar Khulo. And the predicted Gono-Obbhyuthhan really happened in 2007. All political and non-political forces came together and protested against the Left Front Government. After the Nandigram genocide the first official protest was organised at Metro Channel, opposite Metro Cinema at Esplanade, on 17th March 2007. I reached there in the morning itself. When me and my friends saw Kabir Suman there, we asked him what should we do? He replied, Anarchy Koro, Anarchy Koro. That day on stage Kabir Suman said the following lines on the microphone, Ei Sala Khankir Chhele Buddho, Aay Aamakey Eshey Dhorshon Kor, Khomota Thakley Aamakey Eshey Rape Kor. Everybody started clapping. I was there standing just beside the stage on the left side. Fire was brimming over from Suman's eyes that day. He was confident that Nandigram would be the Waterloo for the CPM. There were a lot of other Buddhijeebis on the stage. Nabarun Bhattacharya spoke on the stage and declared that he was giving up his Bankim Award which he had received for his novel Herbert. Joy Goswami read two poems. I especially loved his poem Shashoker Proti very much. Another singer named Bidyut Bhowmik also sang a few protest songs. The protest programme went on throughout the day. One CPM pimp tried to create a minor disturbance and the crowd got a bit agitated for a moment, but Kabir Suman instantly calmed down the crowd with the song Haal Chherona Bondhu...

I still remember in the late evening when it was time to close the programme for that day, Suman spoke beautifully on the mike and successfully aroused anti-CPM feelings in all of us, but also did not forget to sing a few lines composed by the great O.P. Nayyar, who had just passed away on 28th January 2007. In the heat and dust of anti-CPM rhetoric, Suman still remembered the music of O.P. Nayyar and did not forget to pay him a tribute. Around this time Kabir Suman was working at Tara News and hosting a programme named Motamot. Watch this video, especially the last part : 

If I remember correctly then in the month of April there was another protest programme at CU Institute Hall. That day I had my Part II last exam, that was Environmental Studies. I somehow finished my paper as soon as possible and rushed to CU Institute Hall. All my friends from St. Xavier's made plans to go and booze somewhere or chill out somewhere, because it was the last day of the exams, but I went straight to CU Institute Hall. That day Kabir Suman sang his protest songs. Mahasweta Devi was also present. Children had come from Nandigram and they told us their horror stories back in their village. Around evening Moushumi Bhowmik also sang some songs. The moment Moushumi Bhowmik went on stage, suddenly there was load-shedding. I clearly remember that she sang her songs without the microphone. 

On 10th June 2007, there was a concert at Uttam Mancha titled Kobi O Kobiyal where Kabir Suman sang his songs and Joy Goswami recited his poems. It was a Sunday and the concert started around 10:30 a.m. On this stage Joy Goswami admitted that he was inspired to write his famous poem Pagli Tomar Songey after listening to the song Tomake Chai. The best part of this show was when Joy Goswami recited a poem which he had composed on Kabir Suman and the latter immediately started singing the song, Kobi Je Kon Chuloy Jaabey Keu Jaaney Naa. That day was indeed a magical Sunday. One of the best concerts ever. 

The Left Front Government did a lot to harass and harm Kabir Suman in all ways imaginable. They deliberately created road-blocks in the great man's journey through life. Kabir Suman also hated the Left Front Government for its anti-people policies. As a bengali, I feel ashamed about how Suman was treated by the CPM throughout the major portion of his life. I sincerely believe that Kabir Suman deserves the Nobel Prize for Literature. If he was born in any other country then he would have easily got whatever he truly deserved. But in our poor Bengal, the Government insulted him and tried to mercilessly kill his creativity. But the Left Front Government failed in that too. Inspite of everything, Kabir Suman's creativity blossomed and he grew stronger day by day. Music was his shield. Music protected him from all his enemies. And I firmly believe that even his enemies listen to his songs secretly. 

Once, most probably in America, Salil Choudhury had gone to Suman's house while he was working there in Voice of America. Suman did not have a proper chair or sofa in his room where Salil Choudhury could sit. The entire floor in his room was full of musical instruments only. 


Watch this :

Also listen to this :

Listen to this too :

In those days in all his concerts, Kabir Suman made a generous use of expletives and the F-Word while referring to CPM. And we all loved it very much. During those Singur-Nandigram-Lalgarh days, Kabir Suman was super-confident that it would be possible to finally defeat the Left Front Government in the Elections of 2011. In those days I used to attend all his concerts and even note down all the songs that he was singing on a notepad. Later on I used to post those songs in Orkut. In those days I used to watch the programme Aaj Shokaler Amontroney on Tara Music regularly. Loved this episode very much :

Once Kabir Suman had a concert at CU Institute Hall. It was going on absolutely fine. He was singing a rabindrasangeet and was dedicating it to an elderly lady whom he knew and he was addressing her as Mashima. Then suddenly one scoundrel from the audience shouted, Ebar Ekta Mesomosai-er Jonnyo Hok. Kabir Suman lost his calmness and became very angry. It was an insult to that elderly woman. He asked that man to come up on stage and apologize. It all resulted in commotion. Obviously CPM supporters and Kabir Suman haters were present inside the auditorium and they seized this opportunity and started giving anti-Suman slogans. After almost an hour everybody settled down. Kabir Suman was totally innocent that evening and we all realized that it was a pre-planned incident by vested interests. If I remember correctly then in this very concert Kabir Suman also sang a hindi song twice. The song was Teri Duniya Mein Jeene Se from the 1955 hindi film House No. 44. Suman rarely sings hindi songs in his concerts, but that day he told us that he loved this song so much that he sang it twice.      

I remember that on 13th March 2008, I had gone to Nandigram with my friends. The next day we came back to Calcutta. That very evening there was a Kabir Suman concert at Kala Mandir at 6:30 p.m. Me and my friend Asim Giri reached Calcutta from Nandigram at exactly 6:30 p.m. and we went straight to Kala Mandir. We did not have tickets for the concert. We somehow managed the security guard and went inside and saw the entire concert from the stage wings. That was a new way of experiencing a Kabir Suman concert.


On his 60th birthday on 16th March 2008, Kolkata TV organised a special concert named Balaai Shaat at Netaji Indoor Stadium. Other bengali singers and musicians performed Kabir Suman's songs on that day. It was like a grand tribute to the Maestro. Suman himself also sang a few songs too. Among the other singers, I really liked Rupam Islam's renditions of Kabir Suman's songs. 

For many years a Kabir Suman concert was always organised on 16th March at Kala Mandir to celebrate his birthday. It had become like a tradition among his followers. Mostly those concerts were organized by Saptarshi. All his fans used to look forward to this day throughout the year. It was also a happy occasion for his fans to meet among themselves.  

It was an unfortunate thing that Bengal along with the rest of India forgot the great Pannalal Ghosh's birth centenary in 2011. But in Bangladesh the occasion was celebrated for three days. As a Member of Parliament, Kabir Suman had requested the then Prime Minister of India and the Lok Sabha Speaker to celebrate the day or at least bring out a stamp in Pannalal Ghosh's memory, but no one took his request seriously. Nothing was done to pay any respect to the Maestro on his birth centenary. Only Kabir Suman himself organized a concert on Pannalal Ghosh's memory at Kala Kunj, which is at the basement of Kala Mandir. There were no tickets. The audience was there only by invitation. I was lucky to be present there. It was a magical evening. 

On 12th August 2012, on the occasion of the twentieth year of Tomake Chai, a book launch was organised at Jadavpur University. The book was titled Tomake Chai and it was a tribute to Kabir Suman and his path breaking first album. The book was edited by Sumit Das and Anirban Sadhu. Many eminent personalities like Sudhir Chakraborty, Anil Acharya, Sanjoy Mukhopadhyay, Kazi Kamal Nasser, Anindyo Chattopadhyay, Urmimala Basu, Kaushik Sen, Srijato and Nabarun Bhattacharya wrote articles about Kabir Suman and his Tomake Chai in that book. That day was my birthday too. Plus my life's first girlfriend was getting married to some one else on that very day. But on that day, except Kabir Suman, nothing else was on my mind. 

Also watch this video about the glorious journey of Kabir Suman and about the twenty eventful years of Tomake Chai :

In 2013 Suman was in no mood to perform on his birthday. But we, his fans, had to do something. Therefore me and four of my friends decided to organize a musical evening and gift it to him. We organized a concert at Weaver's Studio at Ballygunge and invited Kabir Suman. He came right on time. The blind singer Anathbandhu Ghosh sang and the musician Haider performed on his shehnai. Also Tarun Khyapa, Deb Choudhury and Kazi Kamal Nasser sang songs for Kabir Suman. A few youngsters also sang songs. On public demand even Suman Mukhopadhyay sang the song Meri Baba from his theatre Mareech Sangbad. There were no tickets and admission was strictly by invitation. Only those who were close to Suman and his die hard fans and followers were invited. It was another magical evening. We all ended that evening by singing Sara Dao together. And then lastly Kabir Suman sang Ki Paini Tar Hiseb Melatey... 


This year Kolkata TV again organized a concert for Kabir Suman on his birthday at Nazrul Manch. The occasion was also meant for the audio launch of Aniket Chattopadhyay's new film Shankar Mudi. Kabir Suman is the music director for this film. I bunked my office that day and reached Nazrul Manch before time. The organizers also gave every body a free audio cd of the film. I came back home and listened to this cd till 4 a.m. This year on Bhasha Dibosh there was a day-long musical programme planned at Nazrul Manch. The programme ended with a duet performance by Kabir Suman and Srikanto Acharya.


Kabir Suman had a huge role to play in the Singur-Nandigram-Lalgarh movement. He contributed immensely in the Poriborton that happened in 2011. Without him it would have been very difficult to oust the evil CPM from power. Around 2012, Suman once jokingly commented in one of his concerts, CPM toh Aamakey saamlatey giyei shesh hoye gelo... His albums Nandigram, Rizwanur Brittyo, Pratirodh, Chhatrodhorer Gaan and Lalmohoner Lash had a huge impact on the people of Bengal. Once Kabir Suman got actively involved in Bengal politics during the Singur-Nandigram period, Sunil Gangopadhyay had commented - Because of Suman's involvement, the Sukumarization of Bengal politics has happened... 

I used to buy all his books and cassettes and later all his cds. But for a long time his book Hoye Othha Gaan was out of print. I searched desperately for this book all over Calcutta. But was disappointed. Then finally I met a woman who had an old copy of this book. I asked her to lend it to me for atleast one day. But she didn't want to part with this book even for a day. But I was adamant, therefore we arrived at a solution. I went to her office three days consecutively and she allowed me to sit in the visitor's section and read that book. She was also kind enough to arrange a cup of tea for me. I am basically a slow reader plus I was also taking down notes from the book, therefore it took me three days to finish it. Later on Saptarshi Publications again printed this book and I immediately bought it at the Book Fair.

In the Calcutta Book Fair I love to visit Saurav da's Saptarshi Publications. I have bought each and every book of Kabir Suman from this Stall. Kabir Suman's first book of lyrics was published by Swotontro Prokashoni. This publication was started by three women named Indrani, Aparna and Moushumi. The first edition was published in the 1993 Calcutta Book Fair. Each and every copy was sold out within days. In the next few years Swotontro Prokashoni published another three books. From the fifth book onwards Saptarshi took the reins in their hands. Till now all together eight books of lyrics have been published. Even today whenever I go to the Book Fair, these four lines of Kabir Suman ring in my years:

Tomakey Dekhchhi Boi Mela Chottor-ey
Tomakey Dekhchhi Swotontro-r Stall 
Anushtup-er Thela-theli Bhed Korey 
Asholey Kintu Tomakey Dekhar Chhol... 

More than a decade back I had listened to an interview of Kabir Suman on Akashbani. In that interview he had said that in the late 80's he used to record his own songs in blank cassettes and then go to the Book Fair and distribute them among random people. He used to tell them to listen to his songs and then pass over the cassette to their friends. In those days he was part of the NAGORIK musical group. He also said that sometimes he used to drop his recorded cassettes at random people's letter-boxes with a note attached requesting them to listen to the cassette and then forward it to others. 

I had the good fortune to observe this legend from close quarters during the Singur-Nandigram-Lalgarh Movement. In the 2008 Book Fair he was sitting in front of our Bijolpo Stall and was chain smoking. Someone remarked, Suman da, eto cigarette khaben na please, aapnar shorir bhalo nei. He replied confidently, CPM-er mrityu na dekhey aami morbo na. I was standing right beside him and was amazed at his confidence. In those days the possibility of defeating the Left Front Government was almost unthinkable. Kabir Suman's fingers were shaking as they were holding his cigarette, but the look in his eyes was absolutely firm. He knew that the CPM would be ousted from power in the next assembly elections.

Kabir Suman is a dreamer and an idealist with anti-establishment sentiments and anger running in his veins. His blood boils due to the apathy all around. He is an agnostic and also a nihilist-anarchist. I am a huge fan of this great singer-songwriter-musician-author-actor-activist-thinker-blogger-journalist-parliamentarian. Still today whenever I am sad, depressed or feeling suicidal, I switch off the lights in my bedroom, put my cell-phone in the silent mode and then I listen to Kabir Suman's songs. 

Music is actually Kabir Suman's religion. His religious hymns are Ustad Amir Khan's khayals. His Bhagwad Gita is Rabindrasangeet. And his Prophet is Sukumar Ray. Bangla Kirtan and Baul Fakiri songs have influenced him. On the other hand Wolf Bierrman, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, John Lennon and western classical music have also influenced him. At almost all his concerts he pays tributes to Rabindranath Tagore, Kaji Nazrul Islam, Jnan Prakash Ghosh, Pannalal Ghosh, Himangshu Dutta, Salil Chowdhury, Nachiketa Ghosh, Anupam Ghatak and others. Kabir Suman is an encyclopedia in music. Nowadays he is also trying to compose his own bangla kheyals. He firmly believes that kheyals can be composed in the bengali language. In the recent past he has done many concerts solely dedicated to bangla kheyals. These concerts on bangla kheyals are a real treat for the listeners. I have attended almost all of them and my interest in kheyals have increased by leaps and bounds. 

Even at this ripe age he still performs for three hours in his shows with just a ten-fifteen minute interval. Imagine his energy levels and his inner strengths. Salute to this Urban Troubadour. Kabir Suman Ekoks have become like major life changing events for his fans. Every time you see the same old faces, with newer ones joining us at each concert. Its a great occasion for his fans to meet with each other. Its a happy occasion. A small but powerful Kabir Suman community has developed among his fans. In some of his concerts in Calcutta, even his fans from Bangladesh, and from other parts of the globe, have come also. I still remember many years back the great English Professor Ananda Lal had written an article in The Telegraph titled Kabir Suman's Fan Following Still Intact. In that article he talked about one evening when it was not raining cats and dogs but hippopotamuses and rhinoceroses and still Kabir Suman's concert at Kala Mandir was packed to capacity. There was not even a single empty seat in the whole auditorium.  

I remember his concert on 31st December 2012 at Kala Mandir where many of his Bangladeshi fans had also come. After the concert, me and few of my friends from Calcutta and around five-six boys from Bangladesh got together and spent the entire night at Park Street, Esplanade and its adjoining areas. After the concert we all went to booze at a Bar at Esplanade. Then we all roamed throughout Esplanade and Park Street and sang Kabir Suman's songs. The entire night was dedicated to the Maestro. Around dawn we went to Victoria Memorial. This Indo-Bangla night-out was real fun and a memorable one. It was one of the best way to usher in the new year. 

Here I have to make a confession. Once in 2009 I bought three balcony tickets for a Kabir Suman concert at Kala Mandir. I sat in the middle seat and kept my right and left seats empty. I wanted to sit comfortably with my arms and legs stretched. Usually I always buy two tickets for every concert with the hope that some lady friend of mine would accompany me. It is an ethereal moment and a divine feeling to hold my beloved's hand inside the dark auditorium when Kabir Suman is singing his romantic songs. I have experienced that feeling several times and nothing could be more romantic than that. Kabir Suman's songs can make two Souls fall truly, madly, deeply, savagely, helplessly and hopelessly in love with each other. I have myself fallen so many times in love at Kabir Suman's concerts. After the concert gets over, it feels as if nothing else exists in this universe.  

Kabir Suman came close to TMC and its supremo Mamata Banerjee after getting involved with the Singur-Nandigram-Lalgarh movement from the first day. He had a big role to play in this movement from Day One. But soon after being elected an MP on a TMC ticket in 2009, he had a fallout with the party members. Cornered and friendless, Suman started withdrawing into a shell, only allowing a chosen few entry into his home and heart. After TMC came to power in Bengal, Suman took a stance against it and even composed several songs against the party's policies. Only with the rise of BJP in the Centre, Kabir Suman and TMC once again came close as Suman explained that BJP's rise in Bengal would be a bad thing for the State and only TMC has the power and strength to counter BJP in Bengal.  

I was, and still is, in mythical awe of this man. He also has this Che Guevara-ish aura around him which makes him simply irresistible. But one cannot define or describe Kabir Suman in mere words. He is a once in a lifetime phenomenon. I consider myself very lucky that I am living during the life and times of Kabir Suman. He is my Bhagwan, my Lord, my Allah, my God, my Prophet, my Messiah, my Saviour. Here is a poem on Kabir Suman written by Joy Goswami : 

Sumoney Dekha Holo Shokaaley
Rattirey Amjadey Mohua
Na Bujhey Jar Dikey Taakali
Se Tor Kirton Bondhuya

Bashi Te Joto Gaan Rakhaler

E Ghaatey Eshey Tara Jol Nyay
Bhulechey Snaney Jawa Meyera
Surer Taney Nyay Onnay 

Surer Desh Bhag Hoina

Jokhoni Surey Jabey Se Pakhi
Aamra Dol Bendhey Shunbo
Kabir Sumaner Ekaaki

Agun Chhele Meye Aamader

Akash Aaj Aamader Dokholey
Je Jar Bondhuya Ke Dekey Nao
Sumoney Dekha Koro Shokoley...

In the above picture I am holding the hand of my Prophet at the entrance of Birla Academy on Southern Avenue. That evening he sang only bangla kheyals. It was an awesome evening. Here is a poem which I had written about Kabir Suman almost a decade back :

Also once in 2009, at a Kala Mandir concert, I saw a girl there and immediately fell truly, madly, deeply, savagely, helplessly and hopelessly in love with her. Came back home and composed this poem. Though sadly she never reciprocated my feelings and today is married to some one else, still this poem is with me reminding me of her beautiful eyes : 

Here is a short bio-data about Kabir Suman. He was born on 16th March 1949 at Cuttack, Orissa. His father's name was Sudhindra Nath Chattopadhyay and his mother's name was Uma Chattopadhyay. He graduated in English Literature (Hons.) from Jadavpur University in 1969, has a Diploma in French language from Jadavpur University and also a Diploma in German language from Ludvik Maximillian University, Munich, Germany. Here is a picture of a young Kabir Suman with his parents and his elder brother. 

He worked from 1970–1971 as a Radio artiste at All India Radio, Kolkata, Dept. of English Talks. From 1971–1975 he worked as a Bank employee at United Bank of India, Kolkata. From 1975–1979 he worked as a Radio Journalist in Voice of Germany (Bengali Dept.), Cologne, Germany. From 1980–1985 he worked as a Radio Journalist at International Radio Broadcaster, Voice of America (Bengali Dept.), Washington D.C., U. S. A. From 1986–1989 he again worked as a Radio Journalist, Senior Editor, Voice of Germany (Bengali Dept.), Cologne, Germany. 

It is true that Kabir Suman has married five times as he himself declared it in The Telegraph on 2nd September 2007. He had a Bengali wife in seventies, before he flew for Germany. The marriage was made in Hindu Marriage Act, but was not registered. Suman met Maria in 1988 in Cologne, Germany. He was very busy in those days, had a lot of things to do, and was also taking lessons in western classical music from Beltrami, an Italian gentleman. Maria was a house-wife, just divorced, with five children and a year older to him. Their friendship gradually matured into love. In 1989, Suman returned to Calcutta. Maria came in 1990. Next year they got married. It was Suman's fourth marriage and he really wanted it to last. He has never fathered a child. So, he adopted Maria's fifth child, Virginia. He has proclaimed his love for Maria at various concerts. Tomar Tulona Aami Khujini Kakhono was written for her. But somehow things went downhill in their marriage. After converting to Islam, he married Sabina Yasmin. In an interview he admitted that he is a polygamous man and still falls in love even at this age. I personally have no interest in how many times he got married or how many girlfriends he had or has. What matters to me is his music.  

Musically Kabir Suman was trained in various forms of Bengali songs since childhood. From the age of twelve, he started to take lessons in Hindustani classical music from Kalipada Das. Later, he came in contact with Ustad Amir Khan though he could not become his direct disciple. But Ustad Amir Khan's khayals radicalised him. Suman's inspiration lay in Ustad Amir Khan's khayals, his style and view of khayal, and the way the maestro took the khayal form on. By listening to Ustad ji, he started to question himself. It was he who taught Suman to look into himself and seek an answer. From 1962–1975 Suman was trained in Indian Classical Music (Kheyal) and from 1986–1989 he was trained in Western Classical guitar in Cologne, Germany. He started learning to play the western classical guitar at the age of thirty seven. From 1966–1975 he regularly sang Rabindrasangeet and modern Bengali songs in the 2nd highest category in AIR, Kolkata. In 1972–1973, 2 Records on Rabindrasangeet (4 songs) were released. In 1992, his first original album on modern Bengali songs titled Tomake Chai was released. From 1992 till date, he has released nineteen studio albums. Since his Nagorik days, he has had more than twenty one collaborative albums. Among all his collaborative albums, my most favourite one is Onekdin Por. 

From 1993 he was the Music Director in Bengali feature films like Mahasangram, Attojaa, Shedin Choitromash, Suryakanya, Katha, DietKrishnochuraJatishwar and Shankar Mudi. He has sung songs for films like Obhimaane Onuraage (1992, Unreleased), Attojaa (1993, No Audio Release), Mahasangram (1994), Bhoy (1996), Krishnochura [Bilingual in Assamese (released) and Bengali (unreleased)] (1995), Jodhdha (1995), Shedin Choitromash (1997), Suryakanya (1998), Katha (2007, No Audio Release), Ranjana Ami Aar Ashbona (2011), Kangal Malsat (2013), Jaatishwar (2014), Rajkahini (2015) and Shankar Mudi (2016). He was also involved musically with the documentary Die glücklichsten Menschen der Welt in 2005. He was also involved in a virtual opera named Virtuopera. This was the first internet opera by the famous German composer Eberhard Schoener which was held at Max Mueller Bhawan at Calcutta in 2001. Eberhard had heard Suman perform at the 10th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall and was highly impressed. He brought his whole team to this city, as Suman could not go to them and they incorporated Calcutta in their storyline. 

I loved Kabir Suman's performance as Stanley Bose in the film Ranjana Aami Aar Ashbona. After Neel Dutta won a National Award for this film, a slight frost had set in between Kabir Suman and Anjan Dutta. The thaw happened when Kabir Suman himself won the National Award for Jatishwar. Jatishwar's music album is a milestone in the history of bengali film music. I loved the way the words were changed from an old Kabir Suman song into Khudar Kasam Jaan to fit into the time-zone and mood of the film. There were twenty three songs in this film album and each one is a precious gem. 

Also I loved Kabir Suman's acting in Kangal Malsat as Dandabayosh. The way he said his dialogues, his body language, the firm look in his eyes, it all created an everlasting impression. His song Jhinchak Chhara Kichhu Thakbena from Kangal Malsat is my personal favourite. Here are the lyrics of this song, which I am damn sure that you will not find anywhere else in the internet :

Jhinchak Chhara Kichhu Thakbena
Jhinchak Chhara Kichhu Thakbena
Thakbey Shopping Mall 
New AC Market
Bosti-guloi Hobey 
Promotaari Target
Agun Lagbey Khub 
Jomi Saaf Kortey
Gorib Chutiya-ra Toh 
Jonmechhey Mortey
Jhinchak Chhara Kichhu Thakbena
Jhinchak Chhara Kichhu Thakbena
Chash-er Jomitey Holo 
New Town Rajarhat
Jol Jomi Benchey Diye 
Boro Laat Chhoto Laat
Chasi-gulo Bhegey Gechey 
Dhyamnna Saap-er Dol
Jomi Maaney Aabason 
Songey Shopping Mall
Jhinchak Chhara Kichhu Thakbena
Jhinchak Chhara Kichhu Thakbena
Lakh Lakh Der Koti 
Jhinchak Bencha Flat
Takar Muthoy Dhora 
Shob Shala Jhinchak
Darowan Tarowan 
Howa Jabey Banchtey
Baal Chhirey Aanti Bendhey 
Jhinchak Naachtey
Jhinchak Chhara Kichhu Thakbena
Jhinchak Chhara Kichhu Thakbena
Gari Hobey Dharey Kena 
Dhon Bandha Diley Dhar
Tel Joto Dami Hok 
Tel-er-eetoh Kaarbar
Bilet Banano Hobey 
Jhinchak Khowabey
Jhinchak Noi Jara 
Pod-ey Matha Nowabey
Jhinchak Chhara Kichhu Thakbena
Jhinchak Chhara Kichhu Thakbena...

He has published a number of songs which have been composed by him but were sung by others. Artistes who have sung songs written by him (in feature films & albums) are Sandhya Mukherjee, Sabina Yasmin, Haimanti Shukla, Nachiketa Chakraborty, Anjan Dutt, Indrani Sen, Indranil Sen, Lopamudra Mitra, Sriradha Banerjee, Swagatalaxmi Dasgupta and others. Among his compilation albums, my most favourite is Tribeni which was released in 1997. I was 15 years old then. My father had brought this audio cassette to me. My life changed forever. Used to listen to it day in and day out. This cassette opened a whole new world in front of my eyes back then. And I still have this cassette with me. 

Kabir Suman received the Golden Disc Award from HMV for Tomake Chai on 15th March 1993 at Nazrul Manch. Just before the programme, the President of HMV went and met Suman inside the Green Room and gave him a cheque of only forty thousand rupees as royalty. Suman was never told the exact sales numbers of Tomake Chai. In 1997 he received the Best Music Director & Best Singer Award from Bengal Film Journalists’ Association for the film Shedin Choitromash, which was directed by Prabhat Roy. In 1997 he received the BFJA Award for Best Lyrics for Bhai. In 2014 he received the National Film Award for Best Music Direction for the film Jatishwar. In 2014 he received the Mirchi Music Awards Bangla for Music Composer of The Year for E Tumi Kemon Tumi from the film Jatishwar. In 2014 he also received the Mirchi Music Awards Bangla for Lyricist of The Year for Khudar Kasam Jaan, again from Jatishwar. He was honoured with Sangeet Mahasamman by Government of West Bengal in 2015. 

In 1987, Mukto Nicaragua – a first-hand account on the revolution in Nicaragua (K. P. Bagchi) was published. In 1993 his musical biography (1st Edition) titled Hoye Otha Gaan (Aajkaal) was published. In 1994, Sumaner Gaan Sumaner Bhashya (Protibhash) was published. In 1996, Allkhallya, a collection of articles based on real life experiences (Fourth Estate) was published. In 1997, Durer Janla, a collection of articles featured in Desh magazine from 1980–1985 (Anjali) was published. In 2002, Ritimoto Novel was published by Saptarshi. In 2003, another novel titled 52 was published again by Saptarshi. In 2005, Kon Pothey Gelo Gaan, a critique on the history of modern Bengali songs was published by Aajkaal. In 2007, Morudyane Nandigram, a collection of articles published in newspapers was published by Bijolpo. In 2009, Durer Janla was republished by Saptarshi. In 2010 Nishaner Naam Taposhi Malik was published by Mitra & Ghosh Publishers. From 1993 to 2016, collection of the lyrics of Suman’s songs have been published in eight volumes, first by Swatantro and then by Saptarshi. 

Articles, features & columns based on his journalistic career have been published in Desh, Ananda Bazaar Patrika, Aajkaal, Frontier, Aajbikash, Sangeet Natak Academy magazine (Delhi) and various other magazines. Infact he used to write under the pseudonym Manab Mitra at Desh because there was another journalist with the name Suman Chattopadhyay who was also writing for the same magazine. Later on these writings came out in the book titled Durer Janala. Again since he was working as a radio journalist in a foreign land, there was a clause in his contract that he would not be able to write as a journalist elsewhere. This was another reason why Kabir Suman had to use the name Manab Mitra. 

Discovering The Other America is a book where Kabir Suman holds conversations with radical personalities like Maya Angelou, Pete Seeger, Noam Chomsky, Holly Near and others. This book was published in 2012 by Thema. I was there at the official launch of this book. That evening Kabir Suman was at his humourous best. 

Kabir Suman was involved in Television journalism. From 2003 to 2004 he anchored the programme Live Doshtae at Tara Newz. From 2005 to 2007 he hosted the programme named Motamot again on Tara Newz. Around those days there used to be a programme titled Hadishpur Junction on Kolkata TV. I used to watch this programme regularly and loved it whenever Kabir Suman appeared there. Also I loved a particular episode of Ranjon Bandopadhyay's programme Boi Pora Boi Para on Tara Newz which featured Kabir Suman. I simply love Ranjon Bandopadhyay a lot and admire him very much. 

In 2002, Kabir Suman acted in Char Adhyay, a Telefilm directed by Sharan Dutta. Around 2005–2006 he acted in a TV serial for ETV Bangla named Chhayamanush. In 2005 he acted in a telefilm named Babar Christmas which was directed by Anjan Dutt. In 2005 he acted in the theatre named Samudrer Mouno directed by Kaushik Sen. In 2006 he played a small part in Suman Mukhopadhyay's film HerbertThe film won the Silver Lotus for the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Bengali, Audience Award at the Dhaka International Film Festival and the Lankesh Award for Best Debut Director in Bangalore. In 2007 he again acted in a film titled Katha which was directed by Shankho Ghosh. In 2008 he acted again in Suman Mukhopadhyay's Chaturango. The film received the Gran Prix at Bridge Fest, Sarajevo, Best Director Award at Philadelphia Independent Film Festival and the Golden Palm at Mexico International Film Festival. In 2013 he played a major role again in Suman Mukhopadhyay's Kangal Malsat. The director confessed in an interview that except Kabir Suman, no one else could have played the role of Dandabayosh.

In 2014 he was the music director for Srijit Mukherjee's Jatiswar. The director confessed in an interview that no one except Kabir Suman could have given the music for this film. At the 61st National Film Awards, this film won the Best Music Director, Best Male Playback Singer, Best Make-Up Artist and Best Costume Design. In 2012 Kabir Suman sang a beautiful song named Roj Shokal for the film Atta Aat-er Bonga Local. Though for some strange reasons this song was not included in the film. In 2016 he composed the music for Aniket Chattopadhyay's film Shankar Mudi. His version of the song John Henry instantly became very popular.  

And lastly here is a documentary on Kabir Suman made by Sudipto Chatterjee in 1996. His song Jodi Bhabo Kinchho Amay Bhul Bhebechho summarizes him perfectly. No body, no institution, no political party could buy him or control him or manipulate him. He was and still is above every thing else. Music is his only Master. Nothing else. No one else. I must mention here that just four hours after his father's death, Kabir Suman had performed in a concert at Kalyani.  

These days Kabir Suman uploads his songs, videos and thoughts at his website www.kabirsumanonline.com. His Thus Spake Maqbul series have become immensely popular. Recently he launched another series titled My Musical Autobiography which have again become extremely popular. Finally here is the autograph of Kabir Suman which I had taken almost a decade back. I touched his feet with my hands. He said, Kalyan Hok Tomar... 

P.S. : Few pictures used in this Blog-Post have been taken from the Facebook profiles of Anjan Mitra, Sumanta Bhattacharya, Srijan Chatterjee, Mithu Singharay and others. The rest are from the internet. And I have scanned some of them from his books and The Telegraph Magazine of 1997.