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The Bohemian Humanist

Sanjeeb Chowdhury

  • Rajib Kanti Roy
  • 25 December, 2015 12:00 AM
  • Print news

 

The political activist and journalist wanted to catch that dream bird, the lyricist tried to speak about that dream and the artiste tried to express the words of his heart; he was none other than Sanjeeb Chowdhury. This rare born talent had a short lifespan of only 44 years. During his student life he was influenced by leftist political ideologies. After joining journalism, he stayed in the profession for about twenty years and his singing car

for which he achieved immense popularity, was not more than 10 years. During his short musical career he was able to create a permanent place in our socio-cultural arena for which people often recall this genius and his works. A gifted creative artiste Sanjeeb was born at Makalkandi village, Baniachang upazilla, Habiganj district on 25 December 1962. Today, it is Sanjeeb Chowdhury’s 53rd birth anniversary. On this occasion, morning tea pays tribute to this bohemian humanist.
Though Sanjeeb was born in Baniachang, his ancestral home was at Dashghar village, Biswanath upazilla, Sylhet district. Local zaminder Shorot Roy Chowdhury was his grandfather. He was the seventh child among the nine children of his parents Gopal Chowdhury and Probhashini Chowdhury. Sanjeeb was admitted in Habiganj Government High School. From the early childhood he was brilliant in academic studies. He obtained primary and junior scholarship in talent pool in class five and eight. From Habiganj, he was shifted to study in capital’s Bakshibazar’s Nobokumar Institute from where he passed SSC in 1978. He passed HSC from Dhaka College in 1980. Sanjeeb Chowdhury secured position in the combined merit list in both of the examinations. Then he went to study

 

mathematics in the University of Dhaka. The fatalist young boy found no interest in mathematical equations and so he changed his subject. Sanjeeb completed graduation and post graduation in mass communication and journalism from the same university. He was a sensitive person who was well aware about the economic discrimination in our society. With a dream to change the fate of the mass people, he became involved with the leftist politics. He became the cultural secretary of Bangladesh Students’ Union. His energetic direction built a strong cultural team which played a significant role in the late eighties during the ‘Anti-Autocracy’ movement against the military dictator Hussain Muhammad Ershad. In those days, he was one of the active participants in the street processions. Sanjeeb was a familiar face in most of the meetings as the leader of a cultural group which sung gono sangeets and patriotic songs to motivate the mass people.

 


The first and foremost requisite quality of a true leftist is that he has to be declassed and perhaps this is the hardest task for anybody, especially in a class-based society like ours. Sanjeeb could easily do that. While he interacted with the people from lower strata of the society, he never had any influence of class consciousness. So, it was natural on his part to keep close relationships with the peons or even cleaners of Jagannath Hall. He read maximum of the books related to leftist politics and communist revolutions which helped him to understand the phenomena of complex social discourses. Sanjeeb could analyze the incidents of local and international arena even in that early stage of his life. He edited and published a little magazine named Mainak, in the Amar Ekushey Boi Mela in 1983. His vast reading in different domains of knowledge, especially in literature was amazing. By that time, he started to write in different newspapers and little magazines. Almost all the newspapers of that time published his poems. His only compilation of short stories Rush print was published in that time. It was selected as the best short story compilation of that year by Bangla Academy. Eminent intellectual Ahmed Sofa once highly praised one of his write-ups, which encouraged him greatly. Time changed Sanjeeb’s role as he had to choose his profession to meet the demands of life, but he never compromised with his political ideologies. He hoped for a country where every citizen practically will have equal rights and opportunities. His fight was against all sorts of imperial, communal, colonial and autocratic powers, which are responsible for the sufferings of humanity.

 


Sanjeeb started his journalism career by working in the Daily Uttoron. Later, he worked at leading daily newspapers like Ajker Kagoj, Bhorer Kagoj, Jayjaydin as well as in many other daily and weekly publications. He was one of the influential journalists who brought a new style in journalism during the nineties. Before the ‘90s newspapers were full of monotonous news reports only. While working in Bhorer Kagoj, for the first time, he introduced feature writing in daily newspapers. Serious readers finally found something to read in the newspapers. This timely decision ultimately boosted the circulation of the newspaper dramatically. Following that trend other daily newspapers also started to publish features on various topics. Sanjeeb’s in-depth knowledge on diverse issues, classy selection of subject matter, clear photos, new style of presentation literally increased the attraction of the readers towards the newspaper. A large numbers of students, amateur writers and fresh journalists received the initial training from him who are now working successfully in various print and electronic medias. Sanjeeb Chowdhury first introduced the idea of communicating with the readers through establishing Bhorer Kagoj Pathok Forum. This was the first readers based organization of a daily newspaper in Bangladesh. Now almost all the daily newspapers of our country have such organization where their readers can participate actively through expressing their opinions. This innovative trend opened a new window for the newspapers to work on different social issues.
Sanjeeb Chowdhury was an intensive listener of different genres of music from his early childhood days. He loved Pink Floyd, Al Stewart, Bob Dylan and even listened to Moroccan and Spanish tunes. He was a big admirer of the folk music of our country. In his early years, he was involved with a music group called Shongkhochil. During his university years, he used to hang a harmonium on his shoulder and sing on the streets. He was a charismatic individual, full of life, a man who was totally bohemian and free spirited, genuinely large-at-heart character in the most positive way. During the early nineties, Sanjeeb spent a good amount of time in Shahbagh’s Aziz Super Market. In one of those days prominent singer Hasan Abidur Reza Jewel introduced Bappa Mazumder with him. While preparing music together for an art exhibition of artist Ashok Karmakar, Sanjeeb and Bappa shared their similar music tastes and gradually grew fond of each other, which led them to form Dalchhut in 1996. The very first album of the band, Ah, released in 1997, was not an instant hit; rather it gained immense response eight months later when a music video of one of its songs “Rongila” was aired on television. Dalchhut’s second album, Hridoypur was released in 2000 and it did not take long time to become a bestseller. In 2002, the band’s third album Aakaashchuri was released, which also had a number of popular songs. Sanjeeb was too busy with journalism and Bappa with solo career; as a result, Dalchhut took five years to release their fourth album. The album named Jochnabihar was rekeased in 2007. Earlier Sanjeeb’s only solo album Shopnobaji was released in the market, which also earned huge appreciation.
Sanjeeb Chowdhury was simply brilliant as a singer, music composer and a lyricist. The most popular songs of Dalchhut including Ami tomakei bole debo, Chader jonno gan, Bioscope, Rickshaw kano aste chole na, Amar boyosh holo shatash, Noukavromon, Dukkho bethay mukhta je nil, Jai perie bon, Ektukhani shobuj, Oke dau phirie dau, Valo lage na, Ami phire pete chai, Hridoyer dabi, Bari fera, Chokhta ato poray kano, Hater upor hater porosh, Kotha bolbo na etc. were written, tuned and sung by him. Besides his own numbers, Sanjeeb wrote many popular songs for Bappa Mazumder such as Baji, Shomudro shontan, Ferai shomoy, Shada moyla rongila pale etc. Maximum of his songs were based on his own poems. A book named, Sanjeeb Chowdhury’r Ganer Kobita, consisting his 45 poems was published during the Amar Ekushey Boi Mela in 2010. He selected other poets’ poems to set tune and sing. His popular song Ei noshto shohore was based on a poem by Farhad Mazhar. He also worked on the poems written by Sajjad Sharif, Jafor Ahmed Rashed, Kamruzzaman Kamu and Tokon Thakur.
Bhaj kholo anondo dekhau, a rare metaphysical Bangla song and the only film score by Sanjeeb was a huge hit. Sanjeeb also created some songs based on his social observations. Antorjatik vikkha shongeet and Chol bubaijan were much known as parody songs, but they carry strong latent message for our society about the helpless situation of the poor people. A fourteen year old girl Yasmin Akhter was raped and murdered by a group of police on 24 August, 1995 in Dinajpur. Sanjeeb wrote, tuned and sung a song Ah Yasmin in memory of her which touched the sensitive listeners and created mass opinion in favour of proper justice. When folk poet Shah Abdul Karim’s songs were not that much familiar to the city dwellers, with the permission of him, Sanjeeb sung a few of them including Gari chole na, Kon mestori nau banaise re and presented to the drawing room listeners. From the very beginning, Bangla band music was occupied with monotonous lyrics. Same kind of thoughts and expressions repeatedly came into the band scene. Lack of adequate quality lyricists for band songs was clear to everyone. He wrote alternative lyrics and sung boldly believing on the listeners. Apart from James, it was Sanjeeb Chowdhury, who suddenly changed the trend and added a new life to the Bangla band songs.
Sanjeeb Chowdhury died on 19 November 2007 suffering from brain hemorrhage in a local hospital leaving his wife Khondoker Alema Nasrin Shilpi, only child Kingbodonti and a numerous fans. Even in the last decision of his life, Sanjeeb thought about humanity as he donated his dead body to the Dhaka Medical College so that it can help the medical students for their higher studies. Great artists and poets from Baudelaire to van Gogh are known for practicing bohemian ideals. Whatever the artistic height bohemian Sanjeeb had, he lived a life based on few ethics. Humanism was the principle that he followed throughout his life. Through his political activities, journalism and singing, he was always vocal for the rights of the oppressed people of our society. Remaining true in his expression, no matter in which field Sanjeeb Chowdhury cultivated, he harvested something new and unique for the mass people. That is why when people remember him they find a selfless soul dedicated to humanism.