Firoza Begum’s 91st birth anniv today
Published: 12:45 PM, 28 July 2021 Updated: 01:07 PM, 28 July 2021
Firoza Begum; File Photo
When renowned music artist Firoza Begum sang Nazrul songs, it seemed that Nazrul was singing his songs in her voice. With Nazrul’s music, she became a legend in the Indian subcontinent. She was seen as the symbol of Bangla music to the next generation in the subcontinent. Today (Wednesday, July 28) is the 91st birth anniversary of this legendary Nazrul music artist Firoza Begum.
Born on July 28, 1930, in the Faridpur district, Firoza Begum developed a passion for music since childhood. At the age of 10, Firoza Begum became Kazi Nazrul’s disciple and received training from him. In the 40s, she made her way into the music world.
While studying in the sixth grade, Firoza Begum sang on All India Radio. At the age of 12, her first record came out on the famous gramophone company HMV with Islamic songs on 78 rpm disc. Later, Urdu songs were recorded under the supervision of Kamal Dasgupta.
When Firoza Begum’s older sister and sister-in-law moved from Delhi to Kolkata, she started staying at their home in Baliganj. At that time, she got the opportunity to learn music for four years. But World War II brought her back to Faridpur. Whenever any guest was visiting her home from Kolkata, she used to sing songs sitting inside the trench built near the house.
In 1948-49, Firoza Begum and Talat Mahmud were brought to Dhaka as guest artists. And Dhaka Radio Short Wave was inaugurated by their songs. Her first record published with Nazrul’s song came out in 1949. After Kazi Nazrul became ill, Firoza Begum took steps to preserve the lyrics and melody of Nazrul. She has participated in more than 380 solo concerts in different countries around the world.
Besides Nazrul songs, she has given voice to a variety of music including modern songs, ghazals, qawwali, bhajan, hamd, and naat. In her lifetime, she has released 12 LPs, 4 EPs, 6 CDs, and more than 20 audio cassettes. Nazrul songs were not called music at that time, modern songs were written by Kazi Nazrul Islam. Later on, it became Nazrul Songs under the guidance of Firoza Begum. She was the one who made Nazrul Songs compulsory on All India Radio.
In 1955, she tied the knot with composer, singer, and writer Kamal Dasgupta. During the Durga Puja in 1960, Firoza Begum’s Nazrul songs was released. On that record, Firoza sang the two most popular songs ‘Dur Deepbashini’, and ‘Momer Putul’. After this, no one could stop the popularity of Firoza Begum. Her record became the most sales in the next three months.
In 1967, Firoza Begum returned to the country but fell in trouble. The then Pakistani government ordered her to leave within 24 hours. The telegram came from Rawalpindi because she was blacklisted by the Pakistani government. But her father and brothers fought hard to keep her in the country. Later, the then Pakistan Government realized that it was “silly” to ask such a renowned artist to leave the country.
When Firoza Begum was asked to sing at the inauguration of Islamabad Radio, she sang Bengali songs at first and then Urdu. The Bangla song was ‘O Vai Khati Shonar Cheye Khati Amar Desher Mati’. When the country was in political agitation, she recorded the Bengali songs ‘Joy, Joy, Joy Banglar Joy’ and ‘Jonmo Amar Dhonno Holo Mago’ in EMI Pakistan in Karachi.
One day, she was picked up from a radio station after returning home to sing these songs. After interrogation, they dropped her off at home. She was able to explain her position logically, but the original record of the song was destroyed. She has been harassed multiple times during the 1971’s Liberation War. Even an attempt was made to assassinate her. On December 14, Al-Badr had planned to take her away, like other intellectuals. But she survived that day.
In 1972, she was the chief artist of Bengal Culture-Conference-Stage in Kolkata as a student and a better half of Kamal Dasgupta. Such pursuit for music for more than 65 years is no longer seen on the earth. She has traveled around the world with the songs of Nazrul.
The awards and honors garnered by Firoza Begum include Independence Day Award, Ekushey Padak, Netaji Subhash Chandra Award, Satyajit Ray Award, Nasiruddin Gold Medal, Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy Gold Medal, Best Nazrul Sangeet Singer Award (multiple times), Nazrul Academy Award, and Churulia Gold Medal.
She also received Gold Disk from CBS, Japan and the Meril-Prothom Alo Lifetime honorary award in 2011. On April 12, 2012, she received the ‘Bongo Shomman’ award from West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
Feroza Begum breathed her last on September 9, 2014, due to kidney complications. Her three children – Tahsin Ahmed, Hamin Ahmed, and Shafin Ahmed. Currently, Hamin Ahmed and Shafin Ahmed are the leading personalities in the music industry and the members of the popular band ‘Miles’.