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Abbasuddin Ahmed , Bhawaiya

Folk singer and composer, Abbasuddin Ahmed was born on October 27, 1901 in the then Cooch Behar in a fairly typical conservative Muslim family and all the traits of a Muslim village boy were embedded in his upbringing. From a very early age, Abbasuddin had a deeply religious bent of mind and at the same time he showed signs of being a lover of music. He was never trained in any formal music school, his musical alma mater was the school of nature.  He came closer to music through the cultural programme at schools and colleges. He was largely a self-taught song composer and singer. For a brief period he learnt music from Ustad Jamiruddin Khan in Kolkata.

Abbassuddin Ahmed started his career by singing modern Bangla songs for the HMV studios, followed by modern songs of poet Kazi Nazrul Islam, the national poet of Bangladesh. He then proposed to Nazrul Islam to write and set to tune Islamic songs, which he sang in numerous numbers and recorded for the HMV studios. 

But Bhawaiya songs, the cradle of which is Cooch Behar, his home, was ingrained in his musical vein. Bhawaiya, Khirol, Chatka and other varieties of folk songs are written in North Bengal dialect and sung in a long drawn melancholy tone, voice breaking down, at points. These varieties of music are North Bengal`s own, especially of Cooch Behar and greater Rangpur district. These songs are also sung in the accompaniment of dotara, but the dotara`s strings are made of Muga thread, not of metal strings and is played differently, with opposite strokes, called ulta dung. Abbasuddin requested HMV to allow him to record Bhawaiya. He was spurned. Regional songs won`t have a market. But Abbasuddin`s records put HMV on a sound economic footing and his request could not be put off for long. Again the beginning was a compromise, Bhawaiya tune and Bhadrolok language `Torsha nadir parey parey o`. This tribute to Torsha river which flows through Cooch Behar led to record sales of the disk. It was then the turn of HMV to request Abbasuddin to record a few more of these. Abbasuddin now played his card and insisted on pure Bhawaiya. The company agreed and then came an avalanche of well chosen, eternally beautiful masterpieces: `Phande pariya baga kandey rey`, `Oki garial bhai`, `Ki o bandhu Kajal bhomora rey`, `Kisher mor randhan, kisher more baran`,`Oki ekbar ashia shonar chand` and many other bhawaiya songs crossed the frontiers of North Bengal and came to occupy a place of pride by the side of other varieties of folk music like bhatiali, marfati, murshidi, jari, sari, dehatattya, bichhedi, etc. which Abbasuddin had also recorded.

Abbasuddin passed away on December 30, 1959.