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Music of Bengal

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Montage of Bengal.jpg

Bengali music (Bengali: বাংলা সংগীত) comprises a long tradition of religious and secular song-writing over a period of almost a millennium. Composed with lyrics in the Bengali language, Bengali music spans a wide variety of styles.

The Bengal region of the Indian subcontinent is currently split between Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal.


The earliest music in Bengal was influenced by Sanskrit chants, and evolved under the influence of Vaishnav poetry such as the 13th-century Gitagovindam by Jayadeva, whose work continues to be sung in many eastern Hindu temples. The Middle Ages saw a mixture of Hindu and Islamic trends when the musical tradition was formalized under the patronage of Nawabs and the powerful landlords baro bhuiyans.

Much of the early canon is devotional, as in the Hindu devotional songs of Ramprasad Sen a bhakta who captures the Bengali ethos in his poetic, rustic, and ecstatic vision of the Hindu goddess of time and destruction in her motherly incarnation, Ma Kali. Another writer of the time was Vidyapati. Notable in this devotional poetry is an earthiness that does not distinguish between love in its carnal and devotional forms; some see connections between this and Tantra, which originated some time in the middle of the first millennium CE.


Bishnupur Gharana

The Bishnupur Gharana is the sole Classical (Drupad) gharana of Bengal. It originated in Bishnupur, Bankura by the court musicians of the Malla Kings. Bahadur Khan of Delhi, a descendant of the Tansen, was the father of Bishnupur Gharana. Bahadur Khan was brought to Bishnupur by Malla King Raghunath Singha II.


The Bauls (meaning "divinely inspired insanity") are a group of mystic minstrels (Muslim Sufis and Hindu Baishnos) from the Bengal region, who sang primarily in the 17th and 18th centuries. They are thought to have been influenced greatly by the Hindu tantric sect of the Kartabhajas as well as by Muslim Sufi philosophers. Bauls traveled and sang in search of the internal ideal, Moner Manush (Man of the Heart or the inner being), and described "superfluous" differences between religions. Lalon Fakir, alternatively known as Lalon Shah, who lived in the 19th century in and around Kushtia, is considered to be the greatest of all bauls.

Rabindra Sangeet

The greatest personality in Bengali music is, without a doubt, none other than Rabindranath Tagore (known in Bengali as Robi Thakur and Gurudeb, the latter meaning "Respected Teacher" (in the Bengal of that time, the suffix 'deb' was an honorific, ascribed to people who enjoyed immense respect, but this title was primarily used by his students at Santiniketan, though many others did use the address[1]). Tagore was a prolific composer with around 2,230 songs to his credit.[2] His songs are known as rabindrasangit ("Tagore Song"), which merges fluidly into his literature, most of which—poems or parts of novels, stories, or plays alike—were lyricised. Influenced by the thumri style of Hindustani music, they ran the entire gamut of human emotion, ranging from his early dirge-like Brahmo devotional hymns to quasi-erotic compositions.[3] They emulated the tonal colour of classical ragas to varying extents. Some songs mimicked a given raga's melody and rhythm faithfully; others newly blended elements of different ragas.[4] Yet about nine-tenths of his work was not bhanga gaan, the body of tunes revamped with "fresh value" from select Western, Hindustani, Bengali folk and other regional flavours "external" to Tagore's own ancestral culture.[5] His music is an exemplary instance of 'kavya-geeti', a style of composition that later found widespread use in the music industries at Bombay and Calcutta.

In 1971, Amar Shonar Bangla became the national anthem of Bangladesh. It was written — ironically — to protest the 1905 Partition of Bengal along communal lines: cutting off the Muslim-majority East Bengal from Hindu-dominated West Bengal was to avert a regional bloodbath. Tagore saw the partition as a cunning plan to stop the independence movement, and he aimed to rekindle Bengali unity and tar communalism. Jana Gana Mana was written in shadhu-bhasha, a Sanskritised form of Bengali, and is the first of five stanzas of the Brahmo hymn Bharot Bhagyo Bidhata that Tagore composed. It was first sung in 1911 at a Calcutta session of the Indian National Congress[6] and was adopted in 1950 by the Constituent Assembly of the Republic of India as its national anthem.

For Bengalis, the songs' appeal, stemming from the combination of emotive strength and beauty described as surpassing even Tagore's poetry, was such that the Modern Review observed that "[t]here is in Bengal no cultured home where Rabindranath's songs are not sung or at least attempted to be sung... Even illiterate villagers sing his songs".[7] Tagore influenced sitar maestro Vilayat Khan and sarodiyas Buddhadev Dasgupta and Amjad Ali Khan.[4]

Most of his musical poems are detailed in two series of books – the Gitabitan (that only has the texts of the poems) and the Swarabitan (that has the poems and their musical notation). However, there exist several poems of his that are set to music, and yet find no mention in either of the above. These are handed down from his students to their students and so on.

Some of the notable exponents of Rabindrasangeet are Shantideb Ghosh, Shailajaranjan Majumdar, Debabrata Biswas, Pankaj Kumar Mullick, Kalim Sharafi, Kanika Bandyopadhyay, Rajeshwari Datta, Malati Ghoshal, Nilima Sen, Suchitra Mitra, Abhirup Guhathakurta, Laisa Ahmed Lisa, Ashish Bhattacharya, Purba Dam, Aditi Mohsin, Rezwana Choudhury Bannya, Sumitra Sen, Santosh Sengupta, Subinoy Roy, Chinmoy Chatterjee, Hemanta Mukhopadhyay, Dwijen Mukhopadhyay, Sagar Sen, Ashoketaru Bandopadhyay, Santosh Thakur, Supriti Ghosh, Ritu Guha, Purabi Mukhopadhyay, Maya Sen, Bibha Sengupta, Kamala Basu, Sanghamitra Gupta, Geeta Ghatak, Sushil Mullick, Pijushkanti Sarkar, Arghya Sen, Kabir Suman, Sharmila Roy Pommot, Swastika Mukhopadhyay, Shubho Guhathakurta, Rano Guhathakurta, Agnibha Bandopadhyay, Banani Ghosh, Mita Haque, Pramita Mullick, Indrani Sen, Sraboni Sen, Srikanto Acharya, Manoj Murali Nair, Jayati Chakraborty, Supratik Das, Shreya Guhathakurta, Parama Ghatak, Sahana Bajpaie, Durnibar Saha among many many others.

Nazrul Geeti

Another influential body of work is that of Kazi Nazrul Islam, which constitutes what is known as Nazrul geeti.Some of the notable Nazrulgeeti singers from India include Suprova Sircar, Dhirendra Chandra Mitra, Manabendra Mukhopadhyay, Dr. Anjali Mukhopadhyay, Dhiren Bose, Adhir Bagchi, Purabi Dutta, Firoza Begum, Anup Ghoshal, and, Bangladeshi singer Sohrab Hossain.

Shyama Sangeet

Shyama Sangeet is a genre of Bengali devotional songs dedicated to the Hindu goddess Shyama or Kali which is a form of supreme universal mother-goddess Durga or parvati. It is also known as Shaktagiti or Durgastuti. Shyama Sangeet appeals to the common man because it is a musical representation of the relationship of eternal and sublime love and care between the mother and her child. It is free of the common rituals of worship and also the esoteric practice of the Tantra.


Dwijendralal Ray's Dwijendrageeti (the Songs of Dwijendralal), which number over 500, create a separate subgenre of Bengali music. Two of Dwijendralal Ray's most famous compositions are Dhana Dhanya Pushpa Bhara and Banga Amar Janani Amar. Ray is regarded as one of the most important figures in early modern Bengali literature.


Atulprasadi, one of the major lyricist and composers of early-modern period, is also widely popular in Paschimbanga. Atul Prasad is credited with introducing the Thumri style in Bengali music. His songs centred on three broad subjects: patriotism, devotion and love.

Prabhat Samgiita

Prabhát Saḿgiita also known as Songs of a New Dawn and Prabhat Songs, are songs composed by Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar. Sarkar composed a total of 5,018 songs including the lyrics and the tune, in a period of eight years from 1982 until his death in 1990, making using of eight different languages: Bengali, Hindi, English, Sanskrit, Urdu, Magahi, Maithili and Angika.


  • Bhatiali
  • Bhawaiya
  • Dhamail
  • Gombhira
  • Kavigan, poems sung with simple music usually presented on stage as a musical battle between poets.
  • Jatra Pala, songs associated exclusively with plays (performed on-stage). Usually involves colourful presentations of historical themes.

Numerous other poets and composers had laid the foundation for the rich repertoire of Bengali music in the 19th century and early 20th century. Some stalwarts of this ear include Ramnidhi Gupta (commonly known as Nidhu Babu), Lalon Fakir, Atulprasad Sen, Dwijendralal Ray, Rajanikanta Sen and a large canon of patriotic songs from India's Independence movement. [8]

Modern Bengali music

Modern Bengali music has been enriched by Indian singers like Jaganmoy Mitra (1918-2003 ) (who is considered a pioneer of modern song), as well as artists such as Hemanta Kumar Mukhopadhyay, Manabendra Mukhopadhyay, Sandhya Mukhopadhyay, Manna Dey, Geeta Dutta, Sachin Dev Burman, Dr. Bhupen Hazarika, Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhonsle, Kishore Kumar, Aarti Mukherji, Amit Kumar, Shibaji Chatterjee, Kumar Sanu, Dhananjay Bhattacharya, Shyamal Mitra, Shreya Ghoshal, Tarun Bandopadhyay, Satinath Mukhopadhyay, Sreeradha Bandyopadhyay, Dwijen Mukhopadhyay, Manabendra Mukhopadhyay, Mitali Mukherjee, Sudhirlal Chakraborty (1916-1952), Robin Majumdar, Bechu Dutta, Gourikedar Bhattacharya, Satya Chowdhury, Sachin Gupta, Subir Sen, Dilip Kumar Roy, Uma Bose, Kanan Devi, Sabitri Ghosh, Ila Ghosh, Kamala Jharia, Angurbala, Indubala, Utpala Sen, Gayatri Bose, Supriti Ghosh, Alpana Banerjee, Protima Banerjee, Sabita Chowdhury. Manas Khanda

Azam Khan, Abdul Jabbar, Apel Mahmud, Ferdousi Rahman, Khurshid Alam, Bashir Ahmed, Syed Abdul Hadi, Shahnaz Rahmatullah, Kalim Sharafi, Abida Sultana, Kanak Chapa, Shakila Zafar, Samina Chowdhury, Happy Akhond, Lucky Akond, Maqsood, Arnob, Mila, Farida Parvin, Latif Sani, Bari Siddiki, Anusheh Anadil, Sabina Yasmin, and Runa Laila all hailing from Bangladesh.

Krishna Chandra Dey, Bhabani Charan Das, Radharani Debi, Mrinalkanti Ghosh, Pannalal Bhattacharya, Hiralal Sarkhel, Nirmal Bhattacharya, Kirtan samrat Ratneswar Mukhopadhyay and Gitashree Chhabi Bandopadhyay were famous for their renditions of devotional songs, while Abbasuddin Ahmed, Abdul Alim, Rahoman Boyati, Indromohon Rajbongshi, Kiran Chandra Roy, Manas Khanda Nirmalendu Chowdhury were stalwarts in singing Bengali folk music. Sanat Sinha and Japamala Ghosh carved out a niche in children's songs.

Bengali music is highly indebted to legends like Kazi Nazrul Islam, Rabindranath Tagore, Jasim Uddin, Fokir Lalon SaNi, Baul Abdul Karim, Hason Raza, Kari Amiruddin, Kobi Zalal and many more.

All traditional Bengali music is based on classical music or on its variations. Some of the most reputed classical musicians of the sub-continent come from Bengal including Ustad Allauddin Khan, Sangeetacharya Tarapada Chakraborty, Pandit Jnan Prakash Ghosh (1909-1987), Pandit Ravi Shankar, Pandit Manas Chakraborty, Ustad Ayet Ali Khan and Ustad Abed Hossain Khan.

Notable Bengali music composers active in Calcutta (Kolkata) in the 1930s through the 1980s include Himangshu Dutta, Kamal Dasgupta, Rai Chand Boral, Timirbaran Bhattacharya, Pankaj Kumar Mullick, Anupam Ghatak, Sachin Dev Burman, Durga Sen, Kalipada Sen, Gopen Mullick, Nachiketa Ghosh, Akhilbandhu Ghosh (1920-1988), Robin Chattopadhyay, Hemanta Kumar Mukhopadhyay, Salil Chowdhury, Sudhin Dasgupta, Shyamal Mitra, Pabitra Chattopadhyay, Anal Chattopadhyay, Anil Bagchi, Abhijit Bandopadhyay, Rahul Deb Burman, Kabir Suman Ajoy Das, and Bappi Lahiri, while Ajoy Bhattacharya, Hiren Bose, Subodh Purakayastha, Pranab Roy, Sailen Roy, Gouri Prasanna Majumdar, Shyamal Gupta, Pulak Bandyopadhyay and Mukul Dutta were well-known lyricists.Jeet Ganguly is a modern music composer of Bengali film songs and Bollywood songs.

Bengali rock

Bengali rock is a music genre in which the song lyrics are written in the Bengali language. It may refer to:

Western influence has resulted in the emergence of the phenomenon of Bengali bands, both in Dhaka and in Kolkata, as well as songs reflecting the joys and sorrows of the common man, Jibonmukhi Gaan (songs from life). Bengali bands became popular with young people in the 1970s, both in India and Bangladesh, and have since become entrenched in modern Bengali culture. Recently, traditional folk-based Bengali songs are also being released by bands.

Rock music of West Bengal

Rock music of West Bengal originated in Kolkata, West Bengal, India . The first known Bengali rock band was Moheener Ghoraguli and also India's first rock band. In modern times, in this type of music distorted electric guitars, bass guitar, and drums are used, and sometimes accompanied with pianos and keyboards and in early times the instruments used in the modern times were also accompanied by saxophone, flute, violin and bass violin . Bhoomi a Bengali rock band formed in 1999 has also been using flute in their music .

Rock music of Bangladesh

Bangladeshi rock is the rock music of Bangladesh. It originated in Chittagong with Souls, which was formed in 1970. Distortion, electric and bass guitars and drums are used, sometimes accompanied by piano or other keyboard instruments . In the past, it was accompanied by saxophone, flute, violin and bass violin.

Famous Band


Some famous Bangladeshi bands are Miles, Nagar Baul, Ark, LRB, Warfaze, Feedback, Souls, Prometheus, Ark, Joler Gaan, Renaissance, Nova, Obscure, Chime, Artcell, Aurthohin, Maqsood O Dhaka, Black, Shironaamhin, Cryptic Fate, Scarecrow, Arbovirus, Nemesis Renaissance.


Bands like Mohiner Ghoraguli, Bhoomi, Chandrabindoo, A5, Porosh Pathor, Fossils (band), Cactus (Indian band), Lakkhichhara, Autonomous Beatz, Krosswindz, Kalpurush([9]), Skinny Alley, Prachir, The Anupam Roy Band, Cross Theory - India, Ragaaz, Shahar, Alienz, Eeshaan, Calcutta Blues, Kaya, Blood, Cryptic Road, Adhyay-অধ্যায়, N10, Prithibi, Pota R Marudyan etc.

English bands from Kolkata include Cassini's Division, Bolepur Bluez, Insomnia (band), Underground Authority, Pseudonym, Chronic Xorn, Yonsample, What Escapes Me, Evil Conscience of Kolkata, India are also notable. Singers like Ajoy Chakraborty and Kaushiki Chakraborty are working to bring back classical raga influence into Bengali music.

Bengali bands use a wide variety of styles such as rock, pop, folk, and fusion. Their music is influenced both by popular American music as well as traditional Bengali folk music such as Zaari, Saari, Bhatiali, Bhawaiya, Shyama Sangeet and Baul.

Bangladeshi hip hop

Bangladeshi hip hop is a genre of music and culture that covers a variety of styles of hip hop music developed in Bangladesh.Bangladeshi hip hop is heavily influenced by US hip hop, and started in early 2000.


  1. ^ Devi, Maitreyi (May 1983). Na Hanyate (First Edition, Seventh Reprint ed.). Kolkata: Upama Sengupta; Prima Publications. pp. 1, 23, 59.
  2. ^ Sanjukta Dasgupta; Chinmoy Guha (2013). Tagore-At Home in the World. SAGE Publications. p. 254. ISBN 978-81-321-1084-2.
  3. ^ Tagore, Dutta & Robinson 1997, p. 94.
  4. ^ a b Dasgupta, Anirban (2001), "Rabindra-Sangeet as a Resource for Indian Classical Bandishes", Parabaas (published 15 July 2001), retrieved 17 September 2011
  5. ^ Ghosh, Bhaswati (2011), "Inside the World of Tagore's Music", Parabaas (published August 2011), retrieved 17 September 2011
  6. ^ Monish R. Chatterjee (13 August 2003). "Tagore and Jana Gana Mana".
  7. ^ Tagore, Dutta & Robinson 1997, p. 359.
  8. ^ Chatterjee, Gita. Bengal's Swadeshi Samgīt. Published in Banerjee, Jayasri (ed.), The Music of Bengal. Baroda: Indian Musicological Society, 1987.
  9. ^

Works cited

This page was last edited on 20 November 2018, at 14:20
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