Nazrul on the global stage

In conversation with Professor Rafiqul Islam
Kazi Nazrul Islam’s poetry inculcates the triumph of humanity, while his music soothes the senses with its embrace of eternal love. Eminent Nazrul exponent, researcher and chairman of the Nazrul Institute Trustee Board, Professor Rafiqul Islam, talks about Nazrul on the international level, and the relevance of his literature in the 21st century:
Nazrul had innate poetic abilities. We would like to convey the message of humanity and dignity that Nazrul reverberated in his poetry to the world. We find the relevance of Nazrul’s poetry in the present world brimming with violence, fundamentalism and bigotry.
Today, Bangladesh and India jointly celebrate the 90th anniversary of the publication of Nazrul’s “Bidrohi” (The Rebel), the most outstanding of the National Poet’s creations. This is a rare event where two countries are celebrating a single poem. We haven’t heard of a joint celebration of T.S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland” by USA and UK or Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” by USA and Australia.
To introduce Nazrul’s literary works to the world, especially to the English-speaking world, we have much to do in the days ahead. We are short of resource persons, including translators. The language of translations done in the 20th century has become archaic in the 21st century. Again, the translators must be connoisseurs of poetry; otherwise the translation will be below par. We are looking for new translators for our upcoming mission.
The Nazrul Institute, supported by the Ministry of Cultural Affairs of Bangladesh, has published several research-based works on Nazrul, marking the 100th birth anniversary of the poet.
Dr. Jahangir Tareque, a well-known linguist, litterateur, translator and a Professor at the Institute of Modern Languages, University of Dhaka, translated Nazrul’s works in several languages, including “Kazi Nazrul Islam: Poems Choisis” (French); “Kazi Nazrul Islam: Peomas elegidos” (Spanish); “Kazi Nazrul Islam: Chansons” (French).
Professor Winston E. Langley, Associate Chancellor and Professor of Political Science and International Relations at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, has done single-handedly, more than all others put together, to introduce Nazrul to the English speaking world. Langley’s book, “Kazi Nazrul Islam: The Voice of Poetry and the Struggle for Human Wholeness”, was published by the Nazrul Institute, Dhaka in 2007. A second edition was released in 2009.
In the beginning of the book, Langley placed Nazrul in a historical context and spoke about the significance and characteristics of his poetic voice.
Langley cites English poet Shelley, to whom the poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world and are the voices that unite the collective pursuit of moral development. Although in the post-modern era, many may object to this instrumental view of the purpose of poetry, Shelley’s view of the poets’ role, according to Langley, is personified in Nazrul.
It is amply evident that the work on Nazrul that Langley has embarked on is a true labour of love.
While Winston Langley continues his intellectual and academic endeavour, the couple, Dr. Gulshan Ara Kazi and Kazi M. Belal of (Taranga of California), also remain devoted to the enterprise of introducing Nazrul’s genius to the world.
The Kazi couple’s determined efforts resulted in the setting up of Nazrul Endowment Funds at the California State University and the University of Connecticut. The couple have also been the driving force behind organising periodic Nazrul conferences and symposia in various North American universities.
The fifth Kazi Nazrul Islam Endowed Lectureship Programme at the California State University, Northridge, California was held on October 1, 2011. The event was jointly organised by USA based organisation Taranga (run by Bangladeshi immigrants) and California State University. A cultural programme featuring Nazrul’s songs, music, poetry, dances and drama was also held at the event.
Annual Nazrul Lecture, sponsored by the Nazrul Endowed Program, the Asian American Studies Program and the Asian American Cultural Center of Connecticut State University, Storrs, Connecticut was held on October 5, 2011.
The Nazrul-Burns Centre (The Centre for East-West Arts and Cultural Excellence, Scotland) was established in 2009 at the university of Glasgow in Scotland to promote “multicultural, secular Scottish lifestyle through diverse creative and innovative arts, cultural and leisure activities, including raising the profile of the Bangladeshi National Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam (1899-1976) and the great Scottish National Poet Robert Burns (1759-1796) towards greater understanding and mutual respect.”
Bringing the poet’s work to non-Bengali readers through English translation, however, remains a sporadic and private effort.
Dr. Kueker Neua of Japan has also conducted research on Kazi Nazrul Islam. We have already published books containing over 3000 songs of Kazi Nazrul Islam. A CD of 130 songs (in proper notation) recorded by 130 artistes has also been published in June, last year. BTV regularly airs a programme titled “Geeti Shatodal” on Nazrul Sangeet. I host the programme. I observe that other private television channels don’t give appropriate emphasis on airing Nazrul Sangeet. This needs to be addressed.
To celebrate the 90th anniversary of the publication of Nazrul’s “Bidrohi”, Nazrul Institute organised a two-day (June 24-25, 2011) international conference on Nazrul in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The conference, held at the National Theatre Hall of Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy, brought together scholars and delegations from USA, Netherlands, China, India and Bangladesh.
Professor Winston E. Langley, University of Massachusetts, Boston, USA; Professor Rachael S McDermott, Bernard College, Columbia University, New York; Dr. Peter Custers, writer and journalist from the Netherlands; Young Weing Ming, editor and presenter, China Radio International; Professor Pabitra Sarkar, former Vice Chancellor of Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata, India; the late National Professor of Bangladesh Kabir Chowdhury; Professor Emeritus Serajul Islam Chowdhury; executive director of Nazrul Institute Rashid Haider; poet Mohammad Nurul Huda; Professor Mohit Ul Alam and I gave in-depth presentations on Nazrul at the conference.
Poet Mohammad Nurul Huda presented his keynote paper titled “Universalisation of the Rebel”. In his keynote paper, enriched with apt quotations, allusions and references, Huda drew attention to the different layers of meaning in Nazrul’s “Bidrohi”.
In his brilliant bilingual speech (Bengali and English), Dr. Peter Custers focused on various concepts popularised by Nazrul like “National Awakening”, “The Muslim Renaissance”, “Firm Opposition to Communalism”, “Tolerance and Equality”, “Mysticism and Syncretism” and “The legacy of Religious Tolerance”. His paper was titled, “Kazi Nazrul Islam: Bengal’s Prophet of Tolerance”.
Terming Nazrul as “Mohakobi”, Custers said, “Nazrul needs to be institutionalised internationally as his poems, songs and love are for the universal humanity. Nazrul focussed on religious scriptures like ‘Mahabharat’ and ‘Ramayan’ from different perspectives. He termed the exploited and downtrodden people as ‘Gods’ in his literature.”
In her presentation, (in Bangla) titled “Banglar Nazrul: China-r Nazrul”, Young Weing Ming said, “My Nazrul studies started with the recitation of ‘Bidrohi’. After reading the poem, this certain sensation took over my senses that I can only compare to a volcanic eruption or tsunami.”
Meanwhile International Centre for Nazrul (ICNAZRUL) held its soft launch on May 19, 2012 in Dhaka. The soft launch brought together a select group of guests and representatives from USA, Turkey, Japan and the local community, who will forge a collaborative network to formally launch ICNAZRUL and the 1st ICNAZRUL International Symposium in Dhaka in February 2013. Its planned activities are to translate and publish Nazrul’s works in English and other languages with leading translators; organise, support and collaborate on cultural programmes highlighting Nazrul’s work for the general public and international community; organise International Nazrul conferences and events; support international academic research and publications on Nazrul’s life and works; set up a digital archive of Nazrul’s literature, translations, music and writings.

Courtesy of The Daily Star

Related News

Parents should encourage children pursue dance: discussants

Cultural Desk : Discussants have said that children should be encouraged to pursue dance so that they can grow up healthy individuals. The made the remarks while speaking at a programme organised by dance organisation Nrittangan at the auditorium of National Music and Dance Centre of Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy on Wednesday. The organisation arranged ... Read more

Shilpakala stages ‘Hamlet’

Cultural Desk : Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy staged its acclaimed production titled Hamlet at the National Theatre Hall of the academy on Friday. The play, written by William Shakespeare, has been translated into Bangla by Syed Shamsul Haq. Thespian Ataur Rahman has directed the production. Set in Denmark, Hamlet depicts Prince Hamlet and his attempts ... Read more

Renowned Indian author Samaresh Majumdar dies

Cultural Desk : Renowned Indian author Samaresh Majumdar died in a hospital in Kolkata of Indian state of West Bengal on Monday late afternoon, reports Anandabazar Patrika Online. The report said that the author died at about 5:45pm on Monday. He was 81. Samaresh was suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease for more than ... Read more

Tagore’s 162nd birth anniversary today

Cultural Desk : Today is the 162nd birth anniversary of Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, one of history’s most revered poets and writers, towering above all others in the Bangla canon. Kabiguru Rabindranath, was born at Jorasanko in Kolkata on 25 Baishakh, 1268 (May 7, 1861). He became Asia’s first Nobel laureate after winning the ... Read more

Fourth anniversary of Subir Nandi’s death today

Entertainment Desk : Today is the fourth anniversary of the death of Ekushey Padak-winning singer Subir Nandi, whose contribution to Bangla songs made him a household name, affecting the way how music lovers perceive songs and singing in the post-independence Bangladesh. On November 30, 1953, Subir Nandi was born at Teliapara Tea Estate in ... Read more

The musings of sway

Endless dance to the universal rhythm Sudeshna Swayamprabha Tathoi Arts allow for a semblance of normalcy, an escape from the otherwise cruel realities and crises of the present world. One would find solace in the embrace of arts, diverting the mind to provide a means of reflection, to find beauty in life, to enable self-expression. ... Read more

Sisimpur celebrates its 19th anniversary

Cultural Desk : Popular children’s television series Sisimpur will celebrate its 19th anniversary in Bangladesh on April 15, said a press release. Sisimpur began its journey with the aim to turn learning into a more enjoyable experience for pre-primary and primary level children. Sesame Workshop Bangladesh initiated Sisimpur in Bangladesh with the support of ... Read more

A modest step towards former greatness

Cultural Desk : The Lalbagh Kella, also known as the Lalbagh Fort, was built by Prince Muhammad Azam, third son of Emperor Aurangzeb, and is arguably the most magnificent 17th-century structure still standing in Dhaka. Attracting thousands of visitors every day, this tourist destination has undergone numerous renovations over the centuries, but perhaps few ... Read more

Posthumous Swadhinata Padak awarded to Selim Al Deen

Cultural Desk : The Swadhinata Padak, Bangladesh’s highest civilian award, the Cabinet Division announced awardees for this year yesterday. Nine individuals and one institution have been chosen for this year’s Swadhinata Padak, across several categories. Playwright Dr Mohammad Mainuddin Ahmed (Selim Al Deen) has been nominated posthumously for the award under the “Literature” category, ... Read more

“Glory of Women” features sculptures and paintings celebrate womanhood

Cultural Desk : In her sculptures and watercolor paintings on display in her solo art exhibition at the Abinta Gallery of Fine Arts in Badda in the capital, artist Sigma Haque Angkan has portrayed womanhood, motherhood, and nature. She has displayed 40 sculptures and 22 watercolour paintings in the two-week exhibition titled Glory of ... Read more

Sixth Dhaka Art Summit gets underway on Friday

Cultural Desk : The biggest exhibition platform for art and architecture in Bangladesh, Dhaka Art Summit (DAS)will start on Friday (February 3). The sixth DAS will have the Bengali theme of “Bonna” (flood) as its basis. The event will feature over 160 local and international artists. Topics like climate change and gender relations will ... Read more

Aranyak to commemorate its 50 years

Cultural Desk : Aranyak Natyadal will celebrate its 50th anniversary with several cultural events and plays. Eminent actor Mamunur Rashid, a member of the event’s organizing committee, verified the news at the press conference on Wednesdayat Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy’s Seminar Hall. The press conference included Aranyak’s chief editor, Mamunur Rashid, the troupe’s director and ... Read more

Chanchal’s posture in Mrinal Sen biopic unveiled

Entertainment Desk : Srijit Mukherji’s Mrinal Sen biopic “Padatik” stars Chanchal Chowdhury with a new look. An Indian magazine, Anondolok, has published the new look of Chanchal Chowdhury in the role of Mrinal Sen. In this film, Tollywood actress Monamee Ghosh will be playing the role of Mrinal Sen’s wife, Gita Sen. Her look ... Read more

Radharaman Lok Sangeet Utsab will kick off on Friday

Cultural Desk : The Radharaman Lok Sangeet Utsab 2022 will start on Friday at the Nazrul Mancha of the Bangla Academy in the capital. This was announced at a news conference that took place on Wednesday in the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy Seminar Room. Mahmud Selim, president of the Radharaman Sangskriti Charcha Kendra, and Bishwajit ... Read more

The two-day Tagore music festival kicks up this Friday

Cultural Desk : According to a news release, the 33rd annual National Tagore Music Festival will begin on Friday at the International Mother Language Institute at Segunbagicha in the nation’s capital. KM Khalid, minister of cultural affairs, will be the festival’s chief guest on the first day of what will be a two-day celebration. ... Read more

Ganga Jamuna cultural festival kicks off in splendour

Cultural Desk: Ganga Jamuna Cultural Festival eventually returned to Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy (BSA) at 6 pm after a year. 172 theatre troupes from Bangladesh and India will participate throughout the 11-day event. These plays will be at BSA and Mahila Samity at 7pm daily until October 31. Every day until 4 p.m., performances will ... Read more

Gallery Chitrak displaying Khurshid Saleem’s aesthetics, titled ‘Hidden Beauty.’

Cultural Desk : How often do we get to see a disorganized, yet orderly, display of 3D figures adorned in vibrant colors? This is true of the maximalist abstractions created by artist Khurshid Saleem, which are a remarkable illustration of the fusion of geometric shapes with impromptu flowing hues. The 80th solo show of ... Read more

Ekushey Padak winning artist Samarjit Roy Chowdhury dies

Cultural Desk : Ekushey Padak-winning artist Samarjit Roy Chowdhury passed away at a hospital in Bangladesh capital Dhaka on Sunday. He was 85. The news of his death was confirmed by the artist’s son, Surajit Chowdhury. Surajit also mentioned how his father’s health had deteriorated over the past three days. Samarjit had been in ... Read more

Chhayanaut celebrates Sharat

Cultural Desk : Cultural organisation Chhayanaut celebrated Sharat organising a programme at the Bakultala of fine arts faculty of Dhaka University on Friday. Artistes of the organisation entertained the audience singing songs and reciting poems on Sharat. Besides, the programme featured solo and group dance recitals. ‘Chhayanaut regularly tries to organise different programmes to ... Read more

Art Bangla Foundation starts new journey

Cultural Desk : The official launch of a new art platform titled Art Bangla Foundation took place on September 17, 2022 with the inauguration ceremony of a group exhibition, ‘Pratibimba Parampara’ State Minister of Cultural Affairs, K M Khalid attended this event as the chief guest. The Director General of Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy Liaquat ... Read more