S. A. Medu
We lost Abdul Gafur Hali, a contemporary Folk Legend of Bangladesh, who passed away on December 21, 2017 Wednesday, 6:00 am at Mount Hospital in Chittagong. He was of 80. It seems a great loss for the society.
The devotional folk music of Sufis called Sufi Music/Qawwali. Rumi, Hafiz, Bulleh shah, Amir Khusrow and Lalon Shah are some of the legends, who enriched the field by their lyrics and compositions. In Bangladesh, Maizbhanderi Sufi Songs get a wide popularity having over 10 millions of active supporters. Abdul Gafur Hali was one of the most renowned personalities beside many others. Out of own inherent spirit, Hali’s contribution established him as not only a Sufi Singer but a Rural Poet- Lyricist- Composer and first folk play author in Local language of Chittagong having more than 2500 Lyrics and compositions. His works expose the overall socio-cultural scenario of the contemporary Bangladesh. Though, his works are mainly in regional language of Chittagong but get popularity across the territory and beyond. He is also known as Gafur Hali Maizbhanderi for his Sufi ideology.
Born & Family:
He was born at Rashidabad of Potiya under Chittagong district in 1929. His father was Abdus Sobhan and mother’s name Gultaj Khatun, married Rajia Begum at the age of 21/22.
Hali studied at Rashidabad Primary School and Joara Bishwamvar High School. Aside, since early age, he has been inspired by the works of another historically remarkable singer-lyricist Askar Ali Pandit of native village and latterly became influenced by Maizbhanderi Sufi Singers like Folk Poet Ramesh Shil, Moulana Bazlul Karim Mandakini, Moulana Abdul Hadi Kanchanpuri. Although, institutionally he never learned how to sing or play a Harmonica from anybody, albeit used to follow their works.
Hali achieved 1st position in Audition of Agrabad Radio Station at his early age. Since 1963 his songs have regularly been played On-Air through Radio as collected songs because, at that time he was not a registered artist of Radio. After 7 years he became a registered Singer- Lyricist- Composer of East Pakistan Radio. It is Hali’s profession that, till today at age over eighty, had been leading life as a professional cultural artist. His Lyrics and compositions can be categorized in Socio-Cultural and Sufi method, where Socio-Cultural songs are more than one thousand abd Sufi songs also over thousand. Even though, under pressure from family Hali could never think except song, feeling no interest in any other earning resource. First in life, once in 1955/56 while singing at Maizbhander Dorbar Sharif, Hali saw huge money over his Harmonium, listeners had given out of love, was his first income as a singer. That makes him realize, one can survive even by singing a song, since then took it as a profession. His first Sufi Lyric was: Will you play How long!/ Will you die not?/ How many has come and gone/ Were they belongs! bv/). Laterly, he become a regular Lyricist and composer for different Television and Radio Channels of Bangladesh.
A Documentary Film named Methopother Gaan has been developed representing his works and thought. Film maker Shaybal Chawdhury has created this 39 minutes long documentary representing Hali as an ideal artist originated from the rural locality. Famous folk singers like Sam Suntor Boisnob , Safali Gosh ), Kallani Ghosh , Abdul Mannan Rana (), Salim Nizami and many others re-performed his songs in that documentary.
Academy and Ode:
Abdul Gafur Hali Academy has been formed for Cultural and Social research. Aside, a Lyrics and Musical notation collection named “Hali’s Ode- the Tie of Melody” including his 100 Maizbhanderi and Mystical Lyrics/ Songs has been Published by Abdul Gafur Hali Academy and patronized by PHP Group.
Meanwhile, among 1,000; some of his popular Socio-Cultural songs are:
- Shona bondhu tui amare korli re dewana
- Roshik tel kajla kon Panjabiwala
- Bondhu Aar Doardi Jao
- oi lal kurta wala
- Sotho kailla pirit ar
- Noo matai noobulai gelire bondhua
- Moner-o Bagane- Fotilo folree
- Tui jaiba shonadia bondhu, mach dhoribar lai
- Dhol bajer r mic bajer
- Banu re! o banu! ai jaiumgui Chatga shohrot tuarlai ainnum ki
Among more than 1,500; some of his most popular Sufi songs are:
- Dui Kul-er Sultan Vangari
- Dekhe jare Maizbhandere
- Koto khela janore moula
- Maizbhandere ki dhoon ache
- Cholo jai jiyarote mohsen awliar dorbare
- Allahr fokir more Jodi
During liberation war of Bangladesh, he used to visit war and sang songs inspire fighters, among many others, one of his song freedom fighters liked and that was: It’s impossible to be familiar with you and me / You are Pathat and I am Bengali/ In between yours and my country/ distance is of 2000 miles
Professor Hans Harder of Heidelberg University, Germany visited different places in Bangladesh including Maizbhander of Chittagong in 1989. The reason how, he met Abdul Gafur Hali through another popular singer Kolyani Ghosh. Latter, Harder published a research work (treatise) named Ferkute Gafur; Spritht Gafur Means, Dippy Gafur Says ( / in 2004. It includes 76 songs of Hali. Hans Harder denoted the songs as, “Mystical songs of East Bengal (Bangladesh) composed by Abdul Gafur Hali”. He narrated about Abdul Gafur Hali, “Inspite of having any higher degree or designation of any University, Abdul Gafur Hali with his own effort was able to have an extraordinary knowledge”.
Aside, an album entitled, Foreign Beloved produced by Indian Music director Koustob Sen Varat, has dedicated to Abdul Gafur Hali. Hali’s five songs were included in that music album.
He achieved a number of National and institutional Awards. Some of those are:
- Rahe Bhander Ennoble Award )- 2012
- Chittagong Association Award/ Chittagong Summit Dhaka ()- 2012
- Bangladesh Musical Organizations’ Association ) Award – 2013
- Sukhendu Memorial Theater Award () – 2013
- District Cultural Academy Award ()– 2013
People say, though Hali was at over eighty but the nation still has a lot to get from him. Abdul Gafur Hali did nothing for one self but for the society. In fact, his works will keep him alive in the heart of Bengali community.
The writer is a Member, Wikimedia Bangladesh Foundation, and Open Knowledge Foundation