Shujeyo's compositions have become timeless in the victory ballads “Ay Re Chashi Kuli Mojir”, "Bijoy Nishaan Urche Oi", "Rokto Chai, Rokto Chai", "Rokto Diye Naam Likhechi" among others
On the tenth episode of IPDC Finance Limited presents Ogroj, freedom fighter and composer Shujeyo Shyam was the guest.
Shujeyo Shyam is more than a musician. His valor-tinged songs roused the spirits of countless freedom fighters during the Liberation War. A national award-winning artist whose life has been intertwined with music since infancy, he has had an indelible legacy in the growth of music in Bangladesh.
Born March 14, 1946 in a Sylheti tea garden as the seventh among 10 siblings, Shujeyo’s musical journey began with his exposure to morning hymns. A spirited child who enjoyed scampering around, Shujeyo did not pursue any higher education.
“In the tea garden, a range of versatile artists would visit. There were bhawaiyya musicians, bauls with their kirtans, qawwalis, and many others. When I was five years old, my aunt bought me a mandira which was the stepping stone to music.”
His career started in 1964 when he joined Chittagong Radio as a guitarist and director of a children's music program.
“Nowadays, it’s comparatively easy to get into music. Back then, it was tough. I was rejected four times. When I complained to the radio director, he asked me if I had any enemies in the radio. When I said no, he said I should practice better and keep trying. Soon, I was earning Tk50, a sizable sum back in the day.
“However, it was not smooth-sailing all the time. One time, I was flat broke and my rent and food bills were overdue. Starvation gnawed at me and left me listless. A friend called me at 8:30pm and asked me if I could play the tabla at a wedding in his family. There is something unique to Chittagong, when there is a feast, there are no limits. I sat down with the tabla next to a qawwali singer. As he sang, money fell into his lap. Incensed, I played a few notes on the tabla, and soon enough I had Tk50 in my lap as well. I thanked the Creator for bailing me out of that difficult situation.”
Five years later, he was directing film music.
He said his nationalistic spirits were first roused after Bangabandhu’s iconic March 7 speech. On March 15, he went to Sylhet. After he heard the announcement on March 27, he tried to find a way out of Sylhet to India. His maternal uncle was Maj Gen CR Dutta, a sector commander during the Liberation War who later whisked him across the border.
When Shujeyo was lost in the streets of Kolkata trying to find the Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendro, he stumbled across actor Subhash Dutta, who led him to the revered 57/8 house in Baliganj Circular Road where a host of immensely talented patriotic artists were brainstorming.
The passion they felt throughout the war was the catalyst for their talents which produced seminal songs in very few takes.
Shujeyo's compositions have become timeless in the victory ballads “Ay Re Chashi Kuli Mojir”, "Bijoy Nishaan Urche Oi", "Rokto Chai, Rokto Chai", "Rokto Diye Naam Likhechi" among many others.
For his significant cultural contributions during the Liberation War, Shujeyo was formally recognized as a freedom fighter by the Government of Bangladesh in 2016.
The former chief music producer of Bangladesh Radio went on to compose award-winning music for films like "Hason Raja", "Joyjatra" and "Obujh Bou", and was subsequently awarded with the Ekushey Padak in 2016.
His nephew is Shuvro Dev, another talented singer.
“You can’t imagine how many talented artists there are in Bangladesh. I’ve been involved in many talent hunt programs. There is no shortage of genius in Bangladesh, but there is a distinct lack of platform to elevate them. Musicians seldom want their children to continue their legacy. There isn’t enough incentive for musicians.”
He lamented the lack of recognition for instrumentalists and any initiative to address it.
“We need to ensure the many talents in Bangladesh are given a chance to blossom.”
IPDC Finance Ltd presents Ogroj takes place from 8pm-9pm every first and third Thursday of the month. Guests on previous episodes include ex-Finance Secretary Matiul Islam, CPD Founder-Chairman Prof Rehman Sobhan, Adcomm Limited Chairwoman Geeteara Safiya Chowdhury, ex-Finance Minister AMA Muhith, ex-Bangladesh Bank Governor Dr Farashuddin Ahmed, ACI Limited Chairman M Anis Ud Dowla, eminent novelist Selina Hossain, ex-Finance Minister M Syeduzzaman, and MediaWorld Limited Chairperson Rokia Afzal Rahman.