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Farewell to a legendary singer

  • Published at 12:54 am May 15th, 2019
Subir Nandi
Subir Nandi

Subir Nandi’s voice touched the hearts of millions


This year, we have lost yet another musical icon after Shahnaz Rahmatullah. Subir Nandi’s death has been an irreplaceable loss in the Bangla music industry. His soulful voice with a strong classical base has mesmerized fans and Bangla music lovers of all ages. 

Many of his songs are reminiscent of our childhood days or memories. A great classical singer, Subir Nandi was considered our Manna Dey. Most of his songs were of classical genre, and were immensely popular among the people. 

Subir Nandi -- surname Phool -- was born on November 19, 1953, in Sylhet, and spent his childhood in Dhaka and Kolkata. He grew up listening to Pankaj Mullick, Kundan Lal Saigal, Sandhya Mukhopadhyay, Manna Dey, and many others. 

During the Liberation War, his family experienced a lot of suffering, and took shelter in Karimganj, India, in 1972.

His father died when Subir and his family were on their way back to Bangladesh.

Although he started his banking career in Janata Bank (Sylhet branch), he never really strayed away from music. Subir Nandi joined a team consisting of young talented folk musicians who performed in various districts on several occasions. The group was formed by the music patron Bidit Lal Das, a zamindar. 

Subir Nandi’s formal career in the music industry started when he recorded his first song “Jodi keu dhup jele dey,” written by Mohammed Muzakker and composed by Ustad Mir Kasem.

In 1974, he was transferred from Sylhet to Dhaka. That transfer was like a blessing for him. Sujay Shyam, one of the top music directors in the film industry at that time, used Subir Nandi’s unique voice in the playback song “Doshi hoilam ami doyal re” in 1976. 

Though initially he used to sing Nazrul geeti and perform in various programs, he got disappointed by some Nazrul exponents’ comments. He then, advised by the famous musician Mohammed Muzakker, switched to modern songs (adhunik gaan). 

Subir Nandi was a passionate fan of India’s all-time musical icon Manna Dey. Whenever he got the chance of singing in any program, he sang at least one number of Manna Dey. He had the opportunity of performing in front of tabla maestro Allah Rakha, Mehedi Hassan, Bahadur Khan, and many others. In 1994, he had the exceptional privilege of performing at the House of Commons in the UK.

Nandi had over 2,500 songs to his credit, including his super-hit tracks like “Amar e duti chokh,” “Ekta chhilo sonar konnya,” “Hajar moner kachhe proshno rekhe,” and many more. Most of his melodious songs -- with a blend of melancholy -- touched our hearts time and again.

He took home five Bangladesh National Film Awards as the best male playback singer for his timeless creations in the films “Mahanayak” (1984), “Shubhoda” (1986), “Srabon Megher Din” (1999), “Megher Pore Megh” (2004), and “Mohua Sundari” (2015). 

He received the Bangladesh Cine Journalist Association Award four times, and also received the Gaan-e Gaan-e Gunijon Songbordhona Award given by Citibank in 2012, and Channel i Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018. He was awarded the prestigious Ekushey Padak in 2019.

Subir Nandi was a versatile artist, whose musical career spanned almost five decades. He considered singing to be a form of meditation and prayer, which gave him peace and tranquility. 

He grew old, but his music never did. His soulful voice remains evergreen and enthralling. As an icon of Bangla music, he will remain alive in the hearts of millions of people at home and abroad. He died on May 7, 2019, in Singapore. We mourn his death. May his soul rest in peace. 

Sheikh Nahid Neazy is Associate Professor and Chair, Department of English, Stamford University Bangladesh. He can be reached at [email protected]