It was probably 1997 when I was an English (Honours) student of the Islamic University in Kushtia. I went to visit the house of one of my bosom friends at Aruapara in Kushtia town.
Both of us used to practise music and perform on stages. We used to play Spanish guitar and experiment chords and rhythms together. In the afternoon, my friend told me “A surprise is waiting for you. Do you like to meet Jabbar?” I thought he was just kidding. Yet, I replied in the affirmative. We hired a rickshaw. After a few minutes, my friend asked the rickshaw puller to stop in front of a house. We entered the house. I was keen to see Jabbar Sir. My friend guided me to a room where I saw a saint of music sitting on a bedstead. The floor of the room was carpeted. I was looking to and fro. Two harmoniums and two sets of tabla kept on the carpeted floor came to my notice. I touched his legs with my hands to show him respect and take his blessings. He asked about my identity. I replied to his query in a few words. Then I said I also practise music. He asked me to take a harmonium. He wanted to know about my scale of vocal practice. In reply, I said C# (sharp). As per his directive, I showed multi-octave vocal range. Jabbar said “The C# scale is perfect for you. Your voice is good. You have to practise everyday. If possible, practise voice in a neck-deep water of the pond or river. I used to do it.”
About good voice, he claimed to have inherited it from his mother. “My mother was not a professional singer but her voice was sweet. She used to inspire me to be a great singer.”
Later, I enjoyed his two stage performances in Kushtia. Thousands of audience thronged the programmes. I would like to share an important thing that his raw voice was as good as microphonic voice. He performed songs with some simple instruments like harmonium, tabla and guitar. It seemed to me that I was hearing Jabbar’s songs in a cassette player.
However, he advised me to be careful in taking decision in life. “If you would like to damage career of anybody, you encourage him to buy a dilapidated motor vehicle or contest election,” he said.
During the caretaker regime, I was a reporter of the Bangladesh Today. After covering reports from the Supreme Court, I was going to the National Press Club. A rickshaw carrying him crossed me. I walked fast and touched his legs as a sign of my profound respect and love to the legendary singer. He did not talk much but behaved positively.
Jabbar had a gifted voice. Hemonto Mukherjee reportedly used to like his sons. His voice in the song “Tara vora rate” resembles voice of Talat Mahmood or any other great Indian singer.
Although Jabbar was a great singer, he was simple. He had no arrogance. This is what put Jabbar in the core of peoples’ mind. He will go down in the history of the country for his contribution to the Liberation War in 1971. His song Salam Salam which encouraged freedom fighters will continue to remain ever fresh in people’s minds and reverberate in their ears, with an extra-mundane appeal.
The writer is the Chief Reporter of daily sun