Wednesday, November 29, 2006
By Ershad Kamol - The Daily Star - Dhaka, Bangladesh
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Pagla Kanai (1810-1890), a mystic folk poet and musician, was born to a family of peasants in Nebutola village in Jhenidah. Though he is popular as Pagla Kanai, his original name was Kanai Sheikh.
He was a poet with the ability to compose songs spontaneously. He composed what were basically mystical and spiritual songs. The themes of his songs featured topics such as dehotattta(analysis of human form), the transient world, and the mystery of life. He composed songs about Prophet Muhammad (SM) as well as hymns to Krishna. But, Pagla Kanai is popular for developing a Jari form titled Dhuajari, in which an incident is narrated in a rhythmic tone.
The origins of Jarigaan may be traced back to the early 17th century in Bangladesh when poetry was written on the tragic stories of Karbala. However, Pagla Kanai successfully used other myths such as Radha-Krishna, Monosha-mongala as well as contemporary social issues of his time and traditional Baul music in his compositions of Dhuajari.
Through these, Kanai has analysed Sufism, meaning of life and other themes in his songs. In fact, he gave aesthetic presentation of Jarigaan, and subsequently earned a name in history. His songs were once very popular in many areas including Rajshahi, Mymensingh, Tangail, Faridpur, Pabna, Jessore, Kushtia, Khulna, Barisal and others.
A Dhuajari session may also take place between two Jarigaan teams. The teams render songs in a question-answer format. Towards the end, the team members put forward extempore arguments in an effort to prove their opponent wrong.
Pagla Kanai was the lead singer of a troupe. His itinerant group of singers included Kala Chand Bayati, Hakim Shah, Karim Biswas, Indu Biswas and Karamaddi.
But, not much initiative is taken to uphold the tradition. Dr Mazharul Islam included 240 of these songs in his book, Kabi Pagla Kanai. Professor Abul Ahsan Choudhury, M Monsuruddin have also written books on the same subject. Moreover, ministry of Cultural Affairs has built an auditorium adjacent to the shrine of Pagla Kanai, at the remote village of Nebutala, Madhabpur.
Unfortunately this rich tradition is on the verge of extinction. To celebrate his birth anniversary, a few of his followers, mostly above fifty, gather at his shrine and render songs. But, nowadays very few people are interested in Dhuajari. As a result the experts believe that the tradition of Pagla Kanai is fading away.