The Maestro’s Lost Compositions

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A collection of lost Salil Chowdhury compositions commemorating Bangladesh’s independence throws light on the music maestro’s first attempt at creating a grand Bengali opera. The compositions were recorded on a spool in 1971 and forgotten in a cupboard in Kolkata. Word has it that a group of intellectuals from East Pakistan had met Chowdhury a few months before Bangladesh’s independence. Aware that independence was near, the group requested him to compose songs on their struggle for freedom since 1947, when India was partitioned and East and West Pakistan were created. Rehearsals and recordings were initiated, but the project could not be completed for financial and political reasons. The spool stayed lost till 2008, when an ardent admirer and close friend of the composer chanced upon it. “These songs, where one can hear Salilda sing and teach a group of singers, are a treasure,” says the discoverer Gautam Choudhury, who immediately went about restoring the work. Choudhury cleaned the tape and managed to write down the lyrics through all the hisses and noises of the old spool. The songs were performed and recorded again in Kolkata, and the result is a brand new CD titled Bangladesh Mukti Andoloner Gaan. The tracks, eight of them, are introduced by a commentary that helps listeners understand the sequence of events leading to Bangladesh’s independence.