Shah Abdul Karim: The mystic Baul Shamrat
'Agey Ki Shundor Din Kataitam', 'Jil Mil Jil Mil Kore', 'Gari Cholena Cholena', 'Boshonto Batashe', 'Bonde Maya Lagaise', 'Krishno Aila Radhar Kunje' and more -- Is there anyone in Bangladesh who does not know about such ageless songs? These incomparable songs are popular among the people from generation to generation and as fresh as a daisy.
Baul Shamrat Shah Abdul Karim is the legend behind all these tracks. He was a distinctive Bengali spiritual saint, lyricist, song composer and a social reformer of the modern era. After almost two hundred years of the period of great Lalon Shah, he is the one, who set his asset through his works and ideology.
His works uplift the glory of folk songs and have a huge impact on our culture. With heart touching lyrics, he used to live and is still continuing to live in everyone's heart. Spiritualism, truth, optimism, and ethics are deep-seated themes of his songs, which has the immense power to change human thoughts as well as the society.
Arguably, Karim's early life helped him to grow the mysticism in him. On February 15, 1916, he was born in Ujan Dhol village, Derai Thana, in Sunamganj, Sylhet. He didn't get the chance of going to school and was a cowboy at his early age. He had all through lived a very simple life facing harsh realities.
Poverty was a barrier for his educational life, but couldn't restraint his talents. He chose music to express his thoughts and emotions since childhood and found inner peace in it. Ektara became his constant companion and was there with him in every thick and thin of life -- whether being a cowboy or seeking works in agricultural labor.
As he was passionate about Baul music, he received training in this genre from Shah Ibrahim Mastan Baksh later when growing up. Karim has to go through some difficult situations as he lost his voice at one point. A few years later, he got his voice back. Even at the age of 90, his voice was recognised to be the loudest yet beautiful for an elderly person.
Baul Shah Abdul Karim has written and composed over 1600 songs, which are organised in six books -- Aftab Sangeet, Gano Sangeet, Kalnir Dheu, Dholmela, Bhatir Chithi and Kalnir Kooley. Ten of his songs have also been translated into English by Bangla Academy. Some contemporary artistes and musicians got fame rendering Abdul Karim's songs -- often re-arranged or remixed.
The trend of remix and modern versions of his songs made him recognisable and popular. His songs stand out for their exceptional metaphors, Sufism and moral messages and this essence touched the young souls as well. As a result, though much belated, his contributions to Bengali Music have been officially recognised by the people.
This legend of Baul songs was awarded the Ekushey Padok in 2001 for all his musical achievements. He also received Drouhee Kotha-shahitayk Abdur Rouf Choudhury Award in 2000. He met his final silence on September 12, 2009 due to respiratory problems making his fans hymning -- "Keno piritee barailarey bondhu chere jaiba Jodi!"