Evergreen Voices: Remembering Legendary Singer Manna Dey
Today marks the 100th birth anniversary of Manna Dey, one of the legendary singers of the sub-continent. On the occasion of his birth centenary today, different socio-cultural organisations have arranged various programmes in Bangladesh and Pacchim Bangla of India. Besides, satellite television channels of the countries would telecast an array of special programmes to pay tribute to the celebrated singer.
Manna Dey was born to Purna Chandra and Mahamaya Dey in Kolkata on May 1, 1919. He debuted in the film Tamanna in 1942, and went on to record more than 4000 songs from 1942 to 2013. The maestro sang mainly in Hindi and Bengali. He also sang in several Indian languages like Assamese, Marathi, Malayalam, Kannada, Gujarati, Punjabi and Bhojpuri. The Government of India honoured him with the Padma Shri in 1971, the Padma Bhushan in 2005 and the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 2007.
Manna's playback debut in Bangla Gaan came in 1953 with "Koto Dure Ar Niye Jabe Bolo" and "Hai Hai Go Raat Jai Go", both composed by himself with lyrics by Gouriprasanna Majumdar. That same year, Manna married Sulochana Kamaran from Kerala, his life partner for 59 years (1953-2012). They had two daughters, Surma and Sumita.
Manna was getting playback from Sachin Korta, but they were far and few. He didn't lose hope. He kept practicing religiously. KC Dey was getting impatient. He made a trip to Mumbai to speak with his student. Sachin Korta told his guru, "Mana lacks range (throwing notes), the defining feature for a playback singer." KC Dey got the message. He took Manna to Ustad Abdul Rahman Khan and Ustad Aman Ali Khan. These ustads taught him how to overcome limitation in range through a classical base. Manna was now ready to pour songs that would transcend generations making him the icon he remains today.
Manna could have carved a niche in the millions hearts presen ting some hit numbers like "Coffee Houser Shei Adda Ta Aj Ar Nei", "Aami Kon Kotha Jey Boli", "Aami Jey Jolsha Ghorey", "Aami Jamini Tumi Soshi Hey", and "Ora Je Jaa Boley Boluk Naa".
The maestro will remain alive among his memorable numbers including "Poocho Na Kaise Maine", "Ae Meri Zohra Jabeen", "Zindagi Kaisi Hai Paheli", "Yeh Dosti", "Ek Chatur Naar", "Laga Chunari Mein Daag", "Meri Naina Talash Karey Tujhey" and "Yaari Hain Imaan Mera Yaar Meri Zindagi". The legend was highly inspired and influenced by his youngest paternal uncle Sangeetacharya Krishna Chandra Dey besides his parents. He received his early education in Indu Babur Pathshala, a small pre-primary school. He did stage shows as a child singer in school since 1929.
The singer attended Scottish Church Collegiate School and Scottish Church College. But he graduated from Vidyasagar College. Manna began taking music lessons from Krishna Chandra Dey and Ustad Dabir Khan. During that period, he stood first for three consecutive years in three different categories of inter-collegiate singing competitions.
Manna married Sulochana Kumaran from Kerala in 1953. They have two daughters- Shuroma and Sumita. The singer finally stayed in Kalyan Nagar Bengaluru after spending more than fifty years in Mumbai.
Manna's Bengali language autobiography "Jiboner Jalsaghorey" has been published by the renowned Ananda Publisher in 2005. The biography has been translated in English as Memories Come Alive, in Hindi as Yaden Jee Uthi and in Marathi as Jiboner Jalsaghorey. A documentary on Mannan's life styled Jibaner Jalsaghore was also released in 2008.
Manna Dey Sangeet Academy is developing a complete archive on Manna Dey. In association with Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata, the Manna Dey Music Archive has been developed in the Sangeet Bhawan.
The writer is a freelance contributor.