Known for her dulcet voice and ingenious ability to maintain the vocal cadence, National Film Award winning artiste Samina Chowdhury had no plan to be a singer during her early life. Rather she wanted to be an actress. Later, through a twist of fate, she became one of the most celebrated singers of Bangladesh. In the last five decades of her career, she presented a number of popular songs, which brought her wide recognition. Being one of the most popular playback singers, she has received numerous prestigious awards. Karoby Shihab of New Age has recently talked to the singer to allow readers a glimpse into her life and career.
It was the haunting melody of ‘Phool Phote, Phool Jhore’, a disarmingly simple song of love and longing, that brought a young singer instant success in the early 1980s. She had only begun her career as a playback singer few years earlier. This was none other than Samina Chowdhury. She feels things have happened to her, rather than she herself taking the lead in weaving the sequence of success into her life story.
‘I never had a plan to be a singer but somehow I ended up being a singer and music lovers accepted me very cordially. It was like a miracle and I am grateful for this,’ said seasoned singer Samina Chowdhury.
From the very beginning she wanted to be an actress and also acted in few stage, radio and television plays.
‘I used to wonder seeing the theatre artistes, especially Ferdausi Majumder. She is so graceful on stage and with her liveliness Ferdausi Majumder depicts each and every character so perfectly,’ said Samina.
As the daughter of National Film Award winning late playback singer Mahmudun Nabi, Samina Chowdhury has the sweetness in her voice which she considers a God’s gift. But she never showed interest in learning music. While her other siblings, noted singer Fahmida Nabi and musician Pancham Nabi felt deeply about music and were very keen to develop their skills, Samina Chowdhury and her another sister Tanzida Nabi wanted to stay away of music.
Though Tanzida could manage to choose different path, fate brought Samina Chowdhury into the musical arena.
‘I was very much inattentive while our father used to sit with us for music training. Often he used to complain to our mother Rashida Chowdhury that he felt hopeless about me,’ Samina said with a note of laughter in her voice.
As a child Samina Chowdhury, also known as Shumain in the family circle, was very calm and quiet.
‘I used to observe everything from my childhood. I used to talk less and think a lot about everything. Fahmida is the eldest among us. I was the second child. As the immediate junior of her, I was my sister’s partner in all crimes. My job was to follow her in everything as her shadow,’ said Samina, harking back to her childhood days.
Samina Chowdhury was born in her maternal grandparents’ home located in Dinajpur in August 28, 1966.
Samina’s paternal grandparents migrated from Bardhaman of West Bengal, India. After the partition in 1947, they moved to East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. Though Samina was born in Dinajpur, she passed most of her early years in different parts of Dhaka city.
‘Fahmida, we call her Numa, was very restless as a child. She was such a mischief-maker. And as always, I was her assistant. Once we broke into someone’s garden to steal roses. The other children saw the gardener coming and ran away. I could not hide as I was struggling with picking a rose. Finally the gardener and I were standing face to face. Those were really nice days I still cherish,’ said Samina.
However, Samina Chowdhury were growing up in a musical environment at her home as other noted singers used to visit the Chowdhury house more often.
She had the chance to listened to legendary singers sing and play musical instruments at their home.
‘I used to be very amazed seeing late singer-composer Lucky Akhand playing keyboard. The tunes he used to make simply seemed too alluring. Later I decided to learn playing the instrument,’ said Samina.
Besides, inspired by thespian Ferdausi Majumdar, Samina Chowdhury started practicing recitation to achieve the skill to perfect her pronunciation. Reading newspapers loudly was also a part of her practice.
‘I always thought that Fahmida will sing and I will play instrument,’ she added.
Dancing and drawing were also her favorite pursuits.
The singer completed her schooling from Agrani School and College in Dhaka. In 1976, Samina along with her family moved to a home in Mohammadpur of the capital. There they found another family from Dinajpur as their neighbour.
‘At one point Fahmida and Puti aunt (neighbour) insisted me to audition for Notun Kuri, one of the famous Bangladeshi reality television competition series for child artistes. I was not very interested. I did not want to go. But forcefully they took me for audition and I sang famous patriotic song ‘O Amar Bangla Ma Tor Akul Kora Ruper Sudha’ in front of the judges,’ Samina shared from her memory.
At the audition cultural giants Alauddin Ali, Samar Das and Firoza Begum were present as jury members.
‘I never thought that I would be selected but my name was on the list of selected artistes which was aired on BTV. I became even more nervous. Fahmida was very happy for me. Later the final day came and I sang the song once again,’ she recalled.
Samina stood first for the singing category in Notun Kuri in 1977 for her rendition.
‘Though I was very careless the entire time, I became too happy and proud while receiving the prize on the final day. I was very excited before going to the venue. I woke up very early. Selected my dresses for the programme and got ready to go,’ said Samina Chowdhury with an obvious spark in her eyes.
That was the beginning. Music composers already knew her worth and after almost two years of her winning, music composer Alauddin Ali visited Samina’s home and asked her mother if Samina would be allowed to sing as a playback singer.
‘Alauddin uncle took me to a studio and he gave me a lyric and taught me the tune and asked me to sing. That was like a challenge for me. I was always very stubborn to complete any challenge. So I sang the song,’ she added.
That was Samina Chowdhury’s first song as a playback singer. The legendary song ‘Jonmo Theke Jolchi Mago’ brought her recognition which was part of Amjad Hossain’s film ‘Jonmo Theke Jolchi’ released in 1983.
Bulbul Ahmed, Bobita, Anwara, Probir Mitra and others acted in the film. Bobita lip synced ‘Jonmo Theke Jolchi Mago’ on screen.
Meanwhile Samina was continuing acting in different radio dramas and stage productions. She wanted to concentrate on her acting career.
‘I have acted on stages with different troupes as a child artiste. I enjoyed acting a lot. But I could not continue. I still regret about it,’ said Samina Chowdhury.
She acted in a drama titled ‘Phaguner Rupkotha’ which was aired on BTV.
However, Alauddin Ali again visited their home after few months of recording of ‘Jonmo Theke Jolchi Mago’ and said that Samina’s voice is very much perfect for adult actresses to lip sync. He wanted Samina to continue her playback career and sing one more song titled ‘Ekbar Jodi Keu Bhalobashto’ for the same film.
Syed Abdul Hadi and Samina Chowdhury rendered the song together. This song was another instant hit among the music lovers.
She never had to look back after this phenomenal beginning.
Later Samina started getting offers from different renowned composers. She lent her voice to a series of popular songs in films. She sung duet with other seasoned singers of the music industry.
‘I don’t know how but I won two awards in the best singer category for ‘Amar Buker Moddhe Khane’ and ‘Ekbar Jodi Keo Bhalobashto’. I was happy and puzzled at the same time,’ said Samina Chowdhury.
Samina’s playback career lead to a number of hit commercial films, including ‘Noyoner Alo’, ‘Noy Nombor Bipod Shongket’, ‘Hridoyer Kotha’, ‘Rani Kuthir Baki Itihash’, ‘Daruchini Dip’, ‘Onno Rokom Valobasa’, ‘Tobuo Bhalobashi’ and more.
Audiences took to her dulcet voice enthusiastically. Later on, she started working beyond the film industry and sang a number of songs for her albums.
She, in her long career, has collaborated with many popular singers of the country, including Subir Nandi and Andrew Kishore of pre-millennial era when recording was still analogue and Asif Akbar and Habib Wahid of the current digital generation.
She rendered ‘Phool Phote, Phool Jhore’ written by Aminur Rahman Nijhu and tuned by Al Mansur Belal. This song is one of the significant songs of Samina Chowdhury’s life.
Meanwhile, she also got offers for television dramas.
‘Though I wanted to be an actor, I could not say yes to any offers as I did not like the scripts,’ said Samina.
However, she continued her journey as a singer.
She has been singing for almost five decades. Throughout these years she sang remarkable songs, including ‘Shomoy Jeno Kate Na’, ‘Dui Chokhe Dui Nodi’, ‘Ami Jayga Kinbo’, ‘Kobita Porar Prohor’, ‘EiJaduta’, ‘Oi Jhinuk Phota Shagor Belay’, ‘Shat Bhai Chompa’, ‘Amar Majhe Nei Ekhon Ami’, ‘Bondhu Amar’ and more.
Besides, she has sung in a number of solo and duet albums titled ‘Pagol Mon’, ‘Rater Kobita’, ‘Cholo Bachi’ and others.
For her soothing voice and unique singing style she has won several awards till date.
National Film Awards, Bachsas Awards, Meril Prothom Alo Awards are few of her achievements.
‘I could never be a careerist singer. I always gave priority to my ethics and emotions. Many people have asked me to be a bit more serious but I could never go out of my comfort zone,’ Samina Chowdhury shared about her career.
‘I am blessed that my signature songs came to me. I didn’t have to ask anybody for that. Not many get this chance. Besides, audiences have strewn with at me absolute love,’ she said.
Apart from singing, Samina Chowdhury has worked as the judge of different singing reality shows aired on different television channels.
She was one of the judges of the famous reality television singing competition show CloseUp 1 for NTV. Samina Chowdhury also has sat as the jury of ‘Shera Kontho’ and ‘Khude Gun Raj’for Channel I, ‘Ebar Tomra Gao’ for RTV.
In recent days Samina Chowdhury is busy with live performances on stages.
‘I enjoy singing on stage more than I enjoy recording. Because nowadays I feel like music industry has become like a ship without a radar. Music album, CD, cassette and this sort of documentation have become so rare. Most singers sing for Youtube channels only. Preservation is absence. I miss the old time. With the development of technology, music is losing the charm,’ Samina observed.
‘However I have concentrated on singing on stages more. I feel like through stage show I can come to know my capability and actual condition of my voice. A day will come when my voice will not support me anymore. I am getting prepared for that day so that I don’t have to feel bad about it. Legendary singer Asha Bhosle once told me this and I realised that nothing is permanent,’ the singer added.
The sweet spoken Samina Chowdhury took a break amid the interview for performing her Asar prayer.
‘I consider myself as a practicing Muslim. Ultimately almighty is the one where we should seek for salvation. I am a strong believer and I try not to miss my daily prayer. It gives me inner peace,’ said Samina Chowdhury.
The singer is married to Izaz Khan Swapon, programme planner and project director of Channel-i.
‘My husband is more enthusiastic about music than I am. He always keeps listening to music,’ she said.
The couple has two children named Teji and Birbol.
Samina lives with her family in Dhanmondi where she spends most of her day. Her daughter recently has moved to Australia for higher education.
Amid the hectic schedule, Samina often finds some leisure to watch television and music. She is also a cartoon fan.
‘Cartoon has been my all-time favourite programme on TV since my childhood. I still love to watch it. Gopal Bhar series is one of my favourites,’ she said.
Songs of Asha Bhosle, Lata Mangeshkar, Ghulam Ali, Jagjit Singh, Kishor Kumar, Manna Dey, Shahnaz Rahmatullah, Farida Parvin, Fahmida Nabi, Mahmudun Nabi and few western bands are Samina’s favourite.
More often, she travels to different places with friends and family. Recently she visited USA for a short vacation.
‘I have received more than I expected in my life. That is why I never lose hope. I always keep patient. I believe on Allah’s plans,’ Samina ended the interview with a positive vibe and words of hopes.
Besides, she has shared her plan of opening a music school after her father’s name. Her father established a music school called Adhunik Sangeet Niketon. To continue that legacy she wants to follow on her father’s footprint.
Photos by Abdullah Apu
Published On: New Age