1540863Shama Rahman, one of the leading contemporary Tagore artistes, has carved a niche through her devotion to her medium, with her soft lilting voice. Her deep understanding of Tagore’s lyrics and tunes has won her fans at home and abroad. For Shama Rahman, every day is a celebration of the great bard’s life and work. Explaining what Rabindra Sangeet means to her, she once said eloquently “Through Tagore’s songs and poems, I can express all my inner feelings” and that “Tagore songs enrich me greatly. When I am happy, sad or in trouble, I take shelter in Rabindranath and I like to share that experience with people.[1] The response I get from my audience is my greatest reward”.

Shama is greatly inspired by all the categories of compositions in Rabindranath’s Geetbitan and feels that every composition of his, reflects a moment in our lives. Especially Pooja (Prayers) and Barsha (Rainy season) inspire Shama. “We all pray in our own ways” she said, “but Tagore certainly had a way with his prayer songs. They are very inspiring and clearly show the dedication he had towards the Creator.” Continuing on this line, she said, “Listeners sometimes find it difficult to differentiate between the compositions of Pooja (Prayer) and Prem (Love). Rabindranath’s love for his Creator is sometimes mistaken for affection towards a beloved.”[2]

For Shama, nature is a perennial source of inspiration. She is “in love with nature.” She is particularly drawn by dusk when she can get a glimpse of the glorious sunset and the vast expanse of the darkening sky. In her words, ” Nature always gives me a boost. In Bangladesh all the seasons are beautiful. Each of them has a unique characteristic. I love them all, but the monsoon particularly appeals to me. ‘I love the rain and it really inspires me to sing more passionately,’ she exclaims, ‘Tagore has composed a wonderful series of songs complementing the season and I try to sing them with all my heart.‘ She does a lot of love songs as well. “I am a thorough romantic” she once remarked.

Shama has trod a long road with Rabindra Sangeet. She began training in this genre from an early age. Her initial training was at home under the supervision of late Ustad Fazlul Huq with classical music. Later, she studied music at Chhayanat for two years. Finally she was a student at the Bulbul Academy of Fine Arts (BAFA) under late Atiqul Islam for five years. Rahman has brought out fourteen albums to date, namely Lukale boli (1997), Amare koro tomar bina (2000), Mongol barota (2006) and Hridoy-ete Poth Ketechhi in 2010 with Dwijien Mukhopadhya, under the umbrella of the Bengal Foundation. United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organizaion (UNESCO) Paris, has brought out five audio albums, of songs sung by Shama, from Tagore’s work “GEETABETAN”, in 2011 to celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore. UNESCO has also brought out four audio albums of Shama Rahman of songs from “GEETANJALI” to celebrate hundred years of the publication of “GEETANJALI”. These audio albums were released in UNESCO Headquarter, Paris on 13th September 2011 and in New Delhi, on 6th January 2012.

Shama Rahman, displays a deep affinity for the rich compositions of the poet. Growing up in an environment surrounded by cultural activists, musicians and artistes, music was second nature to Shama at a very early age.  Shama grew up listening to the legends of Tagore songs. ‘I used to listen to Dwijen Mukherjee, Konika Banerjee, Debobrato Biswas and many others, ‘ she says. ‘For a while I was really influenced by these personalities and taken in by their styles of singing. After a while, when I grew mature enough to develop my ideas and thoughts, I eventually built up my own style of singing. I think every artiste has this in them and the original style comes out at one time or the other.’

Music for Shama is a passion. “I love music and it gives me immense satisfaction to sing,” she says.

Talented yet humble Shama Rahman sings to the audiences worldwide. Apart from concerts in Bangladesh, Shama performs regularly overseas in the Canada, US, UK, Italy, Frace, Switzerland and India. Needless to say, her overseas performances are also highly appreciated by the local audiences. When asked what influenced her to perform abroad she replies with a smile: ‘The opportunity to represent my country was itself the greatest incentive. I get a feel of the international Bengali listeners and I know that there is great demand for our music. I also feel it is my responsibility. I could never say no”[3].

Speaking of the fusion mixes and the remakes of Tagore compositions which threaten to come out and distort the authenticity of these songs, Shama feels, that, Tagore songs can never be distorted. ‘Tagore songs can never be distorted in any way, no matter how much you try,’ she said. ‘These songs have been here for ages, and a simple remake or a remix can never wipe it off completely. Even though I despise the idea of breaking the Swaralipi provided by Rabindranath himself and remaking his compositions, I do appreciate the fact that a lot of different work is being done by the young musicians today. I myself would like to experiment with Tagore songs with simple piano works or the acoustic guitar.’

Despite her success, Shama has her feet firmly on the ground. She has traversed the villages of Faridpur, Chittagong and Jessore districts. In fact, she says she traveled a great deal with her family in the course of the Liberation War[4].

Shama is a humanist. She recounts an anecdote from one of her memorable performances. Memory takes her back four years to a programme organized in Dhanmondi, Dhaka by her late friend Nasreen Haque, the well-known social activist. The gathering mainly comprised of women with breast cancer and friends of patients who had lost their lives to this deadly disease. “I was asked to sing the favourite songs of the audience. It felt really good to see the happiness writ large on their faces,” says Shama. She performs to raise funds in charities in India like Helpage India.

A mother of two beautiful children (son, Auyon, and daughter, Proma,), this homemaker’s interests also include gardening, cooking and traveling. Her children too have inherited their mother’s love for melody.



[1]“Looking back at Tagore” Kavita Charanji, The Daily Star, Volume 5, Number 690, 9 May 2006.

http://www.thedailystar.net/2006/05/09/d605091403119.htm, accessed on 19th July 2010.

[2]“‘The rain inspires me to sing more passionately’ – Shama, Thoughts on Rabindranath”, by  Elita Karim, inThe Daily Star, Vol 5, Number 76, i11 August 2004http://www.thedailystar.net/2004/08/11/d408111402112.htm, accessed on 19th July 2010

[3] Carrying Culture Abroadhttp://www.ice-today.com/archive/sept08/music.php, accessed 20th July 2010.

[4] Shadinota, 19th July 2010, “Epitomizing the Grace of Tagore Songs”