The journey for female singers has never been easy. From religious prohibitions to social browbeating, from undue favouritism to problems in getting recognition and complications related to album release – the challenges have been many and divergent, faced more or less by many singers. Some of the challenges have changed faces with time, and some that were once faced by the female singers have ceased to exist. The situation for the contemporary female singers is characterised by a mad race for recognition, for instant fame, and the general atmosphere of pseudo-condescension and belittlement that still exists. New Age talked to six singers who reflected on the situations faced by female singers, in particular, and the musicians, in general. Ferdausi Rahman, one of the pioneering female playback singers in the country, thinks the struggle for a collective identity for female singers has to be traced back to the pre-liberation era when many of her contemporary singers had stones hurled at their houses just for singing.
‘Being the daughter of Abbasuddin Ahmed worked favourably for me; at least no stones were hurled at our house,’ Ferdausi says. ‘I started singing when I was a child, and was aware of the rigid social attitude to women going outdoors and singing. But we braved past these hurdles.’
Fatima Tuz Zohra, another prominent singer who specialises in Nazrul songs, says her parents were derided for letting her sing in public. ‘I was not the only one; female singers in the 60s and 70s had to face similar derision and close-mindedness. But that is history now,’ Fatema says.
She considers mass commercialisation of music a barrier to creating a true musical environment. ‘Top bosses of different TV and radio stations often ignore those who are truly talented and harbour favoritism,’ Fatema says, adding that a culture conducive to originality and experimentations is essential for the industry.
Prominent playback singer Abida Sultana thinks the modern-day tendency of of lobbying and self-promotion is dangerous. ‘There was a time when talent alone could launch one’s career, and producers would look around for talent. But in the 80s when CDs entered the market, many people started paying recording companies to make their music albums,’ she says. ‘I think the biggest challenge that young musicians face today is the lure of stardom.’
About the younger generation of female singers, Ferdausi thinks some of them are more inclined towards instant fame and success than a career built on quality, patience and dedication. ‘It’s important to work on your showmanship, but not at the cost of harnessing musical talent,’ she says.
Popular singer Dilshad Nahar Kona, better known as Kona, acknowledged the challenges of getting recognition these days. ‘It’s true that the stars of yesteryears had to rely solely on their talent and there was not much gimmicky back then, but the situation has changed,’ Kona says.
Promising singer and music composer Armeen Musa thinks that the biggest problem that both female and male musicians face in Bangladesh is that they are ‘unbelievably’ underpaid. Another singer Porshi thinks singers sometimes have to compromise with their style and originality because of the existing situations.
Source: New Age