So Fakir Alamgir bhai is gone and with him goes a cultural world which can never be resurrected as the world that produced it is gone. He came from a world where arts and politics lived together and both were supposed to belong to the people. They were songs of the pre-digital era and sounded best when sung to a crowd of cheering lads who wanted social change.
He was into Left politics too, when some of the best were there. Today’s FB radicals wouldn’t be able to recognize that era when social change was just thought to be a few songs away. It didn’t happen of course, and for many reasons including history - but the legacy of the music stayed on. The past of a “people’s” cultural movement is now part of our memory but a strong one too. And much of that belonged to Fakir Alamgir bhai, now gone at 71.
The 70s were the great years where culture flourished. There was no money, no dhandabazi - so those drawn to it were citizens genuinely interested in the arts. There was the mainstream so to speak but the sub-stream was no less strong. Often they would draw huge crowds. Part of that was because so many were part of the 'Great Dream': although none were fully sure what it was, it was a shared dream.
Also read: Folk music legend Fakir Alamgir leaves the stage for the last time
In the mass media era
Fakir Alamgir sang all over Bangladesh but his favourite haunt was Dhaka University Arts building chattor. That’s where the young came to hear him and he sang for them. But by the end of the 70s the world had started to change in most ways and Left politics or whatever it was went into a steep decline from which it never recovered. Slowly as the economics grew mass media began to be strong. And the songs which most people will remember him by – his Sokhina songs – gained popularity on BTV reaching millions. Many of those who had heard him sing at DU were now tuning in their TV sets. We had been together in our 70s era but times were changing. I don’t know how much he knew that but there was a new crowd , new demands and a new society where many more products were competing. His original loyalists were now spread all over the world with remittance generation lovingly remembering him and spreading it on Youtube but he was never far away from the live crowd. Even as his voice aged and the lungs no longer reverberated with the pain and rage of the migrant forced to the city for survival longing for an imagined rural paradise they may never have had, the songs remained.
Also read: Folk music legend Fakir Alamgir in ICU with Covid-19
The era closes
In the end, he belonged and symbolized an era, one where songs contributed to social change, an active ingredient. Today’s songs are more reactive, produced by change and lifestyle. Almost everyone is a stranger here and now who belonged to his era. But he has still prevailed. That he is remembered for his songs decades after they were sung shows that the digital era actually served him, his songs and those who love him. So farewell Fakir Alamgir bhai, move on singing to another call from the crowd to sing one of their favourites again.