We have all neglected Mohammad Ali Siddiqui. In his final years, away from music and melody, he lived almost forgotten by the generation, ours, which grew into adulthood swooning to his songs. The generation which succeeded his almost never made mention of the richness he once brought into modern Bengali songs, especially in the movies. Think here of the unforgettable baanshi baaje oi duure / chena ki ochena shuure. It touched our souls decades ago, gave them a sure feel of the pastoral. How many of us can reproduce such music today?
Mohammad Ali Siddiqui is now dead. And thus passes one more of our heroic figures, one of the old trendsetters in music, into the ages. Was it that long ago when we hummed heshe khele jibon ta jodi chole jaaye? It was his song, one we sang in college and at university, blissfully and intentionally removed from the cares of the world around us. We were, in the unforgettable voice of Siddiqui, bohemians in the real sense of the term. After all, didn't we sing with gusto his inimitable aami ek duronto jajabor? We were young, driven by that indefinable urge to impress the young, beautiful women around us. Call it a malady of a particular phase in life. But it was beautiful malady and Siddiqui gave proper expression to it. There were the times when we quarrelled with the women we loved. Quarrels, of course, are a renewal of love. But, then again, it was mock quarrel we indulged in --- to give ourselves the chance to irritate those women with the apt Siddiqui number, shono go ruposhi lolona / amake jokhon tokhon chokh rangano cholbe na. Recall the tune. You will want to walk back to the healthy 1970s.
Siddiqui was one of the pioneers of movie songs in the 1960s and 1970s. And his was never an inconsequential presence in the world of Bengali aesthetics. He lent his voice to as many as a hundred and fifty songs in Bengali movies, which in itself is testimony to the hold he had on lovers of music in his time. And the times in which he shared the melody stage with his peers were those when music was, well, music. They were all artistes and none of them suffered from the deadly sin of wanting to be a celebrity. In those days, the song was all and the play of instruments was only part of it, unlike today when the entire narrative works in reverse order. There was meaning and there was substance in song, qualities you find in the Siddiqui-Anjuman Ara duet, ke tumi ele more ei jibone / akashe amar tumi shonali alo. And remember that other marvellous number from Siddiqui, shagorika khunje to pain ni?
The more you reflect on Mohammad Ali Siddiqui in death, the clearer appears to be your increasing perception of him as a defining force in our world of music. The pathos in the song, na hoy rakhle amar kotha aager moto / tumi shonale gaan na hoy aager moto, is never lost on you. Music, like love and passion, came beautifully wrapped in near religious devotion in the old days. And Siddiqui gave you just that sort of music. There was a plenitude of richness in his song offerings, as in tomake manae bhalo / jokhon tumi lojja ranga abirh shajo mekhe.
Our tribute to Mohammad Ali Siddiqui comes from the heart, from that core of it where the landscape is an embroidered quilt of song and mirth. How many artistes have we known of his kind? There was class about him. Listen to that soothing number he sings with Sabina Yasmin --- aami koto din koto raat bhebechhi / bhebechhi bolbo tomare / ekti purono kotha notun kore. It causes charming desperation to rise in you, that painful desire to go back to the lost times of new-found love.
(Mohammad Ali Siddiqui, popular Bengali playback artiste of the 1960s and 1970s, passed away on Tuesday, 4 November 2014)