The Dotara Project
By Md Intaj Ali
Dotara is one of the sweetest folk instruments of Bengal. It is a widely used musical instrument with Bengali folk songs. It is also used in many mainstream film songs. It is made up of two or four wires and sometimes five wires. It is mostly popular in West Bengal and Bangladesh. Dotara has been used predominantly in Bhawaiya songs of North Bengal. In addition to Bhawaiya songs, the dotaras are also played with other instruments in Murshidi, Marfathi, Jari gaan, Baul, Fakiri songs, and Kabigaan. There is an online Facebook dotara group called ‘Dotara Bajai’ for promoting and teaching dotara tutorials to the younger generations. ‘Sorup Dotara Sanskriti Shilpi Gosthi’ of Bangladesh is working for the preservation of dotara tune and they have a group of musicians, which performs on different occasions. As a folk instrument, dotara is losing its essence with time. It is time we look back at our own heritage and tradition so that the younger generation could take interest in this musical tradition. The conspicuous dotara players are Kanai Lal Shil, Abhinash Shil, Asutosh Shil, Rob Fakir, Basudeb Baul, Mansur Fakir, Laksman Das Baul, Tarak Das Baul, Nimai Das Baul, Mohammad Solaiman, Nikhil Krishna Majumder, and Bikash Shil.
Mohammad Solaiman is a musician based in Bangladesh. He has been practicing music for nearly three decades. Initially, he received his primary dotara training from his father. Later, Ustad Nimruddin, Ustad Sirajuddin, Arun Kumar Mukherjee, Anwarul Haque, Abinash Chandra Shil gave him in-depth training. He mainly performs genres such as Palli Geeti, Loko Geeti, Bhawaiya, and so on. His name is enlisted as a dotara player on radio and television of Bangladesh. Besides, he conducts music shows on the radio and television frequently. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Nikhil Krisna Majumder is an eminent Bangladeshi musician and senior stuff musician of Betar Bangladesh (Radio Bangladesh). In his initial days, he learnt music from his father, whom he considers to be the wellspring of motivation and affection for music. He has learnt flute from Osman Sheikh and Sarod from Ustad Bidyut Hossain Khan, besides receiving classical training from Ali Ahamed. In addition to playing various musical instruments, he is also the creator of various musical instruments. He loves to make dotara, khol, dhol, dhak, premjuri, sarinda, khomok, sorod, flute, and so on. He can play them all effortlessly and proficiently. In 2010, he established Muroli Folk Institution and Museum, where he teaches music lessons to students. His main aim is to inculcate love for the folk instrument in the younger generation. He travels from village to village collecting folk instruments in order to establish an archive. He thinks playing music and making instruments are two very different acts and such artists could hardly be found in the present generation.
Bikash Chandra Shil is one of the busiest dotara players in India and Bangladesh. He frequently visits India for different programs on television channels. It is said that there are very few singers with whom he has not performed. His grandfather, Kanailal Shil, is a true master of dotara tradition. These two recordings are done by Suman Kumar Saha.
Bipul Chandra Shil is an established dotara artist based in Bangladesh. He began to take dotara lessons during his school days from his elder brother, Bikash Chandra Shil, because of his profound love for the instrument. The tradition of dotara music runs in his blood: the master, Kanailal Shil, is his grandfather. He is also fluent in the artistry of Mandolin, Banjo, Rabab, and so on. He plays dotara with acclaimed artists at home and abroad and records various types of music with experts. He is a practitioner of various musical genres such as Lalongeeti, Polligeeti, Lokogeeti, and Bhatiali Songs.
Kamruzzaman Rabbi is a musician based in Bangladesh. He has been practicing music for nearly 6 years. Initially, he received his primary dotara training from his uncle, Abdul Jolil, for around a year. Afterwards he kept playing and developing his music. In 2016, he got his first major break at a television reality show – ‘Magic Bauliana’ – on Maasranga Television in which he ended as the 4th runners-up. He mainly performs genres such as Polligeeti, Lokogeeti, Lalongeeti, and so on. His name is enlisted as a Folk Singer and dotara player on radio and television of Bangladesh. He can be reached on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as #KZRabbi.
Dibya Sundar Bhattacharjee is an artist based in Bolpur, Birbhum. He has learnt dotara from Basudeb Das Baul. While he plays other instruments such as Guitar, Banjo, Ukulele, Mandolin, Khomak, and Dubki, his special interest lies in dotara. A down-to-earth person in his daily life, his musical journey comprises of many stage performances in different Indian cities. These are the recordings of Suman Kumar Saha.
Soumendu Das is a post graduate student at the Department of Commerce, University of Calcutta and a music practitioner. He received his primary dotara training from Late Dilip Roy. He has played background score for the Bengali telefilm, Death Certificate, released in Toronto, CA. He has built an online community-cum-archive – ‘দোতারা বাজাই-Dotara Bajai’ – with Indian and Bangladeshi dotara players. The objective of the community is to revive, re-inject dotara into mainstream music and to encourage younger generation by organizing dotara workshops at a regular interval. He was selected for Sahapedia UNESCO Fellowship, 2017 as a research fellow.
Md Intaj Ali is a Ph.D. Research Scholar at the Centre for Comparative Literature, University of Hyderabad, India. He can be reached at email@example.com
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