Cultural activities polish both individuals and the nation


Sharmin Sultana Sumi

Sharmin Sultana Sumi, the vocalist of popular fusion group Chirkutt from Bangladesh, said cultural activities are considered as optional activities in the country, for which the state and its decision makers must understand the importance of culture.

“Cultural activities polish both children and a nation while cultural exchange between countries strengthens the bonds between them,” Sumi told New Age on April 13.

Also, if a group makes a hit song and it becomes popular in other countries, then the group has an easier time surviving with the royalty that comes along, Sumi also said.

“But in our country, people use local bands’ hits without facing any copyright issues and artists don’t get anything as a result,” she lamented.

Cultural activists, she continued, played an important role during all the crises in Bangladesh, including the 1971 war of independence and the anti-autocratic movement of the 1990s.

“I attended the Womex 21 event in Portugal where the president of the music expo said in his inaugural speech that Covid-19 had proven the importance of culture in people’s lives,” he said. she tells.

Sumi regretted that budget allocations for the promotion of culture in Bangladesh are not adequate.

Chirkutt has released three albums so far – Chirkuttnama in 2010, Jadur Shohor in 2013 and Udhao in 2017.

The group’s next project titled “Matigeeti”, a digital album, will feature five folk songs. The group will be releasing the songs in phases, and the first song is scheduled to be released on April 25.

“Although we are inspired by our old folk songs that showcase the emotions and wisdom of our rural people, we also work on ‘urban folk songs’ to capture the contemporary situation,” she said.

‘I wrote all the songs on the Matigeeti album. I hope music lovers will enjoy the songs. The songs have a folk flavor in the lyrics or the music,” she added.

Born on September 16, 1979 in the southern district of Khulna, Sumi was blessed with a music-loving family.

Sumi’s father, the late Mokbul Hossain, was an employee of the state-owned Daulatpur Jute Mills in Khalishpur, Khulna, and his mother was a housewife.

“I had a unique atmosphere of practicing music in our home since childhood. Even we chatted in our family mostly through songs. My father would ask me to sing songs even a few days before my exams,” Sumi recalls.

“I haven’t had the formal opportunity to learn any form of music. There was a music teacher named Harun-or-Rashid who I consider my mentor. When we were living in Khalishpur, our family friend Tutul Bhai introduced him to me,” she added.

Sumi learned three or four ragas from her teacher Harun.

“I learned two songs from my teacher and he sent me to perform in the Notun Kuri event and I came to perform in Dhaka after getting first place in Khulna,” she added.

“My father bought me my first harmonium when I was only a fourth grader,” Sumi said, adding that she grew up listening to songs by Indian and Bangladeshi maestros such as Manna Dey, Sabina Yasmin , Shyamal Mitra, Subir Nandi, Runa Laila and others.

She said she was greatly inspired by her environment, people who travel on foot, human relationships and their multidimensional aspects as well as by nature.

And in the course, she finally chose music as a career.

Asked about Chirkutt’s activities during the Covid pandemic, she said: “Music is not just about singing songs to receive applause from the audience. We wanted to support people through music. We created seven songs during the pandemic, also featuring children and doctors, in our fight against it.

‘Besides, we did a project called ‘Alor Gaan’ to which music lovers sent us their home-recorded tracks. The idea was that we could be sent songs recorded in their open spaces like windows, verandas and roofs where there would be light while it faded in other places.

They have received a large number of videos of these songs by email, including from doctors, and Chirkutt will feature them on her Facebook page, she added.

When the government eased Covid restrictions and the number of coronavirus cases fell, Chirkutt started indoor and outdoor concerts, including at Cox’s Bazar.

Sumi said that the love of people at home and abroad was their greatest achievement during their 20-year journey, as many people treated them as their brothers and sisters, not just as artists in the group. .

“I’m very happy to see that a man in his sixties listened intensely to our songs, just like a sixth-grade student,” she said.

Chirkutt is due to perform at Madison Square Garden in New York City on May 6, 2022 with Scorpions, one of the world’s top rock bands, to mark Bangladesh’s Golden Jubilee of independence.

“It will be a great honor for us. We urge our fans and others to pray that we can appropriately represent our country there,” said Sumi, who also thanked event organizers such as local event management company Mainspring Limited, the government ICT division, State ICT. Minister Zunaid Ahmed Palak, UNDP and the US Embassy, ​​among others.

Sumi represented Bangladesh at the Worldwide Music Expo 21, better known as Womex 21, in Portugal which was held from October 27 to 31, 2021.

A Swiss filmmaker, a friend of Sumi for fifteen years, is making a film about Chirkutt, which will tell the story of the Bangladeshi group.

Sumi met his friend’s documentary film production team in Switzerland in October 2021.

“When he found out I was going to Portugal, he offered to meet him in Switzerland,” she said.

Sumi met the filmmaker friend there and discussed and finalized the film. The film is now in the pre-production phase.

They have already finalized the DoP for the film and the film will be produced under the NU Films banner, Sumi revealed, adding that the filmmaker will focus the film on Sumi and her struggle as he has been following her and the group for a long time from Switzerland. .

Chirkutt was born in 2002 and the group will soon celebrate its 20th anniversary of founding.

Asked what happened to form the group as a woman, Sumi said, “I formed the group as a human being. Men and women go through obstacles while creating an entity like this. But, yes, it is even more difficult for women than for men to form such an organization.

She said she had to try ten times when a man could have done a thing in one attempt.

“A good thing in my life is that I don’t complain about anyone. For example, if someone leaves our group, we don’t start complaining about the person,” she added.

Sumi holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in international relations from the University of Dhaka.

She has worked as a senior copywriter at advertising agencies Gray Dhaka and Adcomm Ltd, as a human resources recruiter and product manager at Computer Source Ltd, as a creative consultant at BBC Media Action and in various capacities for other organizations alongside his musical career.

When asked how she manages time working with music, she replied, “I work hard. I forget to eat and sleep while working. I joined Gray Dhaka in 2007. I needed to work as I needed to earn money to be able to pursue my music career.

She said working for four years at Gray was a great learning experience for her.

“I took the music career as a challenge because a lot of people said people couldn’t survive doing band music. We never had to look back in the past 12 years. I don’t kept telling me that the financial crisis couldn’t stop the members of Chirkutt’s band from practicing music,” she added.

Sumi also owns an advertising agency. She is CEO and Creative Director of Salt Creatives, which she founded in 2017. Her activities were officially launched in 2018.

“Although it is basically an advertising agency, we have been working on climate change for four years, because the country’s climate has undergone many changes. We don’t experience winters like we used to, so we can’t not perform in overcoats in the countryside,” she said.

She has also started a musical project called “Nodi Rocks” under Salt Creatives, which will give future generations a glimpse of the beauty of river Bangladesh. The Swiss Embassy and the Manusher Jonno Foundation support the initiative.

“We are gradually losing our rivers. We create seven songs about seven rivers – the Kushiyara, the Padma, the Sangu, the Dahuk, the Buriganga, the Pasur and the Chitra. Seven groups will present the songs first. They are Arbovirus, Ark, Cryptic Fate, Chirkutt, F Minor, Bangla Five and Smooches,” she said, adding that six of the seven songs were completed.

‘Chirkutt will sing on the Sangu. We have also completed the music videos for the song. Music video shoots took place on the river. Rivers will be the scene of such a work for the first time. The project is very close to my heart and we are getting an immense response to it, including from our Minister of Foreign Affairs and our Minister of the Environment,” she said.

Sumi prefers comfort in clothes and she loves slawar kamiz and sarees.

“I don’t have any particular plans for the upcoming Eid,” Sumi said in response to being asked how she planned to celebrate the biggest Muslim holiday. “I always do car tours from Gulshan-1 to Gulshan-2 on Eid day,” she added.

The singer urged younger generation musicians across the country not to give up and stay glued to the music.

‘After a few days of trying, many new bands lose hope and part ways with the music. But if you want to succeed, you must not give up. We have heard songs from many young singers from Bangla Five, F-Minor, Smooches, Krishnapakkha and others and they are doing well,” she said.

Chirkutt has performed in many countries, including the United States, United Kingdom and Sri Lanka.

She said they received immense respect during their performances on board.

Chirkutt’s most popular acts include Duniya, Kanamachhi and Ahare Jibon.

The group has the Channel-i Music Award 2018 under its belt for Best Playback Music for the song Ahare jibon, which was premiered for Mostafa Sarwar Farooki’s film ‘Doob’.

Asked about singing as a playback singer, she said, “We have a comfort zone performing with the members of Chirkutt. But in most play numbers I played with other musicians.

“I would urge the filmmakers to create songs featuring the entire Chirkutt team. It’s a comfort zone for us,” she concluded.


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