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Music as Meditation

A Profile of Parveen Sultana
by Abu Hanifa

Once upon a time Nagaon was known as the Lucknow of Assam. Singer Tarikuddin Ahmed, lyricists Malin Bora, Kamalananda Bhattacharyya, Navakanta Barua, sitar player Matiur Rahman, violin player Nitai Sarkar, vocalist Ikramul Mazid, tabla player Bibekananda Bhattacharyya, Palit Ch Bora – all belong to Nagaon. Traditional Assamese families, both Hindus and Muslims used to organise Baithaki (classical musical functions) at their homes, especially on the eve of marriages.

Late Ikramul Mazid was a connoisseur of classical music and his Nagaon residence was a centre for all the classical music lovers of Nagaon at that time. Parveen was the eldest daughter of late Ikramul Mazid. Now Parveen is settled in Mumbai. During spring 2003, she paid a private visit to Nagaon. During her visit, she avoided the media as well as public functions. But fortunately, at the intervention of her brother Shekhu, Parveen allowed this writer to talk with her, but only for 15 minutes. During our interview, which stretched on to nearly an hour and a half, Parveen recalled her past, commented on the present music scenario and also expressed her future plans.

While the other children were busy in playing, little Parveen would be busy with riyaz. Her father, late Ikramul Mazid was her first guru and he was very strict with her. Sacrificing the golden carefree days of childhood, Parveen learnt vocal music from a very young age. Later, she went to Kolkata to learn music under the guidance of late Pandit Chinmoy Lahiri and from 1973, she became a disciple of Ustad Dilshad Khan of the Kirana Gharana. Later on, Parveen became the life partner of Ustad Dilshad Khan. Parveen’s family made great sacrifices for her elevation to this stage of fame. Her mother Maroofa Mazid even sold her gold ornaments to meet the expenses of Parveen’s education. This time Parveen came to Nagaon to meet her ailing mother.

Parveen gave her first stage performance in Kolkata at the age of 12 in 1962. Since then, she, along with her husband Dilshad have toured different parts of the country as well as abroad including USA, France, Russia, Germany, Australia, Dubai, Afghanistan etc. Commenting on the foreign audience Parveen said that Europe has a rich culture and they responded positively. Indian music is very popular abroad and they usually appreciated its melody and rhythm.

According to Parveen, music is like meditation. Devotion is a must for learning anything including music, she added. Through music, anybody can meet God. Riyaz of music is like a prayer.

Parveen further said that to be a good singer, he or she should be devoted to developing a strong base and there is no shortcut to glory. She commented that some TV channels induce bad taste among our young generation. She urged them to avoid cultivation of this type of culture.

Commenting on the quality of the present Assamese modern songs, Parveen opined that the standard is now very poor and sometimes it creates only sound pollution.

Parveen has earned several laurels till now. She was conferred the Padmashree in 1976 (she is the youngest recipient of this award). She has been conferred the title of Cleopatra of music (1972), Gandharva Kalanidhi (1980) and has won the Miyan Tansen Prize (1986), the Sangeet Samraggi conferred by the Assam Government (1994) and the Sangeet Natak Academy Award (1999).

Parveen observed that there are musical talents among our young generation. Now she is searching for a piece of land in Assam to set up a guidance centre for our young talents. It is hoped the state government or any NGO would come forward to help Parveen to guide our future generations of musicians.

She has started an institute christened as ‘Gun Ranga Sangeet Sabha’. The inaugural function was held on April 12, 2003, at Pune this year in the memory of her father Ikramul Mazid and Faiz Khan

Coutesy: The Assam Tribune (2003)

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