Music of Bangladesh

Music of Bangladesh
Music of South Asia
Bangladesh Bangladesh
Bhutan Bhutan
India India
Maldives Maldives
Nepal Nepal
Pakistan Pakistan
Sri Lanka Sri Lanka

Bangladesh is traditionally very rich in its musical heritage. From the ancient times, music documented the lives of the people and was widely patronized by the rulers.

Bangla music in ancient times was mostly linked to prayer. Most folk songs are related to some sort of praise of the gods and their creation. Songs were associated with particular groups of people, such as fishermen, cart-drivers, hermits and so on. Most songs were based on classical themes.

Modernisation of Bangla music occurred at different times and most of these modernisation processes happened independently of western influence. Most notable of these changes were:

  • Popularity of folk music of Sufi genres: introduction of philosophy and religion in music
  • Works of Rabindranath Tagore, a Nobel Laureate poet: introduction of variations of classical music to music
  • Works of Kazi Nazrul Islam: introduction of complicated musical composition and use of music as a revolutionary tool
  • Modernisation of folk music: bringing folk music into mainstream
  • Fusion work: fusion of traditional music with electronic instruments and Western work to revitalise and re-popularise Bangla music in a society increasingly overwhelmed by the West



The music of Bangladesh can be broadly categorized among the following genres:

The three main categories are Classical, folk and Western-influenced pop.[1]


Bangladeshi classical music is based on modes called ragas (rag, in Bangla). All traditional Bangla music are based on classical music or on its variations.

Some of the most talented classical musicians of the sub-continent come from Bangladesh including Ustad Allauddin Khan, Sangeetacharya Tarapada Chakraborty, Pandit Ravi Shankar, Pandit Manas Chakraborty, Ustad Ayet Ali Khan, Ustad Abed Hossain Khan and so on.

Rabindra sangeet

Rabindra sangeet origins from the works of Rabindranath Tagore

Rabindra sangeet is one of the best-known genres of Bangla music outside Bengal. Its origin is found in the work the poet Rabindranath Tagore.

Nazrul Sangeet

Nazrul Sangeet origins from the works of Kazi Nazrul Islam

Nazrul Sangeet, literally meaning "music of Nazrul", are the works of Kazi Nazrul Islam, some 4,000 songs composed by the national poet of Bangladesh and active revolutionary during Indian independence movement.

Nazrul Sangeet incorporate revolutionary notions as well as more spiritual and philosophical themes. Islam used his music as a major way of disseminating his revolutionary notions, mainly by the use of strong words and powerful but catchy tunes. Islam also incorporated influences from Western India. He played an active role in carrying out a fusion between Western Indian ghazals and traditional Bengali classical music. (Ghazals are poems in Urdu presented with a semi-classical tune, popular in Western India.) Nazrul geetis that do not incorporate themes of protest essentially form what is now called Bangla ghazal. The music involves variation on ragas (modes) along with complicated timing based almost entirely on vocal work and complex structure.

Due to Islam's dedicated nature and lifestyle, Nazrul geeti was not mainstream for a very long time (and possibly still is not as commercially promoted as Rabindra sangeet). Bangladeshi singer and composer Firoza Begum played a very big role in popularising Nazrul geeti in both Bangladesh and West Bengal. Sohorab Hossain, Ferdous Ara, Shabnam Mushtari, also played a crucial role in making Nazrul geeti mainstream.


Bangla folk music has a long history. Several people contributed to what has become one of the most important musical influences in lives of Bengalis on both sides of the (West Bengal-Bangladesh) border. Among these are Lalon Fokir, Hason Raja and Ramesh Shill. Abbas Uddin was a key player in popularising folk music later on.

Painting depicting Hason Raja.

Folk music can clearly be distinguished and classified into several sub-genres:

  • Baul: mainly inspired by Lalon Fokir and his Sufi way of living and almost exclusively performed by hermits who have adopted such (Sufi) life style
  • Bhandari: devotional music from the South (mainly Chittagong)
  • Bhatiali: music of fishermen and boatman, almost always tied by a common raga (mode), sung solo
  • Bhawaiya: song of bullock-cart drivers of the North (Rangpur)
  • Gajir geet: tradition song from the North (Rangpur)
  • Gombhira: song (originating in Chapai Nawabganj, in the North) performed with a particular distinctive rhythm and dance with two performers, always personifying a man and his grand father, discussing a topic to raise social awareness
  • Hason Raja: devotional songs written by music composer Hason Raja (from Sylhet near Assam) that was recently repopularised as popular dance music
  • Jaari: song that involves musical battle between two groups
  • Jatra Pala: songs associated exclusively with plays (performed on-stage) that usually always involve historical themes presented in a very colourful way
  • Kirtan: devotional song depicting love of Hindu god Krishno and his (best-known) wife, Radha
  • Pala: songs from the haor (lake) area in Sylhet, Kishoregonj, and Netrokona usually performed on stage live by folk singers
  • Kobi gaan: poems sung with simple music usually presented on stage as a musical battle between poets
  • Lalon: best known of all folk songs and the most import sub-genre of Baul songs, almost entirely attribute to spiritual writer and composer, Lalon Fokir of Kustia (Western Bangladesh, near the border with West Bengal)
  • Mursiya: Islamic songs of devotion of the Shi'ah groups based mainly on Western influences
  • Shaari: song of boatmen sung in group to match the beat of the oar movement
  • Upojatiyo: songs of the minor ethnic groups - worth noting, this is not really a classification since songs of these ethnic groups (of which there are at least 13 different groups) vary widely and have very distinct and intriguing characteristics
  • Letto's song: songs from Mymensingh (North of Dhaka) that also allegedly influenced Nazrul geeti
  • Wedding songs: sung all over Bangladesh but always tied by similar tunes and by, obviously, a common theme, marriage

Of these several groups, Baul song is best known and was further enriched by works of Lalon.

All folk songs are characterised by simple musical structure and words. Before advent of radio, stage performances of folk singers used to be possibly the only entertainment for the vast rural population of Bengal. After arrival of new communication and digital media, many of the folk songs were modernised and incorporated into modern songs (Adhunik songeet).


Baul has been such a huge influence in Bangladeshi music that it deserves being called a genre on its own. However, although Baul geeti can be characterised by particular nature of music and presentation, in general, the genre is actually also defined by a definite cult. In order to understand Baul geeti, it is necessary to understand its creators.

Baul is almost exclusively performed by Bauls (hermits) who are followers of Sufism in Bangladesh. (Note that traditionally bauls were Hindus; Sufism was started following the lifestyle of Lalon Shah.) In Bangladesh, in the early days of Bauls who claimed to be Muslims, with greater focus on love of the society and harmony with nature, baul geeti had to go through a major struggle of survival as did the Bauls themselves. Bauls were subjected to harsh teasing and isolation. However, with time, Islamists were forced by the general population to accept the Bauls and their spiritual music as part of the society.

Current day Bauls in Bangladesh are Sufis. Most live simple lives on an absolute minimum, earned mainly from performing their music. Baul songs always incorporate simple words expressing songs with deeper meanings involving Creation, society, lifestyle and human emotions. The songs are performed with very little musical support to the main carrier, the vocal. Bauls, bohemian by nature and belief, leave on grand expeditions, writing and performing music on their entire trip to earn living and disseminate notion of love and spirituality.

Ektara (literally, the one-string), Dotara (literally, the two-strings), ba(n)shi (flute made from bamboo shoot)) and cymbals are used in the presentation of Baul geeti. Although, in recent days, Baul geeti has lost popularity mainly due to disruption of the lifestyle of the bauls by urbanisation and westernisation, the songs have permanently altered Bangla music, especially in the form of Lalon geeti.

Baul songs were hugely promoted by Fakir Alamgir and Feroz Shahi in Bangladesh.


Lalon geeti is the work of composer and philosopher, Lalon Shah (also known as Lalon Fokir). Most of his songs are extensions of Baul geeti. However, his songs are always more philosophical in nature, involving greater thought about abstract themes.

Lalon geeti originated in Kushtia and has been popularised throughout the two Bengals (West Bengal and Bangladesh) by various artists. Among the proponents of Lalon geeti, Farida Parveen is particularly worth mentioning for her extensive work in modernising tunes.


Adhunik songeet literally means "modern songs". Although, to outsiders, this may seem an extremely ambiguous way of nomenclature, it has particular motivations.

Bangla music traditionally has been classified mainly by the region of origin and the creators of the musical genre, such as Nazrul geeti (written and composed by Kazi Nazrul Islam), ghombhira (unique to a specific area in Bangladesh), etc. However, this prevented the ability to classify any music that failed to fit into any of the classes.

In the period just before Indian independence (Bengal, under British rule, was a part of one massive India that does not exactly correspond to the India of current day), several new minor musical groups emerged, mainly as playback songs for movies. These songs failed to fit into any particular genre, but seemed to be tied together by common theme of "music for the masses". Most of the music tended to be aimed at the mainstream audience - popular catchy tunes with simple words that were far moved from the classical ragas (modes). Hence, a miscellaneous category, Adhunik songeet, was created, since, at that time, this music was "modern".

Although over time these so-called "modern" songs have become fairly old, they continue to be called by the same name. Interestingly, this group of song has grown faster than any other, since it is a miscellaneous category that can accommodate anything that fails to fit elsewhere. The common theme continues to exist. So, although the nomenclature itself might not be as insightful, the genre itself is still well-defined.

Notable Adhunik sangeet singers

  • Runa Laila
  • Shahnaz Rahmatullah
  • Sabina Yasmin
  • Shakila Zafar
  • Samina Chowdhury
  • Alam Ara Minu (Singer)
  • Abdul Jabbar
  • Bashir Ahmed
  • Andrew Kishore
  • Baby Nazneen-Singer
  • Kanak Chapa-Singer
  • Momtaz-Folk Singer
  • Fahmida Nabi-Sinser
  • Neaz Mohammed Chowhhury-Singer
  • Subir Nandi-Singer
  • Abida Sultana-Singer
  • Rafiq ul Alam-Sinser
  • Asif Akbar-Singer
  • Rezwana Chowdhury Bonna-Singer
  • Papia Sorwar-Singer
  • Dilruba Khan-Singer

Modern music and western influence

In the post-independence period, Adhunik songeet continued to attract large proportiones of music enthusiasts. However, with time, newer generations demanded more upbeat music. Starting late 80's, music involving political theme have started to gain popularity once again, in a similar fashion to growth of Nazrul geeti had gained popularity during the revolution against the British Monarch and the War of Independence of Bangladesh.

Pop music

Ayub Bachchu of L.R.B performing at a concert.

Pop music initially started with the so-called band music. And as the name suggests, the music was heavily influenced by Western Music. The greatest contributors to pop or pop-rock music also included the following singers:

Artists of the "Adhunik Gaan" and folk (especially new wave) genre also contributed to the pop music from time to time.

The popularity of the band music was started enormously with the music of some famous band groups which had some mixed flavor of our melody with Western pop-rock stream.

Notable pop bands

Rock music

Bangla rock was started by Azam Khan, RockStarta , Warfaze Miles and LRB. Hassan (associated with Ark[disambiguation needed ]) and James (Faruk Mahfuz Anam) (associated with Feelings and, later, Nogor Baul) contributed in popularizing rock music. However, hard-rock did not begin until arrival of bands like Ark Rockstrata, and later Warfaze among many others in the early 90s.

Actually the bengali rock songs became popular after featuring Ark's (Tajmohol),(Janmabhumi),(Shadhinota), James (Thik ache bondhu) etc. albums. Both Hasan (Ark) and James proved their ability as a world class rocker in those albums and they never looked behind.

Bangladeshi rock scene has evolved into two distinct categories.


Common instruments are:[1]



  • Abeda Sultana: contemporary
  • Abdul Jabbar: playback singer for movies in 1960s and 1970s & artist of the Shadhin Bangla Betar Kendro
  • Andrew Kishor: playback singer for movies for three decades
  • Fatema-tuz-zohura: respected singer for three decades
  • Zinga Goshty - one of the earliest bands (1970s) in Dhaka (which originated from Chittagong)
  • Rebecca Sultana: contemporary
  • Runa Laila: Ghazal singer and playback singer in 1980s
  • Sabina Yasmin: playback singer for four decades
  • Ferdous Ara: Famous Singer of "Adhunik" songs
  • Asif Iqbal Sunbeam: Revolutionary remix artist for the album chumki(first ever bangla digital remix album), also have solo career from 1990s
  • Mila : introduced new rock and pop styles in Bangladesh, modern bangla, teenage heart throb of pop music.
  • Tapan Chowdhury: went solo after beginning career in Souls.
  • Uma Islam: playback singer in 1970s and 1980s & artist of the Shadhin Bangla Betar Kendro
  • M. Thakur From the band Zeathers (1989), solo singer, living in New York
  • Shakila Zafar
  • Asif Akbar recording artist/playback singer


  • Begum Akhtar: (deceased)
  • Sangeetacharya Tarapada Chakraborty: (deceased)

Nazrul Geeti (Kazi Nazrul Islam- National Poet of Bangladesh)

  • Angur Bala: deceased
  • Arjumand Banu: deceased
  • Dalia Nausheen
  • Suzana ansar
  • Firoza Begum: popular in the 1960s, carried out lot of experimental composition work in an attempt to popularise Nazrul geeti
  • Ferdous Ara: (Leading Singer, Teacher and Researcher of Nazrul Sangeet, Teaching Nazrul Sangeet at DU, Govt. Music College, Nazrul Institute. Running an Institution of Music named "SURSHAPTAK")
  • Leena Taposhi Khan (Singer & Nazrrul Reaserser, playing leading role to popularising Nazrul Song )
  • Khairul Anam: contemporary
  • Khaled Hossain
  • Shamsi Faruque Shimki
  • Laila Arjumand Banu: deceased
  • Sadya Afreen Mallick
  • Shabnam Mushtari
  • Shaheen mahmud Samad
  • Sohorab Hossain: played key-role in popularising Nazrul geeti
  • Nilufer Yasmin: deceased
  • Sudhin Das
  • Neelima Das
  • Sumon Chowdhury


  • Abbas Uddin: revolutionary work with folk music and its revitalisation
  • Abdul Alim
  • Shah Abdul Karim: from Sylhet
  • Abdur Rahman Bayati: from Jessore
  • Binoy Bansi Das: rhythm-specialist from Chittagong
  • Bijoy Sarker: from Jessore, deceased
  • Farida Parveen: unrivalled in Lalon Geeti, known for three decades, carried out huge projects on modernising and popularising Lalon geeti
  • Ferdausi Rahman: immensely popular for three decades, heir to rich tradition established by her father, Abbasuddin,
  • Horolal Rai: deceased
  • Kanai Lal Shil: dotara player, deceased
  • Kangalini Sufia: singer from Chittagong
  • Khoda Box Shai: from Kustia
  • Kutubul Alam: gombhira singer from Rajshahi
  • Neena Hamid: contemporary
  • Saydur Rahman Bayati: from Manikganj
  • Rothindranath Rai
  • Rowshan Bayati: from Jessore

Pop/Rock Vocalists And some Bands

  • James (Faruk Mahfuz Anam) Vocalist of Nogor Baul
  • In Dhaka: rock band
  • Hassan: Pop rock musician.
  • Azam Khan: A pioneering musician ever lived in Bangladeshi Pop culture, often referred to as the "Pop Guru" of Bangladesh.
  • Isha Khan Duray: Singer and producer.
  • Habib Wahid: Singer-songwriter and record producer.
  • Tishma : singer-songwriter and first female music producer of Bangladesh, she also changed and revolutionised the entire performance and style for female singers in Bangladesh, teenage heart throb of pop music. Introduced new rock and pop styles in Bangladesh too.
  • Arnob: Singer-songwriter and record producer.
  • Upol Islam: Singer-songwriter and record producer.
  • Happy Akhand: survived by his brother Lucky Akhand, after his untimely death in 80s.
  • Jewel: deceased
  • Lucky Akhand: legendary pop singer who carried on the work of brother Happy Akhand
  • Souls: emerged in late 70s in Chittagong, gained popularity over more than a decade, served to launch Ayub Bacchu (vocalist of L.R.B) and Tapan Chowdhuri, been less visible in the 90s
  • Tapan Chowdhury: went solo after beginning career in Souls
  • Warfaze: emerged in mid-eighties as hard-rock band and initiated rock era of Bangladesh
  • Nemesis: Hugely popular alt-rock band, currently recording their 2nd album.
  • Powersurge: One of the newcoming successful Heavy metal bands.

Rabindra sangeet

  • Abid: the youngest artist in tagore song
  • Atiqul Islam: deceased
  • Fahmeeda Khatun
  • Iffat Ara Dewan: contemporary
  • Kalim Sharafi
  • Milia Ali: contemporary
  • Mita Huque
  • Papia Sarwar: contemporary
  • Rezwana Chowdhury Banya
  • Sadi Mohammad Takiullah
  • Chanchal Khan: contemporary/living abroad (
  • Iqbal Ahmed: living abroad
  • Sirajus Salekin: contemporary/living abroad (Sydney, Australia)
  • Lily Islam: contemporary
  • Sanjeeda Khatun: contemporary, better known as a specialist in Rabindra sangeet and as the founder of Dhaka's popular music school, Chhayanot
  • Zahidur Rahim: deceased
  • Kaderi Kibria: living abroad (USA)

Hip Hop

  • Stoic Bliss
  • Deshi MCs
  • T.O.R. - Theology of Rap
  • Uptown Lokolz
  • Lal Miah
  • Lyrical Assassins
  • RnG
  • Magibaj Turj (dhon er agay chanachur)
  • Red Cross Zone


In 2009, Mushfiqul Alam initiated instrumental/compositional genre in Bangladesh with his successful debut album Tunes Of Heaven.[2] This album became popular among listeners of Bangladesh who were very fond of compositions of Beethoven, Yanni and Kenny G.


  1. ^ a b Bangladesh. Cultures of the World. Marshall Cavendish. 2009. p. 104. ISBN 0761444750, 9780761444756. 
  2. ^

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