Music has no language. It does not matter if you know the language the lyrics are written in, a good tune can always convey the emotions the lyrics are portraying. During the 50s, 60s and 70s, Bengal has seen a confluence of musical geniuses along with the rising political tensions in Bengal. S. D. Burman, Salil Chowdhury, Sudhin Dasgupta, R. D. Burman are few names that come to mind. Not everyone participated in active politics barring a few, Salil Chowdhury is a notable example. Others dealt with the age old theme of love in their songs. Does not make them any less beautiful though. Here is a list of the 15 best Bengali songs you must listen to. It has the songs of the composers that have been mentioned above and more.
1. Pagol Hawaye
This one is written and composed by one of the greatest composers of all time, Salil Chowdhury. As with most of the songs in his career, the influence of Western Classical music is clear on this one.
2. Tumi Koto Je Dure
This song is probably not very famous, but it is a terrific accomplishment in music and easily makes it to the best Bengali songs of all time. The lyrics were penned down by Swapan Chakraborty and composed by R. D. Burman. The song uses a combination of electronic and acoustic sounds to create a soundscape that was unheard at the time of its release. It was sung by R. D. Burman and Asha Bhonsle.
3. Borne Gondhe Chhonde Geetite
Composed by S. D. Burman and written by Mira Dev Burman, this is one of the most romantic songs in the Bengali language. Unlike his son, R. D. Burman who was concerned not only about the melody, but also the arrangement of the instruments, S. D. Burman’s primary focus was on the melody.
4. Shing Nei Tobu Naam Taar Shingho
Sung by Kishore Kumar and composed by Hemanta Mukherjee, this is the first rock and roll song in Bengali. It also featured a brass section that was previously not used like that.
5. Shurero Ei Jhorna
Another song by the maestro Salil Chowdhury. He was influenced by various kinds of music around the world. The influence of Russian Polka Music is clear on this one. This song was sung by Sabita Chowdhury.
6. Hoyto Tomari Jonno
Composed by Sudhin Dasgupta and sung by Manna Dey this song was a hit at the time of its release. It still is a favourite of many youngsters.
7. Mono Lage Na
We can’t get enough of Salil Chowdhury, and for a reason. His compositions were some of the most visionary compositions then and even now. This one is sung by Lata Mangeshkar.
I promise you this is the last one. I almost did not include it but I had to. This song broke the barriers of conventional songs with each stanza adapting a different time signature. One has to listen to the song to understand how outstanding a composition this is.
9. Shob Loke Koy Lalon Ki Jaat
This is a folk song. There are many folk songs I could have included in the list, but this one from Lalon Fakir seemed to be the obvious choice considering the current state of the country. The song talks about various identifiers every religion has bestowed upon its followers to differentiate them from one another and how none of them matters in the end.
10. Majhe Majhe Tobo Dekha Paai
Finally a song by Rabindranath Tagore. The list would be incomplete without him. This is a song about love, but curiously it is categorised under the “worship” section in Tagore’s compilation of songs Geetabitan which really opens up a conversation on what Tagore meant by Love. Maybe the love Tagore was talking about is not towards someone, rather it is the love of the devotee towards the divine.
11. Tobu Mone Rekho
A song of separation by Tagore. All of the songs of Tagore are extremely personal. That’s why it makes it so much more relatable. By the way, this gem was written by Tagore when he was only 16 years old.
12. Prithibi Ta Naki Chhoto Hote Hote
The tune of this song might be familiar because Pritam copied it for the song “Bheegi Bheegi”. This is the original song. This was written and composed by Gautam Chattopadhyay, who is criminally underrated even today. The lyrics are hauntingly relevant even today.
13. Hay Bhalobashi
Gautam Chattopadhyay was the pioneer of the Bengali band movement. Along with 6 other members, he found the band Moheener Ghoraguli in 1975 creating alternative music. This was one of the tracks for their 1977 album Shongbighno Pakhikul.
14. Shongbighno Pakhikul
Another song by Moheener Ghoraguli (last on the list). This is the titular from their 1977 album Shongbighno Pakhikul. To be honest I don’t know what the song means. It forms a series of images in the mind of the listener. Humans struggle to find meaning in everything that they listen to or see or merely think. That’s what makes us humans. Maybe that is why we keep coming back to this song.
15. Bhoy Dekhash Na Please (Agnee version)
The only contemporary song on the list. This is composed by Indraadip Dasgupta and sung by Arijit Singh. But the version that I am talking about is by the band Agnee. It was rearranged by them and sung again by their lead singer Mohan Kannan. I like it a thousand times better than the original song.
That’s it. This was our list of the 15 best Bengali songs you must listen to. Thanks for reading this far. I hope you listen to the tracks, you won’t be disappointed.