Carrying the music and being a winner | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, August 19, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, August 19, 2017

Carrying the music and being a winner

‘Safa’ got her name from the two hills in Mekkah Sharif. She is the daughter of former Minister Late Mr. Hafizur Rahman and Begum Anwara Rahman. When she was only three years old she learned all the songs that her mother was singing, it included songs from all genre. At the age of six Akhter Jahan alias Safa joined the children's organization titled 'Mukul Fouz' where folk maestro Abdul Latif and Tagore exponent Sanjida Khatun taught their respective genre. Later, at nine, she went to the Quamrunessa Girl's school Sunday Class and learned from many teachers including Bedaruddin Ahmed. She became more keen on Tagore songs and even tried writing one or two in those styles.

At thirteen, she found herself in Karachi, where her father was posted. Later, in Dhaka, she took up music as a subject in her matric exams and trained extensively under Ustad Munir Hossain Khan. She participated twice in East Pakistan Education week competitions and won the first prize in Tagore songs.

To continue her pursuit of music, she went to enroll in Lahore Women's College, which had music as a subject, ultimately that didn't work out. She shifted to Kinnaird College in Lahore and continued private lessons under Ustad Abdur Rahman. Lessons included western music too as well as the piano. Again she had to come back to East Pakistan to study in the Dhaka University, she took part in the East Pakistan Education week, this time to earn two gold medals (in ghazal and folk songs). At the behest of the famous trainer, singer, composer Abdul Ahad Akhter started performing in the Radio.

She was displaying a streak of genius for Tagore songs, specially 'toppa' and was invited to Chayanaut to teach Tagore songs. There she met Ustad Azad Rahman and also started training (in classical) under his tutelage. At this time, some of her songs 'chade jabar shopno jokhon', 'dui dike dui pahar' and 'amar kanna elo tomar chelemi dekhe' gained immense popularity as modern songs. Her rendition of Tagore songs and some special Nazrul items are still in demand as collector's items. The smoothness in her voice, coupled with some nasal delivery where needed, her understanding of the emotional upheavals in the song, makes them unique through ages.

Just when she was enjoying this glory and even participated in assertive chorus songs against the military junta, the army cracked down on the night of the 25th March. Her husband was a lecturer in the department of Political Science of Dhaka University, they had a son, they were forced to leave the country for safer havens in Australia.

Akhter was always a meritorious student. She completed her masters in Political Science as well as Psychology and joined in the Department for Social and Community Welfare, South Australia. From a clinical psychologist she became an Expert Witness in the Youth Court for the Crown Solicitor which changed her profession to Senior Clinical Psychologist. The pursuit of music continued and during her free hours she took opera lessons for two years from Norma Hunter (in 1977). Sometimes, she lost her voice due to overwork or other trying situations, she never lost hope. She knew she would sing one day. She did voice lessons and got back voice. After her retirement from full time service Akhter created a musical team named 'Jazz masala' with local residents and performed her music all over Australia. She has recorded three wonderful albums, one entirely on Tagore songs and her song 'shokoli phuralo' written by the Gurudev after the demise of his wife, deserves special mention. Other CDs have Nazrul songs and popular folk songs, all testifying to her undiminishing thirst for singing. All three CDs have been accompanied by both Bangladeshi musicians as well as Australian musicians from her band. They are available online. Having completed a full circle of life, all her dreams have come true one by one. Today, she lives in Australia and true to her grandfather's words, her eyes remind you of the deer, and her voice 'the nightingale'.

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