Shakila Ahmed | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, August 05, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, August 05, 2017

Life's lyrics

Shakila Ahmed

She was the best friend of my sister Naeela and the two of them chuckled and cackled all the time in our Purana Paltan house (in Dhaka, Bangladesh), which also happened to be the neighbourhood of Shakila Ahmed alias Torah. When I asked my sister about this nickname, she said that her grandfather had named her from the holy book 'Taurat', it was an unusual name and it befitted a very unique person. Torah's mother Mrs. Showkat Ara Begum was my first teacher in my nursery class in Little Jewel's School where Torah also studied and was a very bright student. She privately learned music from Music College, where Barin Majumdar was the Principal. Her tutor was Mr. Ghulam Ambia, a very well-known folk singer who was very fond of Torah, her voice, her learning ability, diction. Torah had a gap in her learning for four/ five years, when she completed her Senior Cambridge from Green Herald School and intermediate from Holy Cross College, Dhaka, always with flying colors. She joined the department of journalism and mass communication at Dhaka University and obtained a first class first in her bachelors, completing her masters with another first class. In the meantime she had started learning from renowned trainer Ustad Sanjeev Dey.

When I met her after her results, she never discussed music. Shakila, a tall and beautiful young woman, stood out like a model, she was thinking of furthering her painting skills in Paris, or joining Dhaka University as a Lecturer or maybe join in some multinational company. Suddenly in 1991, Torah knocked at my door in London, UK (I was studying there), laden with numerous gifts for my daughters! “Hi, what are you doing here?” She said, “Why didn't you know that I had joined the British Airways?” I was a bit surprised, but that didn't last for long as she explained, “My flight is via Mumbai and I get to train under Bhaijaanie Ustad Dilshad Khan there and stay with the couple” (meaning Ustad Perveen Sultana). Now, I got the point and appreciated her journey, she always carried a small 'surpeti' practicing her complicated taans whenever she could. On this leg, I met her several times and learned about her writing skills too. Soon enough Shakila got married and settled in London. She sang for various programmes and got an opportunity to sing the compositions of the famous musician Hariharan in her compact disc titled ‘Nayeebaat’ which received nice reviews in Mumbai and the ghazal ‘Tum hara ishq tum hari wa fa kafi hai’ became a hit song.

As fate would have it, after a couple of years in London, Shakila found herself moving to Karachi, Pakistan where her husband's family was based.

She was tossed into an unknown sea, where she had to learn to swim on her own. In a private concert, she was introduced by the Bangladeshi born singer Alamgir. Then there was no looking back, Shakila became a household name singing her Bangla songs, classical numbers, Nazrul songs, Bhawaiya and some Urdu ghazals. Her beautiful English, lovely looks, speaking ability, writing ability all combined together destined her towards stardom. She made nine CDs of songs, and some singles as well as mixed albums (all available in YouTube). Her TV shows has been recorded in Mauritious, India, Singapore and many cities of USA, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Every time she came to Bangladesh, she gave solo concerts and recorded some modern songs and ghazals under the music direction of liberation war singer/trainer Shujeo Shyam. It is titled ‘Hridoy Beenar Tare’ and released by Sargam (her first album). She has given vocals for Bernardo Bertolucci's art film, Little Buddha, composed by tabla maestro Ustad Zakir Hussain and Ruichi Sakamoto, the Oscar winning music composer of the 'Last Emperor'. Shakila's journey has continued, she is now settled in Sacramento, USA. She is an embodiment of a successful life, traveling often to far and yonder places for presenting her lilting songs to the audience, recording her freshly self-tuned songs for YouTube and each day coming up with new innovations for her career. Alongside, she is an established artist, selling her paintings in the local art galleries and working hard to start writing again. Lots of climbing to high mountains, always aspiring for the 'Everest'.

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