Hemanga Biswas (Bengali: হেমাঙ্গ বিশ্বাস; 14 December 1912 – 22 November 1987) was a Bengali singer, composer, author and political activist, known for his advocacy of peoples music, drawing from the rich genres of folk music, including Bhatiali originally popular among the fishermen of Bengal. He was born in Habiganj, Assam Province, British India on 14 December 1912. He was admitted with respiratory problem in PG Hospital and died in Calcutta, West Bengal, India on 22 November 1987.
Biswas in the 1980s
|Native name||হেমাঙ্গ বিশ্বাস|
|Born||14 December 1912
Habiganj, Assam Province, British India
|Died||22 November 1987
Calcutta, West Bengal, India
|Occupation||Musician, author, political activist|
|Parent(s)||Harakumar Biswas (father)
Sarojini Biswas (mother)
Biswas was born in Habiganj, Assam, British India (now in Bangladesh) on 14 December 1912 to Harakumar and Sarojini Biswas. He went to the Middle English School in Habiganj. He studied in the George Institution of Dibrugarh from 1925 to 1927 when Nilmoni Phukan was its headmaster and there he got attracted to Assamese culture. He passed his Entrance in 1930 from Habiganj Government High School. He also studied in MC College, Sylhet in 1930–31. Biswas embraced the values of communism during his college life and wrote poems and plays on equal rights. At this stage he started performing 'gana sangeet.' He did not complete his formal education. Institutional education system failed to contain him and Biswas became involved in a movement to ensure the rights of tea garden labourers, farmers and the underprivileged throughout the region. For his political convictions, he was arrested in 1930.
In the meeting of commission on music in Bombay Conference of IPTA, difference of opinion arose between two exponents of people's culture, Hemanga Biswas and Salil Choudhury. Hemanga Biswas, who was setting most of his lyrics to folk tunes, was in favour of relying only on folk tunes for mass songs with an eye to take it to the peasant masses. Salil Choudhury, on the contrary was of the view of blending folk tunes with harmony of western music. He went to the extent of making oblique remark to Com. Biswas to give up traveling by train, as that is a gift of western civilization and accept bullock cart that is used by the peasant masses. Com. Biswas, in reply accused Com. Choudhury of propounding formalism in people's art. During later part of his life, however Com. Biswas could realize shortcoming of his position and went on to compose mass songs with diverse experimentation. It may be mentioned here that during the debate in Bombay Conference, both Com. Biswas and Com. Choudhury touched upon certain important aspect of people's culture, which was not dealt with till then, but ultimately entire exercise ended in personal accusations.
Hemanga Biswas translated The Internationale to Bengali.
In West Bengal, India and in Bangladesh there are two versions of "We shall overcome", both popular among school-children and political activists. one of those versions, Amra Karbo Joy was translated by the Bengali folk singer Hemanga Biswas and re-recorded by Bhupen Hazarika.
Ajadi Hoyni Tor (English: Freedom you did not get) written & sung by Hemanga Biswas, is one of many songs in the legacy of the movement of the progressive left of India.
This song is not written and composed by Hemanga Biswas. It is composed and written by Kamal Sarcar based on Subhas Mukhopadhyay's translation of Nâzım Hikmet's poem. The song was sung extensively by Hemanga Biswas' troop which often went by the name "Mass Singers" or "Gana Gayen".
Some of his popular songs were Shankhachil, Habiganjer Jalali Kaitar, Mountbatten Mangalkabya, Rush Desher Comrade Lenin, Amra To Bhuli Nai Shahid, Naam Tar Chhilo John Henry, Banchbo Re Banchbo Amra, Phulguli Kothay Gelo, Kallolita Naba Kolkata (natak kallol based on freedom struggle by the navy), Sona Bandhu Re, Deha Tari Dilam Chhariyo,etc.
He sang duet with Bhupen Hazarika, Debabrata Biswas and Pete Seeger. He motivated the mass to fight for their rights, to be united and to be vocal against any form of corruption. He believed in equal rights for all and repeatedly tried to request and urge the then Congress Government headed by Siddhartha Shankar Roy as CM of West Bengal to extend their helping hand to the labour class people."Banchbo Re Banchbo Amra" was composed to motivate the poor hapless folks and labours across and section of the society and to improve their stansard of living.
He was exponent of Bhawaiya and Bhatiali and created a parallel style (gharana).
He was also playback singer of the famous drama "kallol" composed and played by Utpal Datta.
He was married to Ranu Dutta. His son, Mainak Biswas, teaches Film Studies at Jadavpur University. His daughter Rangili Biswas, an economist by profession, is a writer and folk music performer.