The late Joseph Komol Rodrigues will be remembered for his great passion and melodious singing
Bangladeshi people cutting across faith and ethnicity are mourning a prominent Catholic singer and musician who enriched both Christian religious and national music for decades.
Joseph Komol Rodrigues died in a private hospital in capital Dhaka on Jan. 31. He was 68.
Rodrigues, a Catholic father of two, originally among the faithful at St. Nicholas of Tolentino Church at Nagari in Gazipur district near Dhaka, had been suffering from kidney disease for years.
According to his family, he had tested positive for Covid-19 but recovered and returned home last week. He was hospitalized again three days ago as he fell ill again.
Born on Aug. 12, 1952, Rodrigues started learning Bengali music when he was in grade three. He completed a master’s degree in Bengali language at Dhaka University.
He received musical training from prominent musicians and became an exponent of Nazrul Sangeet, a popular genre of music on the subcontinent introduced by Kazi Nazrul Islam, a Bengali Muslim writer and musician, the national poet of Bangladesh.
He was an enlisted and regular singer of state-run Bangladesh Radio from 1970 and Bangladesh Television from 1972. He also appeared in numerous stage and private TV shows over the years.
Rodrigues composed, arranged and sang about 80 Christian religious songs, which are listed in Geetaboli, a Catholic liturgical hymn book used in Bangladesh. Most of the songs have also been recorded in albums produced by Banideepti (Sound and Light), the multimedia wing of the Christian Communication Center of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Bangladesh.
He was a teacher at several musical institutes in the country and was the founding principal of the Christian Cultural Academy set up by the Christian Cooperative Credit Union in Dhaka in 2008. He was also the founder music director of Dhaka Theater, a leading drama group.
In 2019, Rodrigues became president of Bangladesh Nazrul Sagreet Sanstha, the national organization of Nazrul Sangeet singers.
K.M. Khalid, state minister for the Ministry of Cultural Affairs, expressed deep shock over Rodrigues’ death, prayed for his eternal rest and consoled his bereaved family.
“Joseph Komol Rodrigues was a versatile singer. Through his creativity and artistry, he has left a permanent mark in the hearts of music lovers,” the minister said.
Rodrigues will be remembered forever for his great passion and melodious singing of Nazrul songs, said Mahmudul Hasan, organizing secretary of Bangladesh Nazrul Sagreet Sanstha.
“He is one of the artists who came in direct contact with the poet Nazrul. He visited Nazrul in his residence and sang songs to him, which the poet greatly appreciated. He was a big fan of Nazrul, promoting and spreading Nazrul’s music and ideology among the younger generation of Bangladesh. His death is a great loss to the music industry of Bangladesh,” Hasan told UCA News.
Father Bulbul Augustine Rebeiro, director of the Christian Communication Center, paid tribute to Rodrigues during a funeral Mass at Holy Rosary Church at Tejgaon in central Dhaka on Feb. 1.
“God had given Joseph Komol Rodrigues to us and taken him back. During his life, he preached the word of God to the world through his works and songs. We pay homage to him for his great works. His death deepens a vacuum in Christian music in Bangladesh as we have already lost several prominent musicians in recent times,” Father Rebeiro said.
Hundreds of fans of Rodrigues have posted on social media sites including Facebook to mourn his death.
“Joseph Komol Rodrigues was a legendary Nazrul singer. His death is an irreparable loss. His contributions to the world of Nazrul music won’t fade away,” wrote a fan, Aflatun Nahar.