bio (1)


Ferdausi Rahman, one of those very few names in Bangladesh’s cultural arena, that have desolated the known frontiers of popularity and lifted themselves to the level of institutions themselves. Not just because she sings well anything and absolutely everything that one can imagine an artist to be doing, what make her great are the precision, consistency and class with which she pursued her passion for music throughout her life.

Family Background-

Born in Cooch Behar, a small and beautiful town in the northern part of West Bengal in the year 1941, Ferdausi Rahman is the only daughter of legendary folk singer and one of Kazi Nazrul Islam’s close companions Abbasuddin Ahmed, also popularly known as the “Emperor of Bengali Folk Songs”. Youngest of his four children, Abbasuddin named her daughter after the great Persian poet “Ferdowsi”. Her 2nd brother, Justice Mustafa Kamal, is the former Chief Justice of Bangladesh. Her second brother was Mustafa Zamal,who died at an early age. Her immediate elder brother, Mustafa Zaman Abbasi, is also a noted  artist of Bangladesh and a researcher of Bengali folk music.  Her father gave her such an atmosphere to grow up in, that planted deep in her mind a superb sensibility and an unquenchable thirst for music. With such good teachers and musically inclined personalities at home, Ferdausi’s long walk along the path of music began at an age considered to be too early for most. In 1946, Ferdausi performed on stage for the first time in her life in Calcutta. She was hardly six years old then.

Musical Background-

After partition in 1947, they migrated to the then East Pakistan and that very same year, she performed for the first time on radio in a programme called “Khelaghor”. In 1955 Ferdausi, still a minor, started singing on the radio as a grown up, after getting a special permission. Her first programme went on air on an August morning in 1955 when she sang a Khayal in raag “Mian ki Tori”. Under the able guidance of her illustrious father, she started having lessons in eastern classical music at a very early age from great Ustads like  Ustad Abdul Gafur Khan,Muhammad Hussain Khosru, Ustad Yusuf Khan Quraishi, Ustad Qader Zamiri, Ustad Munshi Raisuddin, Ustad Gul Mohammed Khan, Ustad Muneer Hossain, Ustad Mastan Gama and finally Ustads Nazakat Ali Khan and Salamat Ali Khan.

Musical Career-

Ferdausi had her first record with HMV in 1957 in Karachi, which included two folk songs that became very popular then: Praner Batha Ke Bujhibe Shoi and Amai Ghor Chhara Korili. In the year 1964, another significant feather was added to her crown when she became the first artist to sing on the Dhaka Television, with the number, Oi je akash neel holo aaj she shudhu tomar preme. She had by then already play-backed for quite a few feature films, the first being Aasia . Although this film was released later. The first film released with her song was E desh tomar amar. Besides the Bengali films, the producers in this part of the erstwhile East Pakistan started making Urdu films with all Bengali artists and technicians. The first such film released was named “Chanda” and was an instant hit in both the wings of Pakistan. Most of the songs in this film were by Ferdausi in flawless Urdu, which made her a super hit singer throughout the country. She simultaneously kept on playbacking for films on both the then Pakistans and lent her voice to about 200 films. She had her first Long Play “Best of Ferdausi” recorded also with HMV in 1967. Her immense perseverance and determination and saintly endeavours made her ride along almost all the paths of Bangla music with incredible ease ranging from classical, Khayal, Thumri, Ghazals, Geets, Nazrul Songeet, Modern Bengali songs, Bhawaiya, Bhatiali and all other kinds of folk songs. She has more than 500 disc records, a few L.P.s, a good number cassettes and CDs which were also released from India and the States.Not many artists are equally proficient in so many genres of music like Ferdausi.

Academic pursuits-

When her musical journey was nearing its peak, her academics were thriving too. In St Francis Xavier’s Convent school she was always amongst the first three students. Ferdausi stood first among the girls and 7th in the combined merit list in her Secondary School Certificate Examination in 1956 , from Bangla Bazar Govt. High School winning a gold medal, and two years later, in 1958, got the 12th position in the combined merit list in her Higher Secondary Certificate Examination from the Eden Girls’ College. Then she went on to get her honours and masters degrees in Sociology from Dhaka University in 1961 and 1962 respectively. In 1963, Ferdausi was awarded a UNESCO Fellowship for music and she studied staff notation at the London Trinity College of Music for six months.

Travelling to countries in singing mission-

Ferdausi Rahman travelled as a member of various Cultural delegations to many countries around the world including

  • India,
  • Myanmar,
  • Thailand,
  • Iraq
  • Malaysia
  • Singapore
  • Australia
  • China
  • Japan
  • Afghanistan
  • Russia
  • Greece
  • Mauritius
  • Yugoslavia
  • UAE
  • England
  • USA
  • Canada

She led the first official Govt. cultural delegation to Pakistan from independent Bangladesh. She was also the leader of the Cultural delegation to Yugoslavia.  Almost everywhere she went, she also learnt to sing in the language of that place and won the hearts of her listeners of that  country. She sang in many such foreign languages including Urdu,Punjabi,Pushto, Persian, Arabic, Chinese, Russian, Japanese, Yugoslav, German, Greek, Afghani, Thai, Malaysian, Turkish  and English. This feat is very rare among Bangladeshi performers.During her long career as an artist she had the honour of singing for the Queen of England, PremierChou en lai of China, Marshall Tito ,Zahir Shah of Afghanistan, the Foreign Minister of Turkey, and many other dignitaries of the world.

Recognitions for her contributions to music-

Her musical endeavours got her many recognitions for her outstanding contributions to the world of music.

In 1965 she became the youngest recipient of the President’s “Pride of Performance” Medal. Then on, she achieved almost every other coveted national cultural awards at home and abroad including the Ekushey Padak.

  • Shadhinota Award
  • Ekushey Padak
  • Best TV Singer National Award
  • National Film Award for the best music director
  • Nasiruddin Gold Medal
  • Pakistan Film Journalists Award
  • Bangladesh Film Journalists Award
  • Mahbubullah Gold Medal
  • Ziaur Rahman Award
  • Bangladesh Shilpokola Academy Award
  • Nazrul Gold Medal,from Churulia
  • Deshbondhu Chittoranjan Gold Medal
  • Meril Prothom Alo Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Citi Bank NA Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Honorary Fellowship conferred by Bangla Academy
  • Lifetime achievement Award from UODA
  • Daily Star & Standard Chartered Bank Lifetime Achievement Award

Nazrul Academy Medal Awards:

  • Nazrul Gold Medal from Nazrul Institute (Churulia)
  • Nazrul Gold Medal Award from Nazrul Institute(Dhaka)

She received innumerable crests and awards from various institutions and organizations like

  • Rotary clubs of Bangladesh,
  • Inner Wheel Clubs of Bangladesh ,India and  U.S.
  • Business and Career women’s club
  • Press Clubs of Bangladesh and Pakistan

Various Cultural organizations throughout the country.

Ferdausi Rahman has held quite a number of important posts including the Social Service Secretary of Dhaka University Central Students Union, an honorable member of the National Jury Board of the Film Award Committee and has been an active member of the Inner Wheel Club, the second largest International organization.She is a member of Inner Wheel club of Dhaka North, District-328, became the District Chairman for the term 2000-2001, and was the Past National Representative of I.W. Bangladesh during the term 2003-2004.

She is the author of “Gang geye elam Chine”, a travelogue she wrote after her return from China.

She has been associated with the Nazrul Institute from the time of its inception, was te member of the Trustee Board when Md.Nasiruddin was the Chairman. She has been the member of the Shorolipi Sottayon Board all along and is stiil associated with it.

She is also the President of Nazrul Shongeet shilpi Porishod and  giving leadership to this organization for a long time since Feroza Begum  left it.

She is married to Mr Rezaur Rahman, an engineer and industrialist in 1966, and has two sons: Rubaiyat and Razin.

Rubaiyat Rahman is an MBA from the Institute of Business Administration and got his MIS from Texas Tech University and is currently working in Dallas .  Sharmina Rahman, her daughter in law, an MBA and MIS and is working in Dallas. Ferdausi is the grand mother of a grand daughter, Riyasha, and two grandsons, Rahil and Rafan.

Her younger son Razin Rahman is a Chemical Engineer from Bombay IIT, an MBA from IBA and used to work in Moscow with PWC; recently he is now working in london. he is recently got married to Sadia, who holds 1st class honors & masters in Sociology & BBA . they have a daughter named Tasmia.

Ferdausi is now busy with Abbasuddin Shongeet Academy which she founded in 1992 with only a handful of children  Now there are some hundred students who come to this institution to learn music. She has several music teachers of repute, like, Sudhin Das, Omer Farouk and others. Ferdausi hopes that soon she will be able to have a premise of her own for the academy.

Other members of her family who also sing are her brother Mustafa zaman Abbasi,who is also a musicologist,and has numerous publications to his credit, her nieces Dr. Nashid Kamal,Samira Abbasi, Sharmini Abbasi, and Nazifa Kamal. Her two sons Rubaiyat and Razin learnt Classical  music from Ustad Phul Mohammad khan  in their childhood  but do not sing professionally.  Her Daughter-in-law, Sharmina learnt Rabindra shongeet and loves to sing all kinds  of songs but could not pursue her art. Ferdausi’s elder sister-in law, Late Husna ara Kamal, wife of Justice Mustafa Kamal was a teacher by profession , was the Professor of Social Welfare College and retired as its Principal. She has a great number of publications to her credit and has written a lot of books on Nursery Rhymes. Ferdausi’s younger sister-in-law,Mrs.Asma Abbasi,wife of  Mr.Mustafa Zaman abbasi, was also a teacher by profession,was the professor or Purana Paltan Girls’ college and retired as its Principal. She is also a writer of great repute,a successful anchor on TV and is an active member of  Inner Wheel.

Among her hobbies, Ferdausi loves to listen to all kinds of music,specially Classical,read short stories and loves Interior decoration.She loves to watch programmes on cookery and also enjoys trying new recipes.She normally designs her own sarees and accessories and loves gardening too. She has already had to travel a lot on singing missions but still loves to go to new places. She loves hilly places and mountains.

Her favourite singers are Umme Kulsum, Feiruz, Nana Maskuri, Sandhya Mukherjee, Asha Bhosla, Manna dey, Ajoy Chatterjee, Hoimonty Shukla, Mehdi Hassan,Farida Khanam,Iqbal Banu and many other singers.