Kalikaprasad Bhattacharya, a prominent exponent of folk music of Bengal and Bangladesh died in a road accident in Hooghly district on Tuesday morning when a tyre of the car in which he was travelling burst. The car, which was moving at high speed, veered sharply, hit a guard rail and plunged in the adjacent nullah at Gurap.
Known for his extensive efforts to revive songs that were thought to have been forgotten ages ago, Bhattacharya, was the main vocalist of Bengali folk band Dohar. His death shocked Bengal’s cultural world.
The government announced that Bhattacharya would be cremated with full state honour and before that his body would be kept at Rabindra Sadan from 4 pm to 6 pm so that people could pay their last respects.
After the accident, the 47-year-old singer was rushed to Burdwan Medical College and Hospital where he was declared dead. There were five co-passengers of whom three were admitted to the hospital in critical condition. The injured passengers were identified as Rajib Das, Sudipta Chakraborty, Sandipan Pal, Niladri Roy and Arnab Roy.
Bhattacharya was heading for Suri in Birbhum district for a programme when the vehicle met with the accident on NH2 near Gurap about 64 km to the north of Kolkata. The mishap happened around 10 in the morning.
“Kalikaprasad’s demise is a personal loss. He was a close friend. Condolences to his family and fans,” twitted the chief minister. A pall of gloom descended on Kolkata’s cultural and music world as people recalled the humble, soft-spoken Bhattacharya who worked tirelessly to make folk music, especially songs composed by Bauls and Fakirs, popular among today’s youth.
A few years ago, he emerged as the driving spirit behind a successful television reality show based entirely on folk music. Never before had such a show been conceived. “My heart feels heavy. I can’t find words,” said veteran singer Haimanti Shukla. “Only he could sing those songs,” added film director Kaushik Ganguly.
Bhattacharya was the most prominent face of Dohar that was set up in 1999. According to its website, it was a coming together of folk artists to “present the songs of the soil of Bengal and the North East”.
Dohar was known for not using any foreign musical instrument. Bhattacharya himself could play an array of folk instruments with elan.