Kabir Suman

Kabir Suman
কবীর সুমন
Birth name Suman Chattopadhyay
Born (1950-03-16) 16 March 1950 [1]
Cuttack, Odisha, India
Origin Kolkata, West Bengal, India
Genres Bengali Modern, Rabindra Sangeet
Occupation(s) Musician, singer-songwriter,
journalist, writer, actor, politician
Instruments Vocals, guitar, synthesizer, piano
Years active 1992–present
Labels HMV
Associated acts Anjan Dutt, Nachiketa Chakraborty
Website Official Website
Kabir Suman's channel on YouTube
Kabir Suman
Member of Parliament
In office
May 2009– May 2014
Preceded by Sujan Chakraborty
Succeeded by Sugata Bose
Constituency Jadavpur
Personal details
Political party AITC
Spouse(s) Sabina Yasmin
Alma mater Jadavpur University
Profession Musician, journalist, writer
Religion Islam

Kabir Suman (born Suman Chattopadhyay; 16 March 1950) is an Indian singer, songwriter, musician, music director, poet, journalist, political activist, TV presenter, and occasional actor.[2][3] From May 2009 to 2014, he was a member of parliament of India in the 15th Lok Sabha, having been elected from the Jadavpur constituency in Kolkata from All India Trinamool Congress.[1]

He changed his name from Suman Chattopadhay to Kabir Suman (Bangla: কবীর সুমন) when he became a Muslim and married the noted Bangladeshi singer Sabina Yasmin. He shot to fame in the 1990s with albums such as Tomake Chai (I Want You) and Boshe Anko (Sit-and-Draw).[4]

Early life

Suman was born in a Bengali Hindu Brahmin family on 16 March 1949 to Sudhindranath and Uma Chattopadhyay at Cuttack, Odisha. He later converted to Islam.[1] He was trained in classical music in his childhood, under the tutelage of his father. He graduated with an honours in English Literature from Jadavpur University[1] and did a diploma in French language and German language.[5] He then worked briefly in All India Radio and the United Bank of India. He left for Guatemala and worked there in radio latter for Europe in the mid seventies, and worked as a radio journalist in the Voice of Germany (Bengali Department) during 1975 to 1979.[6][7] It is during this period that he heard the music of Bob Dylan in France, which became one of his most defining musical experiences.

Suman then went on to stay at the United States during 1980-86, working for the Bengali language Department of Voice of America in Washington D.C. He came into contact with a number of musical and literary personalities including Pete Seeger and Maya Angelou. Suman also became highly interested in the Sandinista revolution at Nicaragua during the mid eighties. Pete Seeger introduced him to Ernesto Cardenal, the priest, poet, freedom fighter and Nicaragua's Minister of Culture. At Cardenal's invitation, Suman visited Nicaragua in 1985. He writes that he was largely impressed by what he saw in Nicaragua. It is here, that he also came into contact with the New Song Movement in Latin America. After much deliberation, Suman zeroed in on the name, Kabir Suman. According to him, "I wanted to keep the name my parents gave me, so I kept Suman. I took the name Kabir after Sheikh Kabir, a Bengali Muslim poet who wrote Baishnab Padabali."[8]

Political activities

Suman was a journalist in Nicaragua during the Sandinista revolution and wrote Mukto Nicaragua (Liberated Nicaragua) on his experiences. During the 2002 Gujarat riots, he composed songs in protest against fundamentalism. He is also noted for his strong declamations against political opponents in public. Since 2006, when Suman was involved in the land struggle in Nandigram, he started aligning himself to All India Trinamool Congress (TMC) led by Mamata Banerjee. His songs on the Nandigram land issues have been released on two albums, Nandigram and Pratirodh. Suman participated in the Singur agitation & other TMC party programmes on a regular basis.[9][10]

The Trinamoool Congress nominated him for the 2009 general election from Jadavpur constituency in Kolkata, West Bengal, and won the election, defeating his nearest rival, Sujan Chakraborty of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI(M)) by 54,000 votes (by a 10% margin).[11]

In November 2009, Suman had a dispute with the Trinamool Congress. He complained that the local leaders of the party were not allowing him to work, and his views were not taken seriously in the party.[12] However, the issue was resolved amicably in a series of closed door meetings.[13]

Suman has also been vocal in his support for the movement of tribals in Lalgarh, and has composed an album called Chatradharer Gaan in support of the mass movement, going against the wishes of the party.[14] Going against the party position, he has also expressed his protests against "Operation Green Hunt", the Indian Government's military operation where the Naxalites have some influence.[15]

Suman, at the end of March 2010, claimed that he is going to leave Trinamool Congress and also his membership of the Parliament. On the request of Mahasweta Devi he postponed his resignation for seven days. Within a few days, however, he made a u-turn and declared on 7 April that he does not want to resign[16] by further embarrassing the party.[17] Currently he conveys his political opinions through his own website.

Personal life

As of 2016 Suman has been married five times.[18] He is married to Sabina Yasmin, a Bangladeshi singer.[1][19]

Musical life

His contemporary urban, socially conscious songs draw upon both Bengali adhunik (modern) and Western folk and protest music. His work has been a major influence in the development of the Bengali songs, which has influenced bands like Chandrabindoo, and has grown to become a major movement in contemporary Bengali music. Most of his songs are played solo with just a Piano,synthesiser or a guitar. Like many other Bengali singers, Suman recorded albums of Rabindra Sangeet (Songs of Rabindranath Tagore), starting in the late-1990s.

Suman's primary training was in Indian classical music and Rabindra Sangeet, and he picked up Western folk forms while living abroad in Germany and the United States. He finished his second contract with German International Radio in 1989, and returned to Kolkata.

In Kolkata,he was first associated with a band called Nagorik, and released two albums Onyo kotha onyo gaan 1 and Onyo kotha onyo gaan 2. He released his first solo album, Tomake Chai, on 23 April 1992, which was immensely successful as it redefined Bengali songs. "Tomake Chai" presumably indicates love for Bengali language. More properly it is the intrinsic love of a person for his mother-tongue. Since then he has released over twenties albums, his most recent one being Lalmohaner Laash in 2010. Later Suman stopped making songs for general audience and focused on more political issues.[20]


Solo albums with track lists:

Tomake Chai (1992) – HMV

Main article: Tomake Chai
  • Tomake Chai
  • Petkati Chadiyal
  • Tui Heshe Uthlei
  • Kokhono Somay Ashe
  • Jodi Bhabo Kinchho Amay
  • Haal Chherona Bondhu
  • Tin Taler Gaan
  • Chena Dukkho Chena Sukh
  • Mon Kharap Kora Bikel
  • Pagol
  • Dosh Foot by Dosh Foot
  • Amader Jonno

Boshe Aanko (1993) – HMV

  • boshe Aanko
  • surjo bollo ish
  • ek muhurte phiriye dile
  • sakal belar roddur
  • haThat rastay
  • rekhaber roop
  • meghdoot
  • ek ekTa din
  • chalser gaan
  • jomi bechar Taka
  • bharsa thakuk
  • khata dekhey gan geona

Ichchhe Holo (1993) – HMV

  • Banshuriya
  • Ichchhe Holo
  • Jage Jage Raat
  • Boyesh Amar Mukher Rekhay
  • Tini Briddha Holen
  • Danpite
  • Tomar Tulona
  • Magoje Curfew
  • Majh Rattire Chnader Kaste
  • Nabab Nababi Kore
  • Uttoro to Jana
  • Protidin Surjyo Othe
  • Arun Mitra
  • Agun Dekhechhi Ami

Gaanola / Suman the One Man Band (1994) – HMV / EMI

  • Tomake Bhababoi
  • Gaanola
  • Abhibadan / Priyotama
  • Abchhayatai Lagchhe Bhalo
  • Prothom Shobkichhu
  • Shararat Jolechhe Nibir
  • Bibhuti Bhusan
  • Jato Dure
  • Nodir Galpo
  • Tomar Sange Eka
  • Robbar
  • Brigade-e Meeting
  • Tomar Kothar Rang
  • Cactus
  • Gaan Tumi Hao

Ghumou Baundule (1995) – HMV

  • Tomake Dekhechhi
  • Parar Chhotto Park
  • Themey Jete Jete
  • Bedcoverer Prante
  • Ghumao Baundule
  • Jhograr Gaan
  • Papri Dey
  • Bhagoban Kato Bhalo
  • Gachher Tolay
  • Stabdhotar Gaan
  • Ichchhe Kore
  • Pakhita
  • Sanjib Purohit Haatlen

Chaichhi Tomar Bondhuta (1996) – HMV

  • Amar Mato Kalo
  • Amar Premer Gaan
  • Byangoma
  • Chaichhi Tomar Bondhuta
  • Ekla Hote Chaichhe Akash
  • Ektur Jonyo
  • Ekushe February
  • Hirer Angti
  • How is That
  • Knadte De
  • Roddurer Gaan
  • Sabdhan
  • Sahoshilpira Esho
  • Sesh Picasso
  • Thomke Achhe

Jatishwar (1997) – HMV

  • Ami Chai
  • Biday Porichita
  • Buker Bhetor
  • Char Line
  • Helicopter
  • Janalar Knache
  • Jatishwar
  • Nayantara
  • Notay
  • Sahore Brishti
  • Sotyi Howk
  • Tumi Ashbe Bole

Nishiddho Istehar (1998) – HMV

  • Bidroho
  • Chil
  • Jake Bhalobashi
  • Jomi
  • Jua
  • Kangalpona
  • Kobi
  • Kobiyal
  • Meyeta
  • Nishiddho Istehar
  • Niyom Nei
  • Prothom Ma
  • Sukumar Ray
  • Surhid

Pagla Shanai (1999) – HMV

  • Bhalobasha
  • Bicholito
  • Boka Meye
  • Dhaka
  • Etai Ekhon Kaaj
  • Graham Stuart Stein
  • Hands Up
  • Ho Chi Minh
  • Kather Pa
  • Nastho Somay
  • Pagla Shanai
  • Prostuti
  • Uthal Pathal

Jabo Ochenaye (2001) – HMV

  • Amar Chhuti
  • Britha Chhuti
  • Chilka
  • Darjeelinger Gaan
  • Ei Bhabe
  • Ekla Hole
  • Hartal
  • Hothat Chhuti
  • Jabo Ochenaye
  • Murgir Chhuti
  • Oi Pare Chhuti
  • Radhanather Chhuti
  • Tomakei Dorkar
  • Tumi Bollei
  • Tumi to Cholle

Aadab (2002) – HMV

  • Aadab
  • Ayan Rashid
  • Birodhi
  • Daay
  • Dilshad
  • Ekta Thalay
  • Kakhon Tomar
  • Kar Desh
  • Mithyebadi
  • Shikarir Khnoje
  • Sonkhaloghur Dol-e
  • Tao ki Hoy

Reaching Out (2003) – Kosmic Music

  • Wish You Were Here
  • For You Calcutta
  • Prisoner
  • Information Blues
  • God Don't Bless
  • The Wind
  • Silently
  • Cross the Line
  • The Dusk
  • A Holy Bomb

Dekhchhi Toke (2004) – Cozmik Harmony

  • Dekhchhi Toke
  • Bhab / Karnish-e Duto Payra
  • Hatchhara Hoye Jawa Train
  • Kar Naam Kanchan
  • Nachte Chaichho Bujhi
  • Ekdhoroner Bidroho Holo Gaan
  • Hujur, Banda Hajir
  • Tumi Chhile Hafijer

Nandigram (2007) – Cozmik Harmony

  • Swarnolanka Pora
  • Shabash Police
  • Ekjot Hao Bondhu
  • Mahashweta
  • Nandigram (Vocal)
  • Tata-r Gari (Recitation)
  • Digbijoyer Gaan
  • Nandigramer Por
  • Bishuddhota
  • Shishu-r Dhor (Recitation)
  • Nadigram

Rizwanur Brityo (2008) – Artist himself

  • Aborodh (Khun Howa Gaan)
  • Ami Jai
  • Bhalo Meyera
  • Bhulo Na Athoba Bhule Jao
  • Hoye Jabe Byabostha
  • Ki ar Emon
  • Rizwanurer Gaan

Protirodh (2008) – Cozmik Harmony

  • Ajay Bagdi
  • Baamjawr
  • Esho Prem
  • Janan Dichchhe
  • Karl Marx
  • Mamata Achhe
  • Nishaner Naam
  • Protirodh

Chhotrodhorer Gaan (2010) – Artist himself and later by Bijalpa Music

  • Agey Vote Din
  • Amar Premer Gaan
  • Bonduk Nile Hate
  • Chhotrodhorer Gaan
  • Dundubhi
  • Gna-e Bidroho
  • Jangol Tumi Kar?

Lalmohoner Lash (2010) – Questz World / Saptarshi Prakashan

  • Lalmohoner Lash
  • Apnake Niye
  • Meyer Madhyamik
  • Kon Sorkar
  • Bhule Achho Jara
  • Bondhu
  • Tirer Fola
  • Kabir Suman
  • Tomar Jonyo

63 te (2012)

  • Lukono Baul
  • Mrityu Ese Daaklo Jakhan
  • Baatas Gaichhe Gaan
  • Dighar Samuddur
  • Beer
  • Bijoyee
  • Jwalbe Aagun
  • Kabir Jethur Gaan
  • Chhitamonir Chokh
  • Bhupen Hazarika
  • Jagori
  • Shashak
  • Bishwas Raakhi
  • Tomay Bhalobaasi
  • Ghumiye Paro Gaan

Since 2011, many old and new songs are publishing in his website and Facebook

Compilations and live recordings

  • Sumaner Gaan (1994) – HMV/EMI
  • Shawmokhkhe/Upfront- Live(1996) – Biswas Records
  • Baanshuriya (1998) – HMV
  • Suman Top 10 (1999) – HMV
  • Beesh Shawtoker Sheshe (2000) – HMV
  • Nagorik Kobiyaal (2001)
  • Hits of Suman Chattopadhyay (2001) – HMV
  • Gaanola Dhakay (2008) – CHIRKUT[16]/ Saptarshi
  • Gaanola (2008)- HMV (MP3 compilation)
  • Bidroher Gaan (2010) – USDF (VCD) (with Bidyut Bhowmik)

Collaborative albums

Live albums and collaborations

Film albums


Influences and legacy

Suman has often been credited with creating a new Genre of music in Bengal, which is deceptively simple, with lyrics that reflect common life experiences. He is sometimes referred to as the Nagorik Kobial (urban troubadour).[19][21] Some people consider his songs Jibonmukhi (songs facing life), though he doesn't like this title and consider his work as simply adhunik bangla gaan (modern Bengali song).[22]

His music reflects on social mores and is often directly political. Suman draws from a very long and deep tradition of Bengali music, absorbing multiple genres including pop, light classical, film music and folk. His influences traverses a literal who's who of the Bengali music pantheon. He was also influenced by Western musicians such as Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Paul Simon and John Lennon. He transcribed (with credits) Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind" as "Uttoro to Jana" in his album Ichche Holo in 1993 and "Farewell, Angelina" (initially recorded by Joan Baez in 1965) as "Biday Porichita" in his 1997 album Jatiswar.[23] He transcribed (with credits) Paul Simon's "Sounds of Silence" as "Stobdhothar Gaan".

His early albums were sparsely arranged, using primarily electronic keyboard, guitar and occasional mouth organ, all played by himself on multitrack recordings. The effect on the Bengali audience was not unlike what Bob Dylan produced on American audiences during the Beat Generation. Later albums were more elaborately arranged with full studio orchestra and often classical Hindustani accompaniment. Suman influenced a generation of singer-songwriters in Bengal after 90s, including Nachiketa Chakraborty, Anjan Dutt, Lopamudra Mitra, Srikanto Acharya and bands like Chandrabindoo.

Awards & Honours


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 "Detailed Profile: Shri Kabir Suman". India.gov.in. Retrieved 26 July 2014.
  2. Kabir Suman profile, india.gov; retrieved 11 December 2011
  3. Lockard, Craig A. (1998). Dance of Life: Popular Music and Politics in Southeast Asia. University of Hawaii Press. p. 39. ISBN 9780824819187.
  4. "Bangla band". The Hindu. 7 April 2006. Retrieved 16 August 2016.
  5. "Blogsite". Retrieved 27 January 2014.
  6. Cohen-Cruz, Jan (1998). Radical Street Performance: An International Anthology. Taylor & Francis Group. p. 103. ISBN 9780415152310.
  7. Archived 5 April 2010 at the Wayback Machine.
  8. "'I am a polygamous man. Maybe I'm still searching for love': Kabir Suman". telegraphindia.com. Retrieved 18 October 2013.
  9. "Mamata's peace talk: Nano work should resume". www.indianexpress.com. Retrieved 11 May 2009.
  10. "Mamata condemns Israel attack on Gaza Strip". www.expressindia.com. Retrieved 11 May 2009.
  11. Updated Election Results Details of Jadavpur, indiaelections.co.in; retrieved 11 December 2011.
  12. "Suman rattles party with quit threat". The Times of India. 18 November 2009.
  13. "Issues with party have been resolved: Kabir Suman". Thaindian.com. 20 November 2009. Retrieved 9 July 2012.
  14. Goutam Gupta. "MP Kabir Suman Sings against Party's Wishes". Voanews.com. Retrieved 9 July 2012.
  15. "Trinamool MP to stage dharna against 'Operation Green Hunt'". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 20 February 2010.
  16. "Suman U-turn: Won't quit Trinamool, Lok Sabha". The Times of India. 8 April 2010.
  17. "Suman to stay & torment party". The Telegraph. Calcutta, India. 8 April 2010.
  18. Suman, Kabir (2 September 2007). "I am a polygamous man. Maybe I'm still searching for love". Calcutta, India: www.telegraphindia.com. Retrieved 28 January 2013.
  19. 1 2 Kabir Suman biodata, kabirsuman.in; retrieved 11 December 2011.
  20. I'm lusty old man looking for carnal pleasure: Kabir Suman, timesofindia.indiatimes.com; retrieved 17 February 2013.
  21. "'Jaatishwar' has the potential to change perspectives: An Insight". tollywoodhamaka.com. Retrieved 26 October 2014.
  22. ‘JIBONMUKHI’? OH NO, NOT ME!, kabirsumanonline.com, 29 April 2011; retrieved 11 December 2011
  23. Kabir Suman solo concert on YouTube user account-onusondhan, retrieved 10 December 2011
  24. "Kabir Suman Awards, List Of Awards Won By Kabir Suman". gomolo.com.
  25. "Winners". Mirchi Music Awards. Retrieved 16 August 2016.
  26. Chakraborty, Samir. "Right choice". The Telegraph (Calcutta). Retrieved 16 August 2016.
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