“A comprehensive history can never be written without elements of folklore”Shamsuzzaman Khan

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In this interview with Harun Pasha, conducted in Bangla, Shamsuzzaman Khan discusses many aspects of the folklore tradition in Bangladesh. It has been translated into English by Audity Falguni

Shamsuzzaman Khan, Director General of Bangla Academy, is a pre-eminent folklore researcher and essayist. Some of his outstanding books include Mati theke Mahiruha, Bangabandhur Sathe Alap o Prashangik Kathakata, Banglar Gono Sangeet, Adhunik folklore Chinta, Adhunik folklore Chinta, Bangalir Bahutwabadi Lokmanisha. He has received the Bangla Academy Award and the Ekushey Padak, among many others.

In this interview with Harun Pasha, conducted in Bangla, Shamsuzzaman Khan discusses many aspects of the folklore tradition in Bangladesh.

Did you always want to be solely a researcher?

Yes. When anybody starts writing, one has to decide whether s/he wants to write stories or novels, or compose poems or carry out research works? I came to the conclusion that I derive joy from research work.

You have been engrossed in the study of folklore for a long period. Is there a story behind this interest?

 As I lived in the villages till my adolescence, I had the opportunity to enjoy many forms of indigenous songs and dance dramas like jari gaan, sari gaan, baul gaan, Amina yatra, Gunai yatra, bhawal yatra, Ramleela andKrishnaleela, among others. This early exposure roused in me an interest for folklore study.

Later, I started working with the Department of Culture at Bangla Academy but the then government was not keen on keeping me there. The Academy had a department named “Folklore” but it had no importance. I was put there to be “dumped.” I thought why not try to do something new from this department. So I began concentrating on modernisation of folklore study. I contacted Ford Foundation and invited Professor Alan Dundes of Indiana University, Henry Glassie, Dr Margaret Ann Mills to our country. Ford Foundation sponsored the entire programme. I brought also Mary Anne Lauri from Finland by sending an invitation to her. She is a world famous folklorist. Thus I stepped in the arena of folklore and right now I am organising International Folklore Summer School each year at Bangla Academy. Read more

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