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Bangladesh mourns Christian music icon

Nation pays tribute to Protestant Andrew Kishor, who always wore a cross as a mark of his faith

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Bangladesh mourns Christian music icon

Andrew Kishor, 65, a member of the Protestant Church of Bangladesh and one of the country’s most popular singers, passed away on July 6 after a battle with blood cancer. (Photo: Facebook)

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Cutting across faiths, ethnicities and classes, Bangladeshi people are mourning Andrew Kishor, one of the country’s most popular and prolific singers for nearly four decades.

Kishor, 65, a member of the Protestant Church of Bangladesh (Anglican Church), died on July 6 at a private clinic in Rajshahi city, bringing an end to his more than 10-month battle with blood cancer. He is survived by his wife, a son, a daughter and millions of fans at home and abroad.

He was admitted to the clinic after his condition deteriorated on July 5 and died at 7pm on July 6, Dr. Patrick Bipul Biswas, his brother-in-law, told journalists.

Biswas said a Christian burial for Kishor will take place in Rajshahi soon after his son and daughter, both of them students in Australia, arrive in Bangladesh.

Kishor was diagnosed with cancer on Sept. 9 last year and was treated at Singapore General Hospital for months before returning home in June.

Despite signs of improvement, the doctors found the cancer was back again by May this year. As Kishor realized his days were numbered, he insisted: “Take me back home, I would like to breathe my last at my beloved homeland,” his wife Lipika Andrew said.

The playback maestro     

Born in 1955 in Rajshahi, Kishor learned music at an early age. He later moved to Dhaka, established himself as a music icon and became a household name in Bangladesh and among the Bengali diaspora by the early 1980s.

Kishor sang a wide array of Bengali music including folk, patriotic, melodies, mystic and religious songs. He earned most popularity for singing dozens of mesmerizing playback songs in popular cinemas starting from 1977. His 1982 song Dak Diyachhen Doyal Amare, Roibo Na Ar Beshi Din Toder Majhare (The Lord has summoned me, I won’t be with you much longer) became highly popular and put him in the national spotlight.

Thanks to his melodious and sonorous voice, he won eight national awards as the best male playback singer, the highest for any playback singer in Bangladesh, which earned him fame as “king of playback” of the country.

He was Bangladesh’s most popular icon from the minority Christian community, but his massive popularity surpassed his religious identity and made him a singer of all people and all seasons, appearing in numerous stage-shows and television programs all year-round.

He also sang some songs for Bengali cinemas in Bengali-majority West Bengali state of neighboring India.

Kishor also sang popular Christian religious songs for Banideepti (Light of the Word), the audio-visual unit of the Christian Communication Center, the local Catholic Church’s communication apostolate.

Krush Boye Tranopoti Jay Giri Pothe (My Savior walks on the hilly road with the Cross), a Lenten song on the passion of Jesus Christ, is one of the most popular Christian religious songs that Kishor recorded at Banideepti studio.        

Tributes pour in

Kishor’s death has sent shockwaves across Bangladesh and made headlines in all media. Thousands of people from all walks of life posted on social media to pay tribute to him and to express their sadness and shock over the “demise of a legend.”

President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina issued condolence messages to mourn Kishor’s death.

“Andrew Kishor’s songs have placed him permanently in the hearts of music lovers of the country. His death is an irreparable loss for our music industry,” Hasina said.

Father Joyanto S. Gomes, former director of the Christian Communication Center, hailed Kishor as a great singer and devoted Christian.

“We could always separate him from other singers because he used to wear a cross always. By doing this, he used to bear witness to Christ. He always said: 'God is my mentor and I sing for Him,'” Father Gomes said.

The Christian community couldn’t use his talent properly while Kishor became a national icon.

“This is our fault that we failed to use him sufficiently, though he came to our studio several times and recorded some songs. We will always remember him from the depths of our hearts as an asset of the Christian community and the nation,” the priest noted.

Hanif Sanket, a prominent TV host, producer, and long-time friend of Kishor, expressed his deep sorrow.

“Andrew Kishor was a jewel of Bengali music and his voice was magnetic and enlightening. His death is a lethal blow to our music arena. Personally, we have been friends and soul mates, and his death has blinded me and I feel like losing a part of my body,” Sanket, 61, a Muslim, wrote on Facebook.

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