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Shayan Aka Farzana Wahid.

At first glance, Farzana Wahid, popularly known as Shayan may not seem like an ideal Bangladeshi musician. Endorsing a ‘Dylan-esque’ look, the composer/singer is often seen clad in black with a guitar strapped to her back. Her unique outlook of course doesn’t just stop with her looks, her songs which have entered many a households of the country, have a similar feature.

Songs composed from Shayan’s first album, Shayan’er Gaan, strays away from the contemporary mainstream music scene of Bangladesh and in a sense reminds one of the songs composed in the 70s and 80s in Bangladesh by the likes of Maqsood and Azam Khan. They talk of random tales, politics, freedom, art, culture, sometimes bringing in Shayan’s own analysis and spread through various degrees. Her main accompaniment to most of her songs, her guitar, is often overseen as the power of her lyrics, complimented by her powerful voice takes over the listeners’ ears.

On the 41st Victory Day of Bangladesh, Amader Kotha finds Shayan’s songs, which often recalled the LiberationWar of 1971, aptly describing the current scenario of the country. Her song ‘ O neta bhai’ for instance is a classic example of the kind of route her songs often end up taking.

In ‘O Neta Bhai’ or ‘Oh my dear politician’ Shayan criticizes the state of student politics in the country today. She claims that what was once a sector responsible for staging some of the most daring protests during the freedom struggle, is overshadowed today with corrupt politicians.

‘ O neta bhai, amay tumi bolle na to aage,
Desher Junno kaaj korile, gola barudh lage,
O neta bhai, amaye keno chao dite bondook,
Guli bojhai keno tomar lukono sindook.

Palay jabo kosom khuda, dekbe na aar chaya,
Aaaj desher jone piriti, tobu praaner junno maya,
O neta bhai, amar bishon bachte icche kore,
Baba maaer shonge boshe, naasta khabo ghore.

In this song, Shayan narrates a fictional story of a student who wants to get out of politics and stop working for his country in order to save his own life. The song accurately describes the decline in the situation of student politics of Bangladesh.

In Du’chokh diyei dekho, Shayan addresses the unnecessary debates that often creep in Bengali communities and experts regarding who the greater musician is—Nazrul or Tagore—and the inverse affect that it can have in our culture.

Kothaye Shanchoita aar Shonchita-i ba kothaye
Shonchita aar Shanchoita aaj daripalla-e…
Aaj nichchhey ojon, dekhchhey Bangali konta beshi bhari
Konta porityajjo aar konta dorkari…

“Why can’t people just accept Tagore and Nazrul as they are? Why does one have to be ‘better’ than the other? Also, why does one have to impose his/her opinion on others? I think our current generation is a lot more accepting than the previous ones,” says Shayan.

While Shayan claims to have never had an academic training in music, it was her mother who had inspired her. Based in Toronto, Shayan had been composing songs from a very young age and was eagerly in the hunt for distributors to release her songs. While she tag herself with various music companies in the last couple of years, majority of them, according to her, didn’t seem to work out.

Shayan’s unique music sense can be credited to the rich mixture of music of which one can get a sense of while listening to her songs. “I’ve been influenced by the likes of Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Tracy Chapman and Bhupen Hazarika,” explains Shayan. Unable to categorise her into a particular genre of the modern era, her songs began to be known as ‘Jibonmukhi gaan’.

As mentioned before, each of her songs according to Shayan were based on different stories. The song Ami tajjob boney jai was written on the homeless, living on the streets, where as Ekhanei Shukh Chilo Ekdin was written on divorce or separation. In the song she describes how one’s fate can change in life. In Janatar Biyadobbi, she sings about the manner in which politics has made the common man the victim. Shayan claimed that her songs were reactions to her experiences and that it was through these songs that she vents, protests and speaks of love at the same time.

It was a performance on Ekushey Television’s programme entitled ‘Phone-o-live’ in 2008 when Bangladesh first came to know about Shayan. Ever since then it has been a long journey. She released a new album entitled Abar Takiye Dekh in 2009 which gave the audience a more in-depth view of Shayan’s journey through times. Today, Shayan’s songs have overcome various boundaries. She has become popular amongst various degrees of communities, right from people living in the rural areas to the city’s dwellers.

Her genuine approach to music is something that reflects her way of living. Plain and simple as ever, Shayan had claimed that she had never imagined that her songs would reach so many sections of society.

A self-trained artiste, Shayan may not have the credentials of a grand school of music, but the way she reflected her true feelings through her songs was something any great musician would be proud of. And that is precisely the reason why her songs have been considered by many to reflect a new wave of ‘protest music.’
In the month of victory, we only hope that Shayan’s songs can influence our readers to work towards a nation that our fathers and mothers had given their lives for.

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