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Ektara maker struggles to survive

Cultural Correspondent

Shariful Islam curves a dotara. — Ali Hossain MintuShariful Islam curves a dotara. — Ali Hossain Mintu

Shariful Islam, from Kushtia, makes traditional string instruments such as ektara and dotara since he was a teenager. He sells his products in fairs and at the outlets near the Lalon’s shrine in Chheuria, Kushtia from where singers and music lovers buy the one-string and two-string instruments widely used in traditional music genres.
While attending the recently held craft fair organised by the Bangladesh National Museum at its Nalinikanta Bhattasali gallery, Shariful shared his becoming the craftsman and his struggles in selling these instruments.
‘I was basically a carpenter. Once, I met someone called Aminul who used to make ektara and dotara and would sell those to the local musicians in Kushtia. I found the person and his job interesting and showed interest to learn the technique of making the simple string instruments,’ Shariful told New Age.
‘In fact, at that stage of my life I badly wanted to give up my hectic job of carpentry. At the same time I thought my skill of wood surviving that I achieved from carpentry would help making beautiful ektara and dotara. So, I started making ektara and dotara under the guidance of Aminul,’ added Shariful.
Initially, Shariful found his job interesting and ‘enough’ to survive by. ‘Many people used to purchase these ektara, price varied from taka 150 to taka 2,500 depending on size and materials, and dotara at the rate over taka 3,000. Making dotara is more difficult and more time consuming than making ektara. It takes about a week to make a dotara for wood cutting, polishing and colouring,’ he said.
But, these days Shariful Islam regrets for taking the craftsmanship as his profession. ‘I find people less interested in the traditional music these days compared to even two decades back. Foreigners who visit the Lalon’s fair and his shrine buy such instruments more than the locals. But, such seasonal trade is not enough to survive through the year,’ Shariful Islam said.
Shariful Islam said that he participated in the Setouchi International Art Festival in Japan held last July along with 38 Bangladeshi craftspeople. ‘Japanese people highly appreciated my instruments that made me feel proud,’ Shariful said.




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Ektara maker struggles to survive

Shariful Islam curves a dotara. — Ali Hossain Mintu
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