Kabir Suman is a singer, musician, poet, journalist, music director, political activist, songwriter, and an occasional TV presenter and actor. The Jack-of-all-trades was also elected a member of Parliament from the year 2009 to 2014 by the Jadavpur Constituency of Kolkata. But he is most famous for the controversies surrounding his past five marriages and divorces as well as his don’t-have-a-care-in-world womanizing attitude.
He was born as Suman Chattopadhyay in a Bengali Hindu-Brahmin family on 16th of March in the year 1949. His parents were Sudhindranath and Uma Chattopadhyay, who lived in Cuttack, Odisha at the time of his birth. At the age of 5, his family moved from Cuttack to Kolkata and there he spent most of his youth. His spent his early life getting trained in classical music under the tutelage of his father, Sudhindranath Chattopadhyay. Since the age of 12, he has been training in Hindustani classical music and doing riyaaz for six hours every day.
He had graduated from Jadavpur University with a degree in English Literature. He later studied French and German Language and had a diploma in both the languages. He then worked as a radio jockey in the All India Radio for a short period. After that, he switched from the All India Radio to a post in the United Bank of India. After that, in the mid-70s, he went to Guatemala, and there he worked in a radio station for Europe. From the year 1975 to 1979, he also worked as a radio journalist in the Voice of Germany, in the Bengali Department. A year after quitting the job, he packed his stuff for a permanent habitation in the United States. There he worked the same job as before, working for the Voice of America in the Bengali Department in Washington D.C. There he came in contact with various literary and musical celebrities like Pete Seeger and Maya Angelou.
He produced music of an entirely different genre that was an amalgamation of Bengali Adhunik a.k.a. Bengali modern music combined with the lyrics that spoke of his own strong and imposing opinions on everything that mattered to him. This came to be known as protest music. In his songs were the spasm of progressivism, profound social commentary, and a dream to bring about a change in perspective, all the themes that made the heart of any middle-class Bengali swell and their blood sing. He sang of a classless society, the politics of vote banks and the communist fiasco that ruled in Bengal.
His songs were relatable to the audience, especially when they were about the themes both philosophical and critical as well as mundane. This genre had a big impact on the audience and as a result, more and more up and coming young talents were influenced by it such as the Bengali pop band Chandrabindoo. Like a true Bengali musician, his works also included the albums of Rabindra Sangeet, in which he delved during the late 1990s. He is also associated with a band named Nagorikand, and has released two albums with them. Till now, he has released over 20 albums and recorded over 300 songs but for some time now, he has started to focus more and more on his political career.
In 2006, he aligned himself with the Mamata Banerjee led All India Trinamool Congress (TMC) and since then has been an active member. He was nominated by the party for the General Elections in 2009, which he won. He was then made the MP of the Jadavpur constituency. He is now the biggest champion of Mamata Banerjee and has declared so in front of everybody. Recently his Facebook account was blocked when he posted some lyrics of his song that were perceived, wrongly, as pro-Afzal Guru during the whole JNU scenario. He defended this by saying that Afzal Guru was a terrorist and needed to be executed but that Kanhaiya Kumar was wrongly arrested.
His personal life is as much speculative as is his works. He has married five times, contrary to his belief that marriages are “another type of bondage” and that his mind wants to roam free. He has upheld his worldwide reputation of being a womanizer and the “international bridegroom” by marrying and divorcing and seducing women all over the world. Another aspect of his life which enthralls everyone is his daring nature. He is a political activist and is extremely aware of his political surroundings. This can be seen by the kind of music and lyrics that he produces.
He is an idealist and a self-proclaimed agnostic-nihilist-anarchist. He is highly opinionated and shares them with the world through the medium of his works as a poet-author-musician. He is also very easy with his tongue; abuses just come rolling out whenever he wishes, just like water out of a dam. This particular quality has made him more infamous that his misbehavior towards his wives and his notorious polygamous nature. He is married to the Bangladeshi singer Sabina Yasmin, and this is the alleged reason for his conversion to Islam. However, as usual, he gives a pretentious and “progressive” one, saying that he did that out of shame after the Graham Staines and his two sons were burnt alive.
Upon his conversion, he changed his name to Kabir Suman, keeping part of his original name and taking another part of the name of the famous Bengali Muslim poet Sheikh Kabir. Before that, he was married to a German woman named Maria and had adopted her daughter Virginia as his own. His notorious reputation makes him a favorite for interviews but they are always about his personal life and rarely about his music, and this troubles him a lot. But he always dismisses this with his personal mantra of ‘I Don’t Give a Damn’.
Referring to his infamous habit of womanizing, he claims himself to be a polygamous man and as someone who is, perhaps, still searching for love. But lately, at the ripe old age of 67, he believes that he is now more of a monogamous than a polygamous sort of a man, living his life by spending time with his books and music, alone.