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A ‘train singer’ is Bangladesh Idol

Friday, 23 December 2005 - 9:45pm IST | Agency: AFP

Nolok Babu, 20, a young slum-dweller won the nation’s first music idol competition, scooping $15,000 and a car.

Nolok Babu, 20, won the nation’s first music idol competition, scooping $15,000 and a car


DHAKA: A young slum-dweller who grew up singing on trains to support his sick mother has won Bangladesh’s first music idol competition, scooping the top prize of $15,000 along with a new car.


The seven-month-long competition, which attracted 40,000 entrants, is the country’s own version of the US hit television talent show American Idol. Nolok Babu, 20, started singing in public after his father walked out on the family when he was nine. He burst into tears as the host of the competition Tomakey Khunjchhe Bangladesh or Bangladesh Looks for You declared him the winner on Thursday night. He won the title, a prize of one million taka — a fortune in the impoverished country — and a new Nissan car.


Babu pulled in the 775,000 text message votes — double the number received by his two closest competitors, full-time singer Rajiv, and Beauty, a farmer’s daughter.  “It’s the end of my mother’s sorrow,” Babu said after winning the award. “I will give the car to her and buy her a home with the prize money and we will live a happy life, an overwhelmed Babu said.


Babu had to go through seven rounds televised by the private NTV channel to win. He pulled in the highest number of text message votes in all the rounds.  Apart from his prizes, the first Bangladesh Idol also gets a one-year audio music contract from the Bangladesh subsidiary of Anglo-Dutch company Unilever. After the final round, people in his hometown of Jamalpur plastered posters on walls urging people to vote for Babu. When he was declared winner, people in Jamalpur and in the surrounding villages held victory parades and across the country people shared sweets. “I saw some of them crying as they watched Nolok taking the prize. It was maybe the first time in their life they saw a very poor boy becoming an instant celebrity,” Shafiq Jamal, a journalist said.


NTV, which aired the programme live, said at least 10 million people watched the final, making it the country’s highest rated television show ever. “We have estimated that between 10 and 15 million people watched the show. People are moved by the brilliant performance of these unknown stars like Nolok,” Hasnain Khushid, executive director of NTV, said.   


Babu, who learnt music mostly by listening to cinema and folk songs on radio and television, said the prize ends his 11-year struggle to support his ailing mother, younger brother and grandmother. “When I was nine, my mother became very ill due to hepatitis. My father had just left my mother and no-one came to stand by us. I started singing in the trains to beg money,” Nolk said. “On the very first day, a man was so much impressed he gave me a brand new 500-hundred taka note.


People liked me so much they did not want me to go into another carriage," he said, recounting his memories of singing in trains. “At least those days are over. I can now buy some instruments and become a better singer”.

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