He is the lyricist of many timeless songs, including "Sonabondhu tui amare korlire diwana", "Dile boro jalare panjabiwala", "Moner bagane futilo phulre", and "Harlai poran kande".
Creator of Mohsen Aulia song, he is also the pioneer of two main genres of Chatgaiya song (songs sung in Chattogram dialect) – folk and Maijbhandari.
Apart from these, he wrote dramas in Chattogram's local dialect.
Gafur Hali, who lived until 88, wrote around 2,500 songs. He wrote, composed and sang songs until his death on December 21, 2016.
Today is his third death anniversary.
Gafur was born in Rashidabad village in Patiya upazila under Chattogram on August 6, 1928.
Rashidabad is the birthplace of another renowned singer Askor Ali Pondit.
Gafur studied at Rashidabad Primary School and Joara Bishwambhar Chowdhury High School, but he did not continue his studies after sixth grade. He did not learn music from any institution either.
He once said he could not continue studies because of the 1943 famine.
His real name is Abdul Gafur. The title "Hali" was given by his religious guru.
About learning music, Gafur would say, "People who write songs and poetry do not have college or university degrees. It is a matter of feelings."
He said his feelings came from nature, which he described as his guru.
Songs of Gafur Hali
The songs of Gafur portray elements of life in Chattogram, including boats, the flowing Karnaphuli or Shankha.
His song "O shyam regnum no zaiore" has become immortal in the voice of Shefali Ghosh, dubbed the "Queen of local songs".
"Moner bagane futilo fulre" introspects about citizens, while "Dekhe zare maijbhandare hoiteche nurer khela" sung by Kalyani Ghosh became very popular.
"Cholore jiarote aulia dorbar" in Shimul Shil's voice drew huge response in the country and abroad.
Gafur said he became a singer by singing again and again, and his creations were gifts from Maijbhandari.
One of his greatest achievements is promoting songs of Chatgaiya singers, including Askor Ali Pondit, Kobial Ramesh Shil, Khayerojjama Pondit.
Through Gafur, the talent of these singers was revealed.
Gafur's role in promoting songs and poems of Askor Ali Pondit is remembered with great honour.
Research on Gafur's songs
Gafur wrote thousands of songs in his career spanning six decades that started in 1955-1956 and ended in 2016.
He wrote around 1,500 songs of Maijbhandari, Mormi and Pir Aulia genres. At the same time, he wrote more than a thousand local songs of Chattogram.
Gafur did not get any major recognition by the state but some foreign scholars have mentioned his works in their research.
In 2004, Dr Hans Harder of Germany's University of Heidelberg published a research on the life and works of Gafur. The book contains 76 Maijbhandari and Mormi songs of Gafur, which have been translated in German language.
Dr Harder defined Gafur's song as the "Mormi songs of East Bengal".
Peter J Bertocci, social anthropologist and retired professor of anthropology at Oakland University, mentioned Hali in his book titled "A Sufi Movement in Bangladesh: The Maijbhandari Tariqa and its Followers".
Nasir Uddin Haider, one of Chattogram's folk song researchers, said, "Gafur had great knowledge of music without any institutional education. He is the creator of a new age of Chatgaiya songs. He has pursued music for six decades. His songs have drawn attention both in local and international arenas.
"That is why foreign scholars have done research on his works and have published books."
Nasir said Gafur's talent was neglected in the country.
"His works have not been evaluated even after his death. He deserves Ekushey Padak, the second-highest civilian award in Bangladesh," added Nasir.
Books of Gafur
Gafur also wrote five books. His first ode titled "Totyobidhi" was published in 1969.
In 1989, his another book "Gyanjyoti" was published.
"Surer Bondhon" was published in 2012. Nasir Uddin Haider edited the book while PHP family-sponsored it and Sufi Mizan Foundation took initiative to publish it.
In 2014, Gafur's folk songbook "Shikor" was published, which was edited by Mohammad Ali Hossain.
A year later, another book titled "Abdul Gafur Halir Chatgaiya Natoksomogro" was published. Nasir Uddin Haider edited the book.
Apart from these, "Diwane Maijbhandari" – edited by Mohammad Mohsin – is yet to be published.
Initiative to preserve memory
Gafur Hali Research Centre and Sufi Mizan Foundation have taken various initiatives to preserve the memory of the timeless singer. As part of the initiatives, a research centre will be built in Gafur's birthplace. A museum will also be constructed.
The design of the research centre has already been completed.
Gafur Hali Research Centre has planned to turn the singer's manuscript of more than a thousand songs into a book. His dramas will also be published as a book.
A film is being made based on his drama "Gulbahar".
Poster of that film will be unveiled in his death anniversary on December 21.