Mohammad Khalid Bin Siraj is a young musician who has explored an array of musical genres and instruments starting from the western classical to folk, blues, jazz and eastern classical. Music to him is not a mere practice, or a source of livelihood, rather a lifestyle. Saqueb Sartaz Khan interviews Khalid over a cup of tea to take a peek into his musical journey.
New Age: All individuals are defined by a unique summation of their habits, which in turn shape their personality. What defines you?
Khalid: I am a simple man. I love food, sleep and music, especially food. I always want to be happy and try to do so, love hanging out with friends. Oh, and did I mention, I love to eat?
New Age: Music is one of the intangible forms of expression, sometimes transcending definition even. What is music to some people’s ears could also be perceived as utter nuisance or sound pollution by others, and vice versa. What does music mean to you?
Khalid: When it comes down to music, it has formulated itself into a lung like organ, without which I cannot live. I am able to find myself through music, and apart from it, I am nothing.
I have seen always seen creating music much like playing a video game. It has to offer the same kind of impeccable joy that one may come across when playing games. Every time I sit down to practice, I feel that I am embarking on an escapade to uncharted territories; I try to play something new. Without music, a big part of my life would seem amiss.
New Age: Despite our seemingly similar journey of lives, we differ in the most intrinsically intricate ways, this applies for musicians too. Do tell us about the phases in your life as you’ve treaded the path of a musician.
Phase 1: The Rap Artist; Breaking the norms.
Khalid: My journey kicked off in 2008 as I produced my first rap song at home. It gained recognition through DesiRhymes, an online hip-hop platform, a major and the only active platform back in the days, at least in terms of easy public access. In 2009, my song came out on the ‘Uptown Lokolz’ album. By 2011, I had produced several songs and performed at a few rap concerts around the country. Emcee Fat Kabs was real, no longer a dream!
New Age: What had become of Fat Kabs then?
Phase 2: The Classical Guitarist (western); the learned man.
Khalid: By the end of 2011, I had gradually managed to cut ties with the growing hip hop scene. People by then knew who Fat Kabs was, but no longer knew where we went, or if he was to return. Even though I took pride in people expecting the return of Fat Kabs, I wished no longer to pursue that spectrum of my life. I had managed to pull off a rather successful disappearing act.
I was then training under Iftekhar Anwar Sir and Joy bhai at Alliance Fraincaise. As long as western classical was concerned, I had been listening to a lot of western classical artists like Francisco Tárrega, Erik Satie. On the contrary, I also listened to Blues, Rock, Alt Rock, a little Jazz, Psychedelic Rock, Pink Floyd, Beatles, Folk songs (Bangla and others), Lalon. I saw myself turning into something I would’ve never anticipated.
New Age: So, you were training to become a western classical guitarist and also exploring the wide array of music available to you. At this point, I no longer can predict what had happened. Please fill us in!
Phase 3: The Blues Guitarist; cry me the blues!
Khalid: When I was moderately decent at understanding and playing classical music, I found myself taking shots at learning the Blues. After my course ended at Alliance Francaise, I gave up playing classical guitar shortly following my performance at the end of my graduation. My first lessons were random Blues tutorial videos from YouTube. But I couldn't be sure if I was playing the right notes or if they sounded right, I didn’t know where I was going.
I started visiting Labu Rahman, a prominent guitarist and musician since the early 70s, most commonly known as his role as a guitarist of the Bangladeshi band Feedback. He has guided me in a rather intricate way. Things became much more real in terms of theoretical and applied knowledge and practice of playing the Blues.
New Age: From an aspiring Rap artist to western classical, further venturing along the lines of a Blues Musician, you seem to be a like a vividly colorful umbrella, where each of your facets is vibrant in the most unique kind of colors that one could come across; and yet all the facets come together in beautiful harmony to give life to the artist that you are today. Tell us what happened next.
Phase 4: The Flutist; The serene.
Khalid: Shortly before I was done with my honours degree, I had once again moved on. I was now discovering the flute.
Having been told, that finding and landing the perfect ‘blow’ unto a flute could take quite a while, I was surprised when I kicked off at the very first day. I managed to only pick up a few classical songs on the flute like 'Greensleeves' and 'Scarborough Fair'; nothing hard, only a few easy lines.
The heartbreak: The Catalyst.
Khalid: Near the end of my university, I got into a relationship with a peer and ended up heartbroken. I remember being quite depressed and picking up the guitar would only remind me of her, making it worse. So I couldn't play for very long. So I lessened playing the guitar.
Then I met two amazing musicians in campus, Didar and Julian. They played amazing guitar, and I couldn’t keep up with them anymore, but I really wanted to participate in jam sessions. So I started to carry one or two of my flutes to jam with them between classes. We soon came up with a composition of our own, and a little band called Brojoboli and that gave me the preliminary influence and inspiration to play flute.
One day I visited a music shop here, and the shopkeeper told me that I played really well and asked me which ‘Maestro’ I visit to receive my lessons; to which I said, ‘no one’, and he gave me the card of Ustad Mortuza Kabir Murad. He is one of the best eastern classical maestros.
By 2013 I was a fan of Hariprasad Chaurasia following my first encounter with Bengal Classical Fest. I started taking professional lessons in 2016 and by the year end, Murad sir gave me news about higher expeditions, that to Vrindaban Gurukul, Orissa.
New Age: Wasn’t it hard to reach out to him?
Khalid: It was. I started religiously mailing Pt. Hariprasadm with no lights at the end of the tunnel. Until one fine day when Pushpanjali ‘didi’, Pt. Chaurasia’s manager & daughter in law called me and gave me a time and date to ring up Guruji. In my call, he asked me what my plans were, and I told him about my deep admiration for music and how I would love nothing more than to train under his grace. I was however skeptical whether I could ever master eastern classical, given that I started at a very late age. He told me to not think much before doing anything and come straight over to Gurukul. The first time I visited Gurukul was in January 2017, I stayed there until the mid of February when I had to rush back to join the university semester. I revisited him for a few more times later.
New Age: Can you name a few musicians who have left an impact on you?
Khalid: Jasper, Iftekhar Anwar (Maestro, Allaince Francaise), Labu Rahman, Ustad Mortaza Kabir Murad, Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia, Raef Al Hasan Rafa.
New Age: If you had to ask people of one thing from them, what would it be?
Khalid: I have two things to ask. Firstly, If someone listens to music I urge them to listen with their heart and soul and put research into it. The internet is full of ‘shit’ these days. It is only wishful thinking to ask people to filter out quality music and spread it amongst others, especially kids. If kids are exposed to quality music, their brains would develop in healthy ways. It will definitely positively affect their mental growth, personality and intellect.
The second thing I would ask of the musicians. I invite them to do music with their heart and soul. I urge them to find a ‘Guru’ or a teacher who is, preferably, at the pinnacle of the respected genre of music. I would highly stress the importance of a ‘Guru-Shirsha Parampara’, a mentorship. This way, an aspiring musician would always be inspired. Moreover, they can be aware of how much they are really learning, and whether they’re learning it right.
Saqueb Sartaz Khan is an Intern with New Age Youth
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