Naquib Khan is one of the few musicians who started his career when band music saw its fresh beginning in the newly independent country. 1972 onwards, a few musically inclined youths played the role of frontline warriors to keep the newly emerged music genre going amid a range of challenges that almost plunged the audio industry into turmoil.
Despite the unflinching support they were able to garner between 1980s and 1990s, the leading bands, including Naquib’s Renaissance, are now struggling for survival since live concerts are only few and far between. Besides, the market is still uneven, where there is a dearth of potential producers. Add to that a sharp decline in album release due to free distributions of songs online — in platforms such as YouTube, Facebook etc. besides the use of USB devices for transferring soft files. To top it all off, flouting of the copyright act by producers, mobile operators, radio and TV channels and other distributors, also exacerbate the situation, depriving the musicians of their royalties.
Naquib Khan, as a school kid, started his career in a band named Balark in Chattogram in 1972. But he soon joined the famous band Souls in 1974. He composed several popular songs for Souls that soon turned them into a media darling. They include ‘Mon shudhu mon chhuyechhey’, ‘Tore putuler moto kore shajiye’, ‘Nadi eshey path’, ‘Ei mukhorito jiboner cholar banke’ and more. He performed with the band as a vocalist and keyboardist till his departure in 1983 for personal reasons.
Following the inception of Renaissance in 1985, Naquib composed and rendered popular songs such as ‘Bhalo lagey jotsna ratey, ‘O nodire tui jaas kothaire’, ‘Achchha keno manush gulo emon hoye jay’, ‘Beche thaka niye jader juddha and many others. These are tunes that stuck to the popular consciousness. Still, the success of the rock or pop genre in Bangladesh could not be achieved without crossing a number of hurdles.
In an interview with New Age Naquib Khan talked about the mixed reactions that the pioneers of the music genre faced in the early 1970s from their audience. The massive boom of band music experienced in the following two decades, alongside the problems that band musicians are now facing, reflect the dilemma that once bedevilled the scene in its early years.
‘Band music was introduced in the country in the 1960s through the formation of groups such as Windy Side of Care, The Lightenings, Underground Peace Lovers, Rambling Stones and Ugly Phases, which used to cover western bands and soloists mostly playing at the hotels.
Only Zinga had some original songs. But, after the independence of the country musicians like Azam Khan, Firoz Sai, Fakir Alamgir, Pilu Mumtaz and others started presenting pop songs and they were lucky to receive instant responses from the youths for their catchy lyrics and emotive music representing the contemporary time and society,’ Naquib argued.
‘These musicians followed the spirit of the western pop music but the lyrics of the songs such as ‘Ore Saleka ore Maleka’, ‘High courter majare’, ‘Emon ekta maa dena’, ‘Ei montare dana mele diyechhi’, ‘Ishkul khuilache re Moula’, ‘Mon tui chinlina re’ could address the post-war-surge for innovation, especially the zeal of the youths for authentic voices in a newly-born country for that was exactly what was reflected in those songs. The result was immediate — they gained huge popularity within a short period of time,’ he added.
Naquib pointed out that the live performances of the newly formed bands like Uchcharan of Azam Khan and Spondon of Nasir Ahmed Apu, Ferdous Wahid and Firoz Shain in Dhaka, and several other bands in Chattogram including The Lightenings, Balark and Souls, helped them gain nationwide popularity. So, I would say that band music in Bangladesh is the harvest of Bangladesh’s independence.
‘But the novelty that the musicians created through presenting a new brand of music also faced sharp criticism from the people who argued that those musicians were distorting the rich heritage of the traditional culture by importing western culture,’ he hastened to add.
Naquib said such criticism continued almost for a generation until they could establish band music as a distinct musical style in the next two decades. ‘But, the path was not as smooth as it now seems and the pioneering musicians like me had to struggle a lot. There was no instrument and we had to collect them from abroad. And there was no sound system or recording facility either. Additionally, the musicians were looked down upon and used to be treated as if they were a bunch of drug abusers, worthless and wayward children,’ he recalled.
Despite all odds, talented musicians like Naquib continued on their journey with devotion and dedicated their time and creativity for the development of this new form of music. And their steadfastness led to the acceptance of band music as a distinguished genre in the succeeding years.
‘The great support we got at the initial stage was from the late Sheikh Kamal. Otherwise, there were no sympathy for our work, nor even from families of the most established musicians,’ Naquib recalled.
Soon, what followed is nothing short of a surge for this popular music — a bunch of new musical bands like Feedback, Miles emerged in Dhaka at the end of the 1970s, while Feelings started its journey in Chattogram at the same time.
The best decade for this genre was the 1980s, since many new bands like Chime, Obscure, Winning, Happy Touch, Renaissance and others emerged in Dhaka, Chattogram and Khulna.
Inceptions of hard rock bands like LRB, Warfaze, Rock Strata brought diversity to the developing popular music scene in the 1990s. In fact, band music became synonymous with the youth in the 1980s and the 1990s. The trend became infectious — almost in every locality youths in groups started practicing music with the aim of forming bands, Naquib continued.
Dwelling on the glorious times of the country’s band music Naquib said, ‘During the Eids, people thronged the audio markets to know about the Eid releases. The producers used to grease the musicians seeking new releases targeting the Eid market. But now, what do we see? Can you name any solo CD album released by any band in any recent Eid? Not many concerts are organised either.’
‘The prime moments in the history of the band music in Bangladesh was made through patronage; the student organisations at colleges and universities used to hold concerts frequently on different occasions,’ he recalled.
The musicians would become jobless if no concert is organised and no album is released, Naquib pointed out. ‘Even the popular bands such as ours struggle to release a new album. We have now 18 tracks ready and we had plan to release a new album next January. But, now I think it won’t happen for the absence of professionalism in the music industry.’
‘A musician at present gets respect only after death. You can get the picture form what happened with Ayub Bachchu. The devoted musician recieved condolence messages from the government and several other sectors after his death. But, during his lifetime he just struggled to pursue music as a profession,’ the musician lamented.
In fact, Naquib and his peers have a lot of ‘unresolved issues’. ‘We are now confronting the most pressing question of our time — what would the future be of the musicians if there are no concerts and no producers. Why should artistes become destitute at a mature age despite creating wonderful music during when he or she was at his or her prime?’
He takes issue with several other realities that haunt the music industry today. ‘Why shouldn’t a musician get due respect? I tell you a fact that I would not have held on to any job, if I received the royalty of my song “Mon shudhu mon chuyeche”. Can you imagine how much money the free distributors of the song are making? It’s huge amount. But, what are they doing for the welfare of the musicians,’ asks Naquib, who is also the Corporate Affairs Director of Nestlé Bangladesh.
‘It’s happening not because quality musicians or bands are only few and far between, but for the absence of potential producers, and top of that, their inclination for profiteering is depriving the musicians. And by not resorting to copyright law at a time when the music industry is transforming through digitalisation,’ Naquib set an analytical eye on the current music scene.
He also offered some measures as part of finding a solution: ‘In the interest of the music industry, comprehensive measures should be taken from musicians, producers, distributors and government for ensuring the interest of all the stakeholders as it happened in other countries.’
Sharing his insights on his kaleidoscopic career as a musician, Naquib Khan said he joined a Chattogram-based band Balark founded by his elder brother Ziloo Khan, whom he considers his mentor. At that time he was a grade VII student of Govt Junior High School in Chattogram.
‘My elder brother was my mentor. My younger brother Pilu Khan and I learned music from him. We used to cover songs at that time. In 1974, I along with Pilu joined Souls by abolishing our band. In fact, Souls began its journey with the name Surela in 1973 and played only folk songs. But, a year after the band initiated a new beginning by presenting original songs,’ Naquib recalled.
After joining the band, Naquib used to play keyboard, and also started composing and writing songs.
‘I had no formal training in music. But, I composed my songs listening to and practicing songs of the western bands like Beatles, Rolling Stones, CCR, Deep Purple, Pink Floyd and others. I also followed Indian singers and composers like SD Burman, RD Burman, Salil Chowdhury and Bangladeshi musicians Alauddin Ali, Alam Khan, Satya Saha, Azad Rahman, Rabin Ghosh, Ahmed Imtiaz Bulbul and Lucky Akhand. Lucky bhai’s compositions influenced me a lot. So, in this sense, I’m a self-taught musician with the influence of eastern and western music,’ Naquib explained.
Souls got nationwide recognition after winning awards at a pop music competition organised in Dhaka in 1976.
‘It was our first performance in Dhaka and we became champion by beating Dhaka-based bands. I got the award of the best keyboardist while a song rendered by me titled ‘Money koro’ got the best song award. And Taju bhai, Tajul Imam, who now lives in the USA, was awarded in the best vocal category,’ Naquib remembered.
Following an invitation by Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy, Souls performed in a solo show at the academy in 1979. Subsequently, it performed on BTV and became popular across the country.
In 1981, Souls released its solo album titled Super Souls featuring songs mostly composed by Naquib Khan such as ‘Mon shudhu mon chhuyechhe’, ‘Tore putuler moto kore sajiye’, ‘Ei mukhorito jibaner cholar banke’ and ‘Nadi eshey path’.
‘In the album I rendered “Tore putuler moto kore sajiye” and “Ei mukharita jibaner cholar banke” jointly with Tapan Chowdhury. Kumar Biswajit, who is also my younger brother Pilu’s friend, had, however, presented the song “Tore putuler moto kore sajiye” in a magazine show of BTV before the release of our album,’ Naquib testified.
Naquib said he had to leave the band in 1983 following the death of his father. He continued playing music with friends and formed another band named Renaissance in 1985 in Dhaka exploring an aspect of music which added value to the existing scene.
‘After graduating from the accounting department of Chittagong University, I settled in Dhaka in 1983. In those days, we along with Moto, Mamun, Pilu and Fazle Rabbi used to jam at Rabbi’s residence. Subsequently, Renaissance was formed,’ Naquib said.
Renaissance, the band has so far released four albums starting from their eponymously titled ‘Renaissance’ in 1988. Others include ‘Tritiya Biswa’ in 1993, ‘Ekattur-er Renaissance’ in 1998 and ‘Ekush Shatake Renaissance’ in 2004.
‘Our band soon gained popularity for its unique music. Our songs bear quality lyrics and melodious music, which are very important factors for gaining popularity in our part of the world,’ Naquib Khan claimed.
Besides composing songs for the band, Naquib also composed songs for the popular solo singers like Kumar Biswajit, Samina Chowdhury, Fahmida Nabi, Tapan Chowdhury, Sheikh Ishtiaq and others.
‘I’ve so far composed over 500 songs and still practice music regularly despite maintaining hectic schedule for my career with Nestlé,’ he said.
Despite the present turmoil, the seasoned musician is hopeful about the revival of the industry, especially band music.
‘There are many talented musicians in the country and I see a good future unfolding amid all the inconsistencies that trouble the scene. What they need to do is take music as their only commitment and not to be after stardom. They should also present music that represents the culture and tradition of the country to win hearts of the people from all walks of life,’ Naquib said.
He also suggests that the producers, distributors, mobile companies and media should promote the band musicians and ensure a nurturing environment.
Bangladesh Musical Band Association and the government should also work together so that the bands can perform in more live shows and get the royalties they so desperately need to thrive by bringing marketing and distribution under the purview of the law.
Cover and another photo by Sony Ramany.
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