Maqsoodul Haque is an iconic singer, song writer and social activist who has been contributing to the utmost in the Bangladeshi band music for more than decades as well as Baul music mostly influenced by 'Lalon'. On behalf of The Asian Age, Shakib Khan Mimo has interviewed the singer.
Q:How did you begin your journey of music?
Maqsoodul Haque: Without any fanfare at all, I was probably three years old then, in Narayanganj the riverine port city just 20 kilometres from Dhaka. I was born in the very ornate Ajmeri Manzil at 9 RK Gupta Road, very close to the brothel of Kalibazar, which was then as even now was predominantly a Shonaton Hindu area; my earliest friends in life were children of rich Marwari jute merchants who went by the name of Radha, Joogla, Oomla and Siri Bhagwan. They would occasionally hold kirtan recitals at their home - and it was in one such event that I went without my parents' knowledge. I was totally engrossed and lost in the music and past 10 p.m, past my bed time, I fell asleep behind the performing musicians.
My parents - of whom I was the only male child, raised an alarm, and the whole neighborhood was alerted. Someone suggested to my father that he should contact the Police Station and report me missing - when some other Marwari neighbors discovered me fast asleep. My orientation and love for music started from that point - especially my love for Kirtan and the Naal, Khol and Mandira developed from there, and which I love and use for my compositions until this day.
Q: Would you please tell us story of the emergence of your first album?
MH: In 1985 when my erstwhile band Feedback released its debut first album FeedBack Volume 1 I was conspicuously absent from it. I didn't think much about Bangla rock music, and offerings from bands like Souls of Chittagong or Shocking Blues from Mohammadpur, which wasn't exactly my cup of tea. I have no hesitation to say that I detested them - yet somehow the earliest composition from Late Azam Khan and his band Uccharon together with their mind blowing live concerts mostly at the Engineers Institute I would attend in my teenage years - convinced me that this is the way Bangla rock should evolve.
I joined Feedback XXth Century as a lead vocalist performing 4 nights a week - doing English covers at the Chambeeli Night Club at the erstwhile Hotel Intercontinental (now Hotel Dhaka Sheraton), and soon made a small name for myself as a top notch English language vocalist. Late Azam Khan and the famed international superstar Runa Laila were very appreciative of my English cover singing - prodded me on to do Bangla originals - and by 1987 - I found my place in the second album by FeedBack Ullash just not as a singer but a strong lyricist and composer - although I had zero or no musical aptitude.
Q: You have relentlessly been working on Lalon. How much does Lalon influence you in shaping your musical journey?
MH: In 1988 during a tour of Kushtia and Harishpur Harinakundu with an HMV recording unit - I first stumbled upon Fakir Lalon Shah. As a child I had visited Kushtia with my father a dyes and chemicals salesman who explained to me the very hard to understand esoteric philosophy of Lalon and the music and lifestyle of the great Sage, which moved me enough to seek their companionship. By 1995 I had finished work on my last album with FeedBack - Bauliana - 1st Part - and it turned out to be the first Baul folk fusion album in the history of Bangladesh. Since then there has been no looking back.
I had by the time fine tuned my efforts to document not only the lyrics, but also music and the esoteric philosophy of Baul Saints and Seekers - Shadhus, Shadhikas, Sannyasis, Sanyasinins, Fakirs, Fakiraanis etc as well as Shadhu Gurus, Darbesh and more enlightened people like Walis and the Insaan-e-Kamels. It was simply fascinating- not just enjoying the music - but dwelling on the praxis, their lifestyle statements. I also started attending the twice yearly Shadhu Shangas - the Conclave of the Wise, in Seuria, Kushtia in erstwhile Kumarkhali, Nadiya of the British Raj. In 2014 I first met my Shadhu Guru Darbesh Hossain Ali Shah Lyanta Baba the 3rd in Chaudanga.
Being a blessed and known urban, city bred Shadhu - I reached out to many Baul singers both males and females and had them over to Dhaka to appear in Bangla Vision TV show Shai Amar Kokhon Kheley Kon Khela for a total of 26 episode - which in their own rights placed these gifted men, women and children a berth in the national folklore heritage.
There would be no turning back. In the meantime I worked very hard in creating a website 'Bauliana - Worshipping the Great God in Man' on the Internet http://ww.bauliana.blogspot.com for and international audience. I later followed this up with a book by the same name in 2007. I later followed this up with an expanded version in 2016 - and was released in the Ekushey Book Fair. In recognition of my selfless service and dedication for the Bauls I was conferred the title of Shai or the enlightened one during the Shadhu Shongo of October 2016 at the Lalon Shrine in Seuria, Kushtia
Q: Do you have any plan to reproduce your most popular songs?
MH: Not at the moment. I dream big of using American musicians specially the Brass and Saxophone plus Afro Caribbean Indian percussions sections in all my songs - and that may include staying for a few months either in London or New York over the next five years or so. At the moment it's still a potent plan.
Q: Do you have any plan to bring out new album?
MH: Work on my album of 2015 ShondoChitro is still ongoing - I already have three songs there and will be padding up more and hope to have atheist five new songs and complete the album by mid 2018.
Q: What would you advice for the musicians of new generation?
MH: I am very positive about their talent and use of technology. I wish them all luck. They will put Bangladesh in a right place in the world music scene.
Q: What would you like to say about fusions? Many musicians are making fusions without knowing what it means. What is your opinion in this regard?
MH: You are quite right - fusion is a mix of two sometimes three or more contrasting diverse and genres and cultures. It is very complex. Unless you understand the music and cultural practices of the genre - fusion will be mired in a sort of music which will hurt the ears, and hurt the heart. It's just not as easy as some musicians make it out to be. Like water and oil will never mix - fusion is the soap - that mixes them thoroughly and you end up with a third - sometimes very beautiful substance or call it music or whatever.
Q: If you have any say apart from the questions above please feel free to write up.
MH: I want to thank The Asian Age for dedicating space to music and musicians and I believe they have also hired some talented musicians to work for the newspaper. This is really the way forward.
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