Tuesday, August 17, 1999

Welcome to the Adda Madam!

The news on the 12th of August 1999 of Khaleda Zia's public expose of a 'New Delhi hand' in the 1981 assassination of her husband General Ziaur Rahman, and the subsequent denial on 13th August 1998 the use of the name of the country 'India or its capital New Delhi' - status of other parts of the statement concerning India remaining verbatim - did not come at all as a 'rude shock' to the average Bangladesh-bengaleez as might have been the case, and rightly so, for many Indians across the border, as also across the globe.

Indeed it was a 'pleasant surprise' if at all, for in Khaleda Zia's pronouncements and subsequent denial what we have witnessed was a mere exposition, to 'unseen strains' in our relation's with India that many people in Bangladesh have always believed in private. These are 'open secret's' that have been openly and heatedly debated, in all Bangladesheez drawing rooms for decades - with or without inebriation's or inhibitions! All of this in the penultimate Bengalee disease of the 'adda' or gossip sessions, and all pointing to one general direction: the series of assassination's of Bangladesh political and military leaders and suspicions of India's involvement - specifically that of New Delhi?

Therefore if at all there is anything that can be said in appreciation of Khaleda Zia's 'bold statement' followed by 'cowardly denial', it is 'welcome Madam - to the SURREAL world of Dhakkaiya adda houses - where life is one REAL party? '

The first question she has to face from the addabaz (gossip addicts!) with extreme propriety is : 'well madam, if it was not New Delhi and if it was not India, then who, may we kindly know is the foreign hand that was responsible for Mr.Zia's death, and which country's 'hegemony' was he resisting that he had to pay so dearly - with his life ?'

I guess there will be no easy answer available from Khaleda! Lets give credits to the fact that the adda houses are brutally frank in the question's they ask.

However this 'very late' discovery of a 'conspiracy theory' against the 'patriot' Mr.Zia, proves that the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) is neither nationalist nor a party in any sense. If it took them this long to get a hang of the 'true feelings' of the people of Bangladesh - about the death of her 'husband' - there is no way we may think otherwise! Addabaaz or whatever - a democracy is a democracy, and the democracy of the Bangladesheez drawing room is fortunately more tolerant and plural than the democracy in its Jatiyo Shongshod or National Parliament, best described by a obscure singer in dHAKA as 'a national wrestling exhibition' of hooligans !!


Traumatized by its defeat in the 1996 election the BNP suffers more from a deep cultural identity crisis then a political crisis. I guess its because of the 'Madam supremo' Khaleda Zia's appreciation and aping of the Pakistan Army Cantonment culture, down to the way she dresses and the coiffures she meticulously puffs up with a 'a nationalist blow drier' (to quote Farhad Mazhar's, Oshomoiyer Note boi)- not to forget the Bismillah's and shukriaz of 'Pakistani Army officers wives espirit de corps' till this very day.

Her appreciation of that cultures though painfully reminding us of our cultural inadequacies that ultimately led us on to the war of liberation in 1971, is probably excusable. What is NOT excusable, is when she attempts to justify that chicanery as the 'nationalist culture' of Bangladesh !

Similarly the Awami League (AL) also has a culture of intolerance remnant of a 'peculiar breed' of Bangladesh bengaleez who pride themselves in equating Bedouin's culture of the deserts as the 'pucca Muslim' culture as also the Brahmin fundamentalist culture as the 'pucca Bengalee' culture - as if in the last twenty eight years of our 'spirit of our liberation war mania' we have not been able to acquire or inherit any natural cultural gains!


That mentality foretells, the War of Liberation we might have won - a flag and a map determining our 'geographical liberation' complete - the war to 'LIBERATE our petty minds' ironically ended on the 16th December 1971?

While we surrendered arms and munitions at the behest of the 'Father Of The Nations' proclamation that 'the war is over and peace must return', I wonder if that illustrious son of the soil left any edict anywhere that says 'surrender your souls and conscience as well to India'?

The liberation war thankfully has become private property of private museums, where the 'chic' meaning to those days of glory in our history - is more about packaging, promotion and marketing it as a 'product' - no dishonest endeavor - only that it is not honest enough to answer few basic question's.

They are -

Who the hell are you guys at the Liberation War Museum, and who has given you the authority to interpret the Liberation War that only seems to be focused at achieving one objective: make India's role in 1971 and thereafter CUTE and CORRECT to be accepted without questions? How do you explain that when the retired General Aurora recently visited the museum and called the Mukti Bahini guerillas a 'sapper force that blew bridges and were fast with country boats' that non of you so called freedom fighters raised any objection?

Fortunately these are not 'common mentalities' of the common Bangladesh bengaleez. Indeed those that indulge in such hypocrisies are minorities' 'rare commodities' at best, in helms of power and authority of some form or the other. This 'elitist' mentality is thankfully going out of 'fashion'!


Let me clarify that while 'anti-India hysteria' is cool and fashionable among the young of Bangladesh i.e. those born after 16th December 1971, by 'anti-Indianism' the young of Bangladesh of any shade of political affiliation, mean and agree that it is the 'ruling elite class of New Delhi' that is implied and accused - NOT THE PEOPLE OF INDIA! Indeed the people of India should be supporting us as we try and investigate shady activities of its own power elite, an exercise that will ultimately benefit India and its future relationship with Bangladesh, not harm it.

"India is responsible for killing Ziaur Rahman as he did not accept Indian hegemony and wanted to make Bangladesh self-reliant," the United News of Bangladesh news agency quoted - is a point of view of Khaleda Zia that is shared by many and probably rightly so. However down in the adda houses this falls within the category of CONSPIRACY THEORY # 2 which deserves no immediate discussion or numerical advantage, before we have had a chance to look logically at:


The irony of our 'suspicious' but friendly relations with India yet, is there are also those in Bangladesh who believe with some conviction that other than Ziaur Rahman, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman too was assassinated at the behest of New Delhi.

Conspiracy theorist dwelling in the adda house discourses, have long believed that the 'founding father of Bangladesh' was 'bumped off' by Delhi, because he went across to Algiers to make peace with the Islamic ummah in 1974/75 - in defiance of an Indian 'order' that made it albeit mandatory for him to visit Delhi, before he was 'allowed' to go anywhere else . He also made the cardinal mistake of shaking hands with the Pakistani General Tikka Khan the 'butcher of Bangladesh' - as also 'attempt's' to transfigure himself into a pan Islamic sentinel by hobnobbing with the likes of Yasir Arafat of Palestine, Houari Boumiediene of Algeria and yes - Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of Pakistan !


The Indian propaganda post Sheikh Mujib's assassination ofcourse attempted to change the course of adda debates to finger pointing towards the USA, who had only a few months back 'bumped off' Salvador Allende our 'socialist friend' in Chile. In the global scheme of things 'the Yankees' as they were called back then - were indeed the killers - the CIA - an 'available group' of elusive murderers to be blamed, never to be scrutinized or investigated and not to forget that they remain as elusive in 1999 as they were in 1975!

Too fast and too soon the desperate and beleagured Sheikh Mujib, tried to make contact with the rich 'Islamic Ummah', only to feed his famine stricken people - as more than a million had already died, thanks to the US anger that sought to starve us, only because we had to sell jute to Cuba, a country who like us were also starving, thanks again to the US blockade and the dwindling resources of USSR to feed it on a 'day to day' basis.

It was the Russians who made us see logic in the 'world revolution' picture and we were a socialist country and had to support our socialist brothers anywayz ! Lest we forget, this was one of the way (selling jute to Cuba) that simplistic to a fault Sheikh Mujib thought we could express our gratitude to the USSR for its solid support in 1971. The Mukti Bahini guerrillas of Bangladesh relied heavily on Russians arms and munitions in 1971 - that ofcourse came - through India as much as the Soviets controlled the Chittagong Port post 1971!

India on the other hand, devastated economically and having just relieved itself off the burden of feeding millions of our people for almost a year, and then participating with its army, to side our liberation war, was also in no way capable of feeding Bangladesh on a 'day to day' basis after 16th December 1971 - and try as they must, the Indian capitalist class - exploited the situation by sending in garbage - and the first real sentiments of 'anti-India' chic was BORN right there!

Indian TATA buses - that last for years anywhere else in the world - would conk out in three to four months in Bangladesh. Indian sarees that India prides itself in - would be reduced to mosquito nets after a couple of wash. The first anti India distrust arose from those, first 'shady deals' those first deceits with a new born state that the ruling elite in New Delhi encouraged.

Those 'shady deal' have never quite disappeared. For instance after the installation of the AL Government in 1996, Marwari brokers and crooks in Hongkong together with Bangladesh collaborators in a 'joint operation' busted the back of the Dhaka Stock Exchange to an amount that has still not been calculated.


While I have yet to meet anyone in Dhaka carrying a business card saying 'agent for the RAW/CIA/ISI in Bangladesh' - our political, business and cultural arena thrives with 'agents' and they happen to represent the interest of almost all countries of the globe except BANGLADESH.


While in 24 years Indian TATA trucks and Maruti cars as also Indian sarees and designer outfits has gained respectability and trust - what has not happened is any change of the demeaning and patronizing attitude of the ruling class of New Delhi towards Bangladesh.

Those dhoti clad politicians of New Delhi are no different than the ones they have replaced ceremoniously over decades - and truly Indian politicians just like their sycophants and imitators here in Bangladesh, display no attitude that bears well with the propensity required to catch up with the global world. IT chic - well that's a passing yet obnoxious phase!

Sadly for the ruling elite in New Delhi, Bangladesh is therefore no more than a pariah state and deserves no more importance than say - Patna or such other nondescript town's and province in India?

The Indian ruling class mentality towards Bangladesh is one of a tyrannical colonizer. Its columnist and intellectuals (especially from Calcutta) carry the mandate of promoting India at the expense of the destruction of Bangladesh and its natural cultural, economic and political gains.

However what gives more credence to the Sheikh Mujib killing and Indian involvement's is the open statement in court by the killers of Sheikh Mujib. They had said in court, that 'India was informed' about the plan to assassinate Sheikh Mujib ?

If that be the case, I guess twenty four years later, a generation of Bangladesh Bengalis can therefore 'legally', openly and clearly ask the Indian government to clarify - or let the Bangladesh public have access to information from its Government, what the killers - who have already been sentenced to death meant, and specifically WHO, it is in India that they ' informed' prior or after the killings of Bangladesh's founding father?


The suspicious role of General Hossain Mohammed Ershad - then studying in an Army Academy in India needs investigation. Ershads pathological dishonesty does not allow us the liberty to believe anything he has to say till this day about the August 1975 killings - so the Indian's have to help!

What has been revealed during the testimony of the accused in court, is 'General Ershad secretly met the killers besieged in the President House - immediately after Sheikh Mujib's death, and that he was ordered back when his presence was discovered in Dhaka'.

In the addas of Dhaka we have believed that it is possible that the Indian ruling class backed Ershad's lust and eventual capture of state power through a peaceful coup in 1983/84 came only as a 'reward' for his planning and execution of Sheikh Mujib. Nine years of a fascist communal dictatorship is what we were savagely doomed to.

Being the senior most army officer then residing in India, its is possible that he masterminded the entire assassination as he very clearly knew the command and control structure of Bangladesh Army and the precision with which it was demolished and reduced to a farce on 15th August 1975 - is indicative of a clear 'inside job'?


Also let us not forget that General Ershad had taken pain in commissioning Anthony Mascarenhas then dying of cancer to write a book called `A Legacy of Blood' - the author had access to invaluable intelligence, including the first public photograph of a dead Sheikh Mujib, that could come from only one source in dictatorial Bangladesh of those day : General Ershad ?

The manner in which the book was published, publicized and marketed appeared to be calculated to achieve two objectives - hang the killers and make Ershad look innocent. What was not bargained for when the book was published was that the Awami League will ever come to power, and that the killers would be ultimately apprehended and put on trial. The thought of Awami League coming to power back then was not only a dream, it was a mirage not worth chasing.

While on books let me also point out that there are a number of publications available in Bangladesh (maybe not in India) on the conspiracy theories pointing towards India's involvement - and the one I wish to quote is by the Paris based, Bengalee pundit and conspiracy theorist Obeid Jaigirdar.

In his 1998 book [Bongobondhu Hotyakando o Onyanayo nibondho, Bostu Prokashon, 68/2 Purana Paltan, Dhaka - Killing Of Bangabandhu and Other articles] in page 12, Obeid writes:

'L. Khatib needs no introduction. Everybody was acquainted with him well. He tried to unearth the background of the Sheikh Mujib killing as a personal endeavor. After having collected information from various sources he wrote a book called 'Who Killed Sheikh Mujib'. The august publishing house of India, Vikas Publications after having released the book in India had all its copies sold-out in less than a week. A few days later, L.Khatib died at the house of a journalist in Calcutta under very mysterious circumstances. His relatives received the news about his death a day later - as did the West Bengal Police. Over the years the case has been hushed up. Under similar mysterious circumstances, Vikas never published a second edition of the book. Copies of the book are now rare'

Vikas today has a moral right to publish the book and reveal to the Indian and Bangladesh public as to its exact unedited contents or explain to us clearly why it cannot be done.

I think it is time India did some serious answering to some very hard questions and it can start with Vikas - a public publishing house in India.

First Published on the Internet on 17th August 1999

Wednesday, August 11, 1999

Ms.Jojo: Empathy for a Deshi Bitch!

About CNN, Pallabi

This is the Bengalee month of Bhadro and the canine population of Bangladesh is in heat - while the human population is slowly moving towards mass depression because of the devastating floods. There are far too many problems bothering all of us these days to be able to give attention to every problem the attention it deserves. It is a wise practice to take each day, and each problem at a time. The easiest way to get a hold of the situation in the country is to eep our kaan, chokh khola, ears and eyes open. The simplest way to do this is to lend a ear to sounds around our homes - our eighborhoods. This business of keeping my kaan khola is a hobby, because Ms.Jojo keeps me updated with the kind of information I am interested in and quality wise is superior source of news than say kaan kotha or gossips. One may say I am the only human listener of the CNN Pallabi. CNN here is the Canine News Network a ham radio station!


Me and Ms.Jojo

My life as a musician means late nights, and very lonely drives back home to Pallabi, where I usually reach past midnight. For more than three years or so, something else has kept me blissfully entertained in those late hours. Ms.Jojo waits for me outside my gate. Friends have questioned our relationship: harmless questions like, whether she is mine etc., and I have tired of explaining that while Ms.Jojo is a pet of the neighbor opposite my house, where she gets food to eat, she nonetheless prefers to guard my house. Technically I am not her master - but her friend - and enjoy the prerogative of being her only human friend since she was a puppy!

Why she does this is not known to me, but I suppose every night as I enter my house while opening the bgate, I take a few seconds off to ask her questions like kee ray tui kamon acchish - hello! How are you - and stroke her face. I think, I am the only human that does this to her. In winter nights I offer her a bosta or jute sacking and a dry place to sleep - inside my compound with the gates open - so that my neighbor i.e. her owner cannot accuse me of stealing or confining his kutti in my property.


A pet in the house opposite mine Ms.Jojo is an animal that in local parlance is a deshi kutti, a pye-dog. The house owners got her in as a puppy and fed it till she became the beautiful being that she is today. For my neighbor, the purpose of her being taken in as a pet was : she is a cheaper alternative than having a human guard. It cost next to nothing to have such a dog to guard your perimeter. She is there to bark and wake you up, or the others in your house, if somebody tries to break in, and for her very sincere work, all you need to do, is give her bits of your leftover or a large portion of your bone plate accumulations from your dinner table.

She is domestic not foreign, so needs no maintenance - not even a visit to the vet. If she falls ill, you expect her to die, because soon she can be replaced. When she delivers her litter, the entire family exults, cuddling the puppies - not her !

When the puppies grow up and become difficult to manage or feed they are given away to relatives and friends as gift's with pride : amaader barir kukurar baccha, our home grown puppies from our bitch, just as much as we say amaader baririr gaccher kathal, jackfruit from the tree in our garden. My neighbors tie her up to a leash in the daytime, so those rare night's, when the gate is open, she sneak's out, and goes a wandering with somebody I know.

Expose : Ms.Jojo's private life!

One night, back from work, she was friskily awaiting my return. I realized later that the reason for all her over enthusiastic exuberance was that she wanted to introduce me to her boyfriend - a sturdy deshi kutta, Bhulu Bhai, who I immediately hugged and in a way consented to their affair. The happiest moments of my life was holding both dogs at the same time - while they wagged their tails to express their appreciation. When I asked them to go away aye baar tora jaa : Ms.Jojo and Bhulu Bhai disappeared into the night for their date if we may !

Our Cruel neighbor

Unknowing that it is the month of Bhadro our neighbors have ensured that Ms.Jojo is tied to a leash during the day time and that she cannot go outside the perimeter of the house, thanks to the heavy iron gate - but has to witness the agony and the ignominy of all that is happening outside.

For the last four nights or so she has been wailing as if in great pain. Two night's back, I found it particularly unbearable and went to find out what was bothering her. Like her boyfriend I am not allowed entry to the house she guards - not atleast at 3 a.m. in the morning! Since I could no longer bear her wailing that was fast turning to moaning, I did all the kuchi kuchi, chook chook, from the distance of my verandah, which pacified her for a while - but then it started again and continued unabated until morning - the neighborhood had a sleepless night.

Ms.Jojo in Moaning

There is something about dogs moaning. It is considered koo lokkhon or an ominous signal - indicative of somebody's imminent death. Though I am not superstitious, this I have seen happening in 1971, during the war, in 1974 during the famine, and before both my parents died - so I had reasons to be worried.

Last night when I returned home at around 1:30 a.m. - she was howling, wailing and moaning with an intensity of again waking up the neighborhood. If it was my human neighbors making such a commotion, my reaction would be take a lathi in hand and go see if dacoits have entered somebody's house.

My first reaction, after I parked my car therefore, was to check if a snake has bitten Ms.Jojo? As I neared her and on seeing me - her moaning and wailing and screaming intensified - her sight fixed a short distant away where I thought an intruder was lurking: but I was wrong.

Ms.Lewinsky : No Deposition Required

There he was - Bhulu bhai with another bitch, whose identity has since been revealed as one, Ms.Lewinsky in the act of copulation that only canines by nature seem to get literally caught red handed - attached to their respective genitals! Ms.Jojo was protesting and howling Bhulu bhai's infidelity. I shooed the copulating couple away - and the Ms.Jojo quitened down. However Bhulu Bhai and Ms.Lewinsky continued their tryst at a distance which was out of Ms.Jojo's sight.

CNN Pallabi will continue coverage on the story as and when we have more details.

This morning - Ms.Jojo is in leash and Bhulu bhai, has already made half a dozen visit's to her. I wonder if he was apologizing. I wonder if he was trying to make up. I also wonder if the canine world has the decency only to engage in the act of love - at night? Perhaps it will be tonight. Perhaps they are going through a maan obhimaner paala. I will have to talk to my human neighbor about their insensitivity.

On or my part, on way to work I told Ms.Jojo that her plight could not be worse than the Queen of the World and that we will compel Bhulu Bhai to admit this inappropriate relationship: or bar his entry into our neighborhood as punitive measures.


Here is a report just filed by Saeed, a thirteen year old freelance trainee journalist for CNN Pallabi, whom I have employed, as his school is closed for floods..

Flood update # 1:

Because of the floods around Mirpur, the canine population has doubled in our neighborhood - which thankfully is on higher grounds and as yet dry and unaffected.

Flood Update # 2:

While Bhulu Bhai now has a lot more eager bitches to flirt with because of this exodus of other pretties from the flood hit areas - this morning, eyewitness accounts have confirmed that atleast three other unidentified dogs - also from the flood hit areas - are trying to woo Ms.Jojo out of her depression. Let us wish her luck!

Flood Update # 3 :

An exclusive interview with Bhulu Bhai

When contacted, Bhulu Bhai refused to comment on his recent problems with Ms.Jojo, but agreed to this interview as it concerned the floods.

Saeed: Why have so many dogs come to Pallabi, is it because of the waters?

Bhulu Bhai: Other than water there is the problem of food because the garbage bins are empty.

Saeed: You mean the City Corporation is taking them away before you can eat them - that is efficiency isn't it?

Bhulu Bhai: Nonsense - this means, the human's clinging to trees and roof tops to save themselves from the water are producing garbage that no dog or human eats - they are producing excrement.

Saeed: Excrement - what does that mean?

Bhulu Bhai: It means SHIT it means CRAP, dummy!

Saeed: Are humans in those areas eating out of garbage bins as well?

Bhulu Bhai: We lost in the competition!

Saeed: How do you mean?

Bhulu Bhai: We are competing for garbage in your neighborhood as well, Saeed.

Saeed: With Ms.Jojo's complaints that are in the air - you are obviously not competing for their women - are you competing for food?

Bhulu Bhai: ... hufff, hufff, hufff!!

Saeed: Bhulu Bhai, can you be more specific: are you fighting with humans for garbage in our neighborhood?

Bhulu Bhai: ... (silence)

Saeed: I still do not have the answer to my question, Bhulu Bhai?

Bhulu Bhai: Okay, I will be more specific, let me say it is a definite maybe!

Saeed: Definite maybe - is this confirmation - you see I have to explain this to the boss - you know how difficult he is - I am on probation.

Bhulu Bhai: Francis Harrison reported on BBC radio last night that people in the flood hit areas are eating animal udder of dead animals. She does not know that in Bangladesh humans rarely eat udders or bicchis - they prefer eating nari bhoori or intestines of dead animal. She did not name the animals.

Saeed: Shall I ask her if people in the flood hit areas are also eating nari bhoori's of...

Bhulu Bhai: Sorry Saeed, this interview is over.

First Published 11th August 1999

Sunday, August 01, 1999

Tagore Controversy – The Holiday Interview

Interviewed by Abu Jar M Akkas,
Assistant Editor,

Question 1: What was the philosophy that drove you to re-create the composition and the tune of the song "Na chahile yare paoya yay" (in transcription: Na chahile jare pawa jay)?

I am a non-conformist in essence, and therefore propound no 'philosophy' for my re-creating a Tagore song. I had titled it 'Rabindranath 2010' - this basically is my vision of the shape of Tagore music in the coming millennium. As a creative artist I have a right to translate my dreams into work. This is my public record of that dream, of the hope !

However there was nothing sinister in my efforts - and all I wanted was to challenge the existing paradigm of 'traditional Rabindra shangeet' - where singing of the song is considered more important than the music. If that be the case than we should not be calling it 'Rabindra shangeet' (Tagore music) but 'Rabindra gaan' (Tagore songs). 'Traditional rabindra shangeet' music is dull, insipid and boring and nothing significant has happened to it, in the last 40 years or so. If songs are not supported by good music - they are doomed to death - perhaps even to be fossilized.

I thought we couldn’t allow that to happen to the music of a Bengalee who won the Noble prize for literature. Instead of complaining about it, I am at least proud I initiated a process where a debate could be started. I really had hoped it would be a healthy debate - and not the kind of chilla chilliz (shouting) and gaala gaaliz (expletives) that it has unfortunately been reduced to consequent to my performance in BTV on 4th July 1999.

Question 2: What have you, you think, achieved by singing the song in a jazz manner?

I achieved an element of satisfaction and mental peace, because I knew all along that what I was doing has never even been dreamt of or done before. I knew I was creating history and was conscious and responsible.

Jazz as you know is a two hundred year old western semi-classical form and tradition, and is till today not a mainstream music, but a connoisseur art form even in the land of its birth, the USA. It is a difficult form to master, needs years of training and patience and is no different in mood and approach than the rich classical or semi classical forms of music in the subcontinent. By rendering it in a jazz format, I had only enriched it and gave it some kind of buoyancy. As far as my book of aesthetics or ethics go - I have only attempted to change the environment in which people are used to listening to Tagores music. I have basically created a new and fresh sounds cape, and I have not only sung a jazz version, which allows freedom for infinite variations and improvisations, I have also improved on the music. There are more than a 100 chords in my arrangements - in contrast to the 8 or 10 basic chords that you see in the Bangla notations of Tagores music printed from Shantineketan.

Question 3: Why have you chosen this particular song? Was there any reason for this?

I have been in love with this song for a very long time, and yet another reason is – it is a very difficult song. You will rarely find our 'traditional Tagore artist' singing or recording this song - and the most important problem is, it is in what is called a 'baul ongyo' or in my translation of that in English - Bauliana ! I have lived and associated myself with the rustic and mendicant Bauls of Bangladesh for a very long time, and thought I was giving or attempting to give a more authentic Baul flavor in my rendition.

Question 4: Why have you chosen Tagore's song, and not someone else's, for example Nazrul's or other classical singers'?

The answer to that is 'why not' ?

Yes I do have a couple of Nazrul song in my list of priorities and for your information I have also experimented with the songs of Fakir Lalon shai, Shri Radha Romon, Shri Bijoy Shorkar, Pagla Jalal, Fakir Roshik shai to name a few. Give me merits that I am the only singer/musician in Bangladesh in our 'band music' arena doing these experiments - which have been widely acclaimed.

Question 5: Some people are saying that your re-creation of the song was a failed experimentation? What do you think?

People are entitled to their opinion as much as I am entitled to mine!

I think it has been a successful experiment, and time will judge me fairly, hopefully at a time in Bangladesh’s immense musical future and destiny, when people will talk more sensibly after they have a thorough understanding of jazz. The understanding, education and appreciation of jazz will open newer avenues in our thinking, because don’t forget, there are only a handful of South Asians indulging in the practice and performance of jazz in the world today.

In India for instance, I know of only one big jazz musician - Louis Banks. He is of course not a singer.

Question 6: Some people are questioning your ability to sing the song in the prescribed manner; and this is why you re-created it to suit your style? What do you say about this?

Perhaps they are right! I have never believed in any 'prescribed manner' in presentation, because ultimately it all boils down to how each artist conveys emotions in essence that are intimate and peculiar to their own. No two emotions as you know can ever be the same. By all these 'prescription's' we are only restricting our emotions to be guided by diktats. Music like culture is dynamics. It cannot be stagnated by diktats !

Question 7: How do you explain your right to re-create Rabindranath Tagore's songs, which have already been created by Rabindranath Tagore himself? How will you react if someone else re-creates one of your songs you do not feel it was sung your way? Someone might say that your hands end where Rabindranath Tagore's nose begins.

I wonder why you ask this RIGHT question!

Firstly Rabindranath did not leave a edict anywhere saying that his works cannot be changed...and importantly there is probably no record that Tagore sang the song and preserved his version as a strict mode to follow. Tagore was no ‘great’ singer...and he relied on the vocal nuances of singers better than him to create the songs he wanted. So at the end of the day are we to assume that the first singer of the song actually sang it in the 'prescribed manner’? NO - we may not...as NO two human voices are ever the same. If we are to let Banya, Sanjida, Mita and Papiya sing the song one at a time - you will see that each and every one will sound better than the other. So how do you decide which is the 'prescribed manner' !!! The question of 'right' starts right there. Everybody has a right to be different. If tomorrow somebody was to re-create my songs it would be a difficult thing. You will remember that I allowed Subir Nandi to sing 'dhanyobad hay bhalobasha' in the BTV programme of 1995 called 'jalsa'. He completely botched it up, which proved publicly that it is not very easy to sing a jazz song in Bangla, and importantly not easy to imitate Maqsood !

With all due respects to Subir, who is undoubtedly the greatest classical vocalist we have in Bangladesh, it took more than 4 hours for me to guide him through the song while dubbing it in the studio. Normally Subir does not take more than 20 minutes to dub a song ! And Subir will confirm that both our approaches to music are in two completely different traditions. We both have respect for each other - because we know we are unique in our own traditions.

If tomorrow somebody does my song better than me, I will have no objection. If he/she does better than me - I will publicly congratulate. If they cant it will be my fans they will have to deal with - NOT ME!

Question 8: One of Waheedul Haque's main arguments was that let Rabindranath be Rabindranath; and that he does not need retouching. How do you react to this?

Again that is his point of view, and one I don’t have to necessarily agree. His arguments are not based on facts of the changing realities in music, in the global world.

Question 9: You have played the song with much of instruments, which might be another reason for the Rabindra Sangeet "experts" to make such comments. What do you think?

Probably - but it all boils down to the hatred they have for the young generation, band music, and me in particular. Don’t forget they are the ones that have regularly abused us of promoting alien values or oposhongskriti ! Today they are shocked to see our love for Rabindranath. They thought we hated Rabindranath because they hated us. We proved them wrong. I cant help but ‘admire’ the hatred they have for me?

Question 10: What in the Western music, any particular name or group, has influenced you to do this?

My influences have been wide and varied.

However to give you an idea, fusion with Indian classical and jazz started in 1980 or so with John Mclaughlin (guitar), Ustad Zakir Hussein (tabla), L.Shankar (violin) and their fusion band 'SHAKTI'. That gave the world the first direction to the way world music will evolve in the next millennium. Back then, they were considered revisionist. Today the world recognizes them as musical genius!

On the other hand, the late Don Cherry experimented with Tibetan and Vedic hymns and Indian ragas. In South Africa Abdullah Ibrahim and his Islamic jazz band, improvised on suras from the Koran. In New York today Jai Uttal and his Pagan Love Ochestra is also doing music very similar to mine. In Australia, the aboriginal band Yothu Yindi is reviving traditional aborigine music into world beat.... there are hundred of examples I can give you...to justify that I must be doing something TERRIBLY RIGHT!

Punlished in HOLIDAY August 1999