Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Fifteen essential albums according to Maqsoodul Haque

Former Feedback vocalist Maqsoodul Haque (Mac) who trailblazed Dhaka’s music scene since the late seventies tells Faizul Khan Tanim about the 15 essential albums that makes him the perfect Big Mac of today

‘Fifteen essential albums!’ exclaimed Mac. However, he continued with a giggle, ‘this could be an interesting interview. I can finally let people know of the songs I grew up with.’ ‘Bob Marley was a new and significant phenomenon back then. The late 1960’s and early 1970’s belonged to rock music and I was hooked to Deep Purple, AC/DC, Jeff Beck, The Who and more. Then suddenly, came this weird but beautiful music called Reggae from Jamaica and, there stood Bob Marley. Bob and his band, The Wailers from the Caribbean went to the UK and got the biggest and best sound system called “Rolling Stone” to record LIVE and on location. What stood out most about this man was that he instantly touched me with the intensity of his lyrics. Bands recording from the first world nation were only singing about their life and culture but here was this man whose songs and lyrics were about the third world, and one I belonged to and that gave me an emotional connection to his numbers. Therefore, amongst his albums Rastaman Vibration, Exodus and Babylon by Bus were interesting, passionate and rebellious. The first two albums received rave reviews like ‘best albums in the history of mankind’ while Babylon by Bus was his last album which covers his tour from New Zealand until his collapse in Central Park, New York,’ Mac added.

Mac continued and talked about an early 80’s band called Steely Dan and added that, of their albums The Royal Scam and Gaucho simply stood out for him. ‘Donald Fagen was a member of Steely Dan but later went on to make his solo albums. In 1982 came his first album The Nightfly (which was nominated for a Grammy) and at that time, it was regarded as one of the best-recorded albums by the Rolling Stone magazine,’ observed Mac and added that another of his personal favourite albums by Donald is Kamakiriad. ‘With very powerful lyrics and awe-inspiring instrumentation, the album was mind blowing. Everything about these records was different and beautiful. The most amazing thing about the title Kamakiriad was that it was given to a car, which the Japanese will make in 2050 and Donald Fagen made the music for that car and named it Kamakiriad,’ added Mac.
Mac then stopped for a moment to take a breath, smiled as if recollecting memories from the past and continued. ‘There was a new sound coming in the end of 1970’s and early 1980’s. Rock the Casbah album by The Clash was rebel music. Three guitars and bass guitar only, with no keyboards, created this new wave sound. They actually gave direction to many new bands at that time and some say they were the predecessors of The Police.’ Mac also informed that sometimes they used horns to give distinctive sound and extra flavour to their songs.

Mac added, ‘Rockin’ Down The Highway by Doobie Brothers was a combination of American country blues, funk and many other interesting influences – the songs became very atmospheric with the very up-to-the-minute-element sound.’ In 1996, Mac released his album Bauliana, the first folk fusion album in Bangladesh. But, what inspired that fantastic album? Mac narrated the story of Jai Uttal and The Pagan Love Orchestra and their album Beggars and Saints in 1994, which Mac terms as his ‘reference point’. That was his reference point for his exploration into Baul, folk fusion and heritage music that showed him the way and, songs like Gopala and Menoka from Beggars and Saints touched him. The interesting fact for Mac was that the band featured a white man singing Bangla Baul song, who experimented with rich Indian culture and music.
‘The ultimate socio-cultural activism guru for me would be Gil Scott-Heron and I found a lot of similarity with my way of thinking and him. His lyrics were very no-nonsense, apolitical and to the point. It actually taught me to be a visionary, and much of my work in Prapto Boyeshker Nishiddo was because of Gil’s influence. His album The Revolution Will Not Be Televised in 1974 was outstanding. Many rappers until this date looks upon him as a father figure. In 1990, his album Tales of Gil Scott-Heron and his Amnesia Express and Spirits in 1994 were total jazz albums and there is only one word to describe them – remarkable!’ said Mac in an emotional tone.

Mac explained how a new horizon of music begun when the sounds of violin and guitar clashed to produce something magical. Shakti was a group which came in the early 1970’s and played acoustic fusion music which combined Indian music with elements of jazz; probably the earliest practitioner of the musical genre of world fusion. Its leading members were the celebrated musicians like English guitar player John McLaughlin, the Indian violin player L. Shankar, Tabla maestro Ustad Zakir Hussain, flautist Ustad Hariprasad Chaurasia and other renowned musicians. Their first debut album Shakti, released in the mid 1970’s actually taught Mac how to appreciate rich eastern music forms, especially Raagas.

Looking at his watch Mac said, ‘ok, one more to go!’ ‘I think its Billy Joel’s album 52nd Street from 1999, which had a massive impact on me. I got so inspired by the album and its music especially the track, Honesty that I sang a Bangla version of the song and named it Bhirumon. The album is filled with great compositions and it’s a total album of defined music and quite often, termed as one of the world’s most recommended albums.’
*This article was first published in Glitz section of Extra, the Daily New Age June 01 2007 Posted by tanim-butpar at


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