Evolution of band music in Bangladesh

Syed Tashfin Chowdhury | Published: October 22, 2018 21:17:01 | Updated: October 23, 2018 21:42:27

Ayub Bachchu: with his death ended an era of rock music in Bangladesh

The death of musician Ayub Bachchu on October 18, 2018 came as a shock to many Bangladeshis at home and abroad. The untimely demise of the rock-star was being deemed as the 'end of an era' by most fans and former colleagues of Bachchu.

Almost everyone appreciated his contributions as a guitarist, composer and vocalist to the band music movement in Bangladesh.

Bachchu's music career began around 1978 when both band music and the nation of Bangladesh were young. Bachchu was one of the trendsetters in the band music movement of Bangladesh, although the journey of band music in the country had started nearly a decade before his entry into it.

It is claimed by many musicians that the first band 'Bangladesh' was formed around 1961 by former footballer Rumi Omar in the then-East Pakistan. The band members did not have the luxury of owning and playing expensive instruments.

Still their efforts encouraged the formation of other bands like Zinga, Rambling Stones, Ugly Phases and more. These bands performed covers of western songs and practised on their own. This was a time when band music was regarded as a 'pastime' for teenagers and young men. Its critics could not fathom the popularity the genre was going to enjoy in the years to come.

After the independence of Bangladesh, band music emerged as an alternative branch of music through which socio-political issues could be highlighted.

Undoubtedly, the most notable works during this time came after the formation of the band Uccharon in 1973. The founder of the band was Mahbubul Haque Khan, who is better known as Azam Khan. A freedom fighter, Khan was not content with the social situation of post-liberation Bangladesh. Through his tracks like 'Ore saleka, ore maleka', 'Rail liner oi bostite' and more, he painted pictures of his discontent.

The rebellion in Khan's hairstyle, attire and unique singing style pulled at the hearts of young men and women encouraging them to bring about positive changes in society. Khan's music and the melodious tracks by Akhand Brothers (Happy and Lucky Akhand) inspired many budding musicians at that time.  Eventually, the band 'Souls' was formed around 1973, followed by 'Feedback' in 1976 and 'Miles' in 1979. 

The band Souls was mostly doing popular rock. The Chattogram-based band at different times acted as the launching pad for musicians. Over the course of time, Souls had members like Tapan Chowdhury, Ayub Bachchu, Naquib Khan, Pilu Khan, Kumar Bishwajit and more.

Miles made music that hovered around popular rock and rock fusion. Feedback, on the other hand, offered songs which were popular rock and jazz.

During their initial years, these bands did gigs in hotels.

There was a significant breakthrough in 1980 when Souls released its debut album 'Super Souls'. This was the first music album by any musical group in Bangladesh at the time. The songs 'Mon shudhu mon chuyechhe' and 'Torey putuler moto kore shajiye' from the album became hits within weeks.

The success of Souls encouraged Miles to release their debut album named after themselves in 1982. Feedback followed suit in 1985.

The music by these three bands was loved by young audiences as the lyrics in the songs performed by these bands spoke about Bangladesh and its culture while being played on modern musical instruments.

The 80s and 90s saw the rise of more bands like Renaissance, Images, Feelings, Nova, Ark, Chime and so on. Open air concerts were allowed to be organised in venues like Shilpakala Academy, TSC Auditorium, Dhanmondi Stadium and more.

The band music movement assumed a better shape following the formation of Bangladesh Musical Bands Association (BAMBA) in 1987. The platform was formed to arrange a three-day charity concert at the Sheraton Hotel. The aim was to raise funds to help victims of the devastating flood in Bangladesh that year.  Around Tk 250,000 was raised, all of which was donated for rehabilitation of flood victims.

Since then, the association has been continuing to play a role at popularising band music in the country. In 1991, the Little River Band (L.R.B) was formed by Ayub Bachchu. The band that specialised in hard rock and rock music renamed itself to Love Runs Blind later.

As the popularity of Bangladeshi band music extended over the borders, bands like Miles, Feedback, LRB and others were invited to take part in concerts in India, USA, UK, Canada and other countries of the globe.

The 90s also saw the emergence of heavy metal, grunge and hard rock bands like Rock Strata, Aurthohin, Artcell, Warfaze, Black and others.

This was also the time when bands like Feedback began to focus their attention on sensitive topics like religious extremism, bureaucracy, social difficulties and more. Warfaze's track 'Jibondhara' took a dig at corruption by public servants at the time.

The 2000s saw a rise in the genre of alternative rock in Bangladesh. A vibrant underground music scene was created that led to the rise of bands like Arbovirus, Stentorian, Stoic Bliss, Shironamhin and more. The efforts of these bands have changed the music industry in Bangladesh. Musicians like the late Ayub Bachchu, Lucky Akhand and Azam Khan crossed over to mainstream music industry. Bachchu, Maqsoodul Haque and few others rendered their voice for popular songs in commercial films.

Young and aspiring bands can now compose songs and post their own videos on YouTube and other social media platforms. Band music, though  not received well initially, is gaining popularity in the country thanks to the efforts and tenacity of all these bands and their members over the past five decades.


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