Heart to heart with Ali Azmat
Nusrat Jahan Pritom
Body, voice and form of a rocker, heart and mind of a sage, Ali Azmat came to rock Dhaka for the sixth time on April 16 in the concert 'Djuice turns 5' organised by Rupkotha Events and Communications. 'Dosti'- one of his earliest numbers that he wrote when he was in the band Jupiter long before joining Junoon shook the world. When he recorded the song after joining Junoon-the blend of instrument and poetry had caused rock phenomenon. In 2005, Ali Azmat left the band to pursue a solo career. His first album was the Social Circus after which he released Klashinfolk.
This international artist who turned forty today/last Tuesday (April 20) spoke to The Daily Star about his views of music, society and individuality. As he puts it-'an artist is normally sensitive-they will sit and ponder over what goes on around them. You can't overlook what happens around you".
Ali Azmat translated feelings into words and, in the course of the interview, would bend down occasionally to give a meaningful look that seemed as if words had rather streamed from his eyes. “The policy-makers are taking the world to a disastrous place and the politics are no longer regional.” He stressed on world politics, talked of how power is in the wrong hands and also talked of music. “Music is all about breaking out. Doing beyond the comprehension of the people”
How does it feel like to be in Bangladesh again?
Ali : Great. It's a very musical nation and the bands are just amazing.
What were your earliest inspirations, introducing rock at the time and part of world where it was foreign?
Ali : Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan had a lot to do with it. Rock was cornered at that time. We figured we could put a twist on it and induce a deshi flavour. The earlier reaction was that ‘What happened to Junoon!’ but it became hit gradually. I am still experimenting with sounds. It's going to take some time to realize for me what the fresh sound is going to be.
What were you like as a child?
Ali : I was never very shy. May be a fine line between introversion and extroversion. I knew what I wanted to do. I was naïve and thought the world was a fair place but those views collapse as you grow older.
What would your comment be on the South-Asian (specifically Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Indian) rock scene?
Ali : I would put India and Bangladeshi rock in one bracket as here still exists the essence of the 70's 80's rock, but the Pakistani rockers have moved on to experiment with sounds and fusion. There is a bit of jazz, funk. This messing around has gotten popular at that part of the region, but at the end of the day it is still rock.
Why do you think there is a distinct difference in the Western sound of rock, that is often accompanied by screeching noises, grunts whereas what we call rock in the East has at times a more oriental touch?
Ali : The reason is societies are heavily marginalized. There is so much system and order, that it is natural to be rebellious and that is reflected in their music. But over here, there is turbulence, iniquity, injustice everywhere. We kind of try to find harmony amidst all these oppressions-like you would find a bicycle rider to get through the heavy traffic with ease and aptitude. Songs are just the lyrical connotations of the time we live in.
You have been involved in tv plays, telefilms? How is your involvement in this sector?
Ali : I don't mind if I get a good role, the story is good-why not? But it is time consuming.
Before coming to Bangladesh, you had a tour of Zee tv in Dubai. Where do you plan to go next and does it get hectic?
Ali : Basically I have been touring for 22 years. Now it’s become very natural. I have some coming up to Canada, to US in July, etc
'Na re Na' from Social Circus got around thirteen awards for best video, best costume, etc. This video has very thought-provoking lyrics, surreal images. Your comment on it and the third album?
Ali : Social Circus was a multi-layered album with emotions overlapping. All the complexities of human nature-greed, lust intertwined in one frame. There is no single emotion, but a mixture. It’s up to you to recognize. Working on a the third album. Songs are ready, but didn’t select a name for the album yet.
Ali : What you don't know will be used against you
Any words you want to conclude the interview with?
Ali : Wake up and smell the coffee. I urge people of the whole world to realize who is running the show. It might seem like all is ok, but in reality human nature is suffering.