K. B. Al-Azad is an admired name in the field of theatre and classical music in Bangladesh. He started his career in theatre in 1973 and has been working with Nagorik Natya Sampradaya ever since. He completed his SSC from Shidhweshwari High School in 1963 and graduated from Jagannath College in 1969. His first work as a background music designer was in a theatre drama named 'Bhepute Behag' directed by Ataur Rahman. Some of his most renowned works include 'Galileo' by Ataur Rahman, 'Kopeniker Captain' by Aly Zaker, 'Bishorjon' by Abul Hayat and 'Mukhosh' by Sara Zaker. His passion for classical music grew at a very early age, when one of his neighbors started collecting recordings of that sort. The discussions and experiences formed an elongated craving for classical music in him. Since then he has been collecting recordings from home and abroad. This time K.B. Al Azad talked to Star Showbiz about his early life, passion, inspiration and much more!
At the early stage of my music career, I had difficulties understanding North Indian classical music. This difficulty made me eager to understand this art and that is why I started sharing my thoughts with some like-minded people. Needless to say, they had similar interests and became curious. Hence, Iftekhar Ahmed Prince, Iqbal Ahsan Chowdhury and I started borrowing recordings and spent hours listening to them. We used to enjoy Western classical music as well. Our interests matched and we felt a spiritual connection with the music. Gradually, we started having grasp over the music and our experiences helped us grow constructively. Sometimes Moshiuddin Shaker used to join us. Back then Indian classical music were broadcasted at night through Akhil Bharatiyo Karjokrom. We even visited Kolkata to collect recordings. The first recording I bought was of Kesarbai Kerkar. After that I eventually collected recordings of Alauddin Khan, Faiyaz Khan, Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan and of some other prominent names.
Association with Theatre
In 1973 I watched a theatre show named Baki Eetihash by Aly Zaker. That was my first exposure to theatre and I was so fascinated by the show that I went to applaud Aly Zaker personally. Seeing my interest in music and theatre, he told me to join their team as the background music designer. Since then I started my journey as a music designer in theatre and till 1998, I designed a number of background music for theatre. I have worked in several dramas which include Shajahan, Galileo, Eersha, Baki Itihash, Nurul Dwiner Sharajibon, Kopeniker Captain, Bishorjon, Mukhosh and many more.
Indian & Western Classical Music
My love for classical music is still as pure as it was a couple of years ago. Recently, the initiation of Mr. Abul Khair Litu has enthralled me once again. The Bengal Classical Music Festival has given us the feeling of those old days when we enjoyed classical music through recordings. He brought famous musicians from India to make classical music available for the people of our country. Astana Symphony Philharmonic Orchestra played Swan Lake last year and we all were enchanted by it.
Painting and Sculptures
Collecting painting and sculptures was one of my favourite hobbies. My wife and I used to save money and buy graphic prints of many famous painters which include Somnath Hore, Ganesh Haloi, Sanat Kar, Sunil Das, Manu Parekh, Chandana Hore and also of M. F. Husain. From our country I collected paintings of Quamrul Hassan, Mohammad Kibria (oil painting on canvas), Monirul Islam, and Abul Barak Alvi. We also have two sculptures by Somnath Hore and Sarbari Roy Choudhury.
When I was a student of class VIII, I had my first exposure to Ikebana, which is the Japanese way of flower arrangements. My elder sister used to go to Japanese Embassy to learn this art. Before every Ikebana class my duty was to collect flowers for my sister. That is how my love for flowers and nature grew. The art of Ikebana left a mark within me. Colorful flowers and diverse nature made me thoughtful about my life, they inspired me to travel, read and appreciate art and culture. My love for music and painting also dates back to when I was learning to appreciate diversity of nature. Gardening and architecture also inspired me to nurture our tradition and culture.
My admiration for beauty is my philosophy – plain and simple. I have admired beauty throughout my life. I loved it in every form and style. I found beauty in the form of nature, music, architecture and painting.
I loved poetry ever since I was a child. Since I used to work in theatre; Ataur Rahman, Aly Zaker, Asaduzzaman Noor, MP, Hon'ble Minister of Cultural Affairs and I used to discuss poetry and music a lot. We used to read Rabindranath Tagore, Samar Sen, Nirendranath Chakraborty, Shamsur Rahman a lot. Rabindranath Tagore's philosophy made us think differently about life and nature. I used to read Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay a lot. The stories of Sunil Gangopadhyay, Moti Nandi and Hasan Azizul Haque were really inspiring. In my young days, Three Comrades by Erich Maria Remarque was one of my favourite novels from Western literature.
I have a good grasp over some of the books about music. Besides listening to classical music, I read many books on them. Amongst them, Dhurjati Prasad's Kotha o Sur was one of my favorites. Smritir Autole by Amiya Nath Sanyal was another favourite of mine on classical music. This book opened a new door of experience for me. It deals with the evolution of classical music from '30s to '50s. I must mention that Waheedul Haq also helped me to understand both Tagore songs and classical music. Among the musicians, I love the works of Aftab-e-Mausiqui, Ustad Faiyaz Khan, Khan Saheb Abdul Karim Khan, Khan Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Kesarbai Kerkar and Pandit Bhimsen Gururaj Joshi. I have grown old listening to their music. Their ideology and philosophy about life have always made me enthralled. I have also listened to Pandit Barin Majumder, Ava Alam and Ustad Fazlul Haque from Bangladesh.
I have always had a passion for photography. I have collected pictures of Bangladesh's natural beauty. Temple architecture attracts me. I have roamed from place to place in search of beautiful temples. From Ajanta to Ellora to many other places, I roamed and tried to capture their beauty within frame. I had also little interest in wild flowers and two of my photographs of wild flowers have been published in the book Wild Flowers of Bangladesh by Dr. Noazesh Ahmed. Here I have to say, my association with Dr. Noazesh Ahmed enriched my knowledge a lot.