*Aftab Khurshid, a chequered marketer, celebrates his third decade as a lyricist this year. Tawhidur Rashid finds out more about the journey.
It all began 30 years ago! How did it all start?
It was not planned at all. I was a finance student at the University of Dhaka. One of my seniors, Monju bhai knew I was into writing. He asked me to write a song for his band, Octave. I was familiar with the grammar of rhyme and I wrote the song with that genre in mind. The song Ek Jhor Eshe Bhenge Diye Gelo came into existence but ironically, they did not accept it. They took seven songs from me except that one. One of them was a big hit and was released by Don Music. Later, Miles took Ek Jhor Eshe Bhenge Diye Gelo and it was named Shopno Bhongo. It was a big hit. So that’s how my published first song isTumi chole gecho but that was not the first song I wrote.
So, what inspired you to write Ek
Jhor Eshe Bhenge Diye Gelo? Were you going through a breakup?
(Laughs) Not really. I wrote down what came to my mind. Everything just fell into a rhythm. There is a line in that song Smritir shorok eshe thomke daray- it is very meaningful and charismatic. Everyone can relate to that because we all take a pause in life. I didn’t necessarily take it from my life but I thought everyone would be able to reflect on it.
What stage of life were you at when you began to write music?
I was an Honours second-year student. I was living with my family in Moghbazar. At that time, Moghbazar was known as “music para”. Don Music studio was located there and famous musicians such as Ali Akter Runu, Ali Akbar Rupu, and many other musicians used to reside there. That was a very good influence.
You wrote seven songs initially, how long did it take?
It took about six months. It was not like I had to submit 7 songs by the end of six months. I finished a song and ran it by them. Soon after that, I was writing for Miles. Their album had six songs of mine including Dhiki Dhiki, Firiye Dao, Nila, etc. In the same year, Warfaze brought out their album which had myAsha, Dhopchaya, Mounota.
Do you seek a particular kind of environment while writing?
I feel like now I need that. When I was a student, there was no phycological stress so the environment didn’t matter. Now, there are lots of responsibilities like job and family; so I need a special space.
Was there any particular lyrist that you admired or influenced by?
I was influenced by Rabindranath Tagore and Kazi Nazrul Islam. Also, by all the classics rendered by Kishore Kumar and Manna Dey. I used to listen to them a lot.
I find your lyrics to be timeless.
How did you manage that?
Yes, they are. The other day Nobel from the show Sa Re Ga Ma Pa performed Firiye Dao. I was getting texts from people saying “my grandmother said your song is being performed”. I found that fascinating. People across generations know the song and who it’s by. My father used to say that after 30 years into existence a song becomes classic. An interesting fact, in the song Firiye Dao there is a strong influence of Rabindranath Tagore.
There is a line in the song which says Peye haranor bedonai it has inspiration from a line of his poem which reads, Jenechi Jahare Paini Tobuo Peye. The poem was in my subconscious and it translated into my work. About being relatable, I think it is because our lyrics are simple. Also, everybody in their life has had a similar experience.
What was the last song that you wrote?
My last song was, Thak She Kotha Aaj Na Boli which was composed by Fuad Naser Babu. This song is about a conversation between people. It was recorded last year but I am not sure when it will be released. It has an interesting genre, Bengali Jazz. It’s very nostalgic. Konal most probably will sing the song.
How did you balance your professional life and writing?
I look at it this way; there are two aspects of my profession – business marketing and music. One is my profession and the other is my passion. People spend their spare time golfing, playing tennis or watching tv. I spend that time writing songs.
Do you get briefed by bands before writing songs for them?
Not always but there are a few instances when I was briefed before writing a song. For example, Bhulbona was a song from Miles before which I was briefed. But coincidentally, it did not really pan out according to the plan. It was about a girl dying from cancer but it was difficult to put the death of a person into lyrics. We did it metaphorically. Ironically, I am working with health care marketing which is about cancer. It’s funny how everything comes full circle.
Recently, we have done two songs with Miles after a long break of 15 years. I was briefed before that. It was about the people we want in our life. It has been released by Sony by the name Chai Tomake. Another song is exactly the opposite, deviating from the sentimental. I decided to do something inspirational and happening. The name of the song is Notun Bhor – it’s about light after darkness and a better tomorrow.
Have you ever experienced writers’ block?
Yes, it has happened. When I started writing for Miles again after 15 years, I experienced a block. I was skeptical about being able to do something contemporary. Thankfully, it was a minor setback and I was able to come up with new songs. I need inspiration, somebody needs to trigger me. It can be in the form of motivation or even good behavior.
What is your opinion about current lyrics/lyricists? We are humming the songs that were released 10 or 15 years ago but current artists aren’t coming up with such iconic tracks?
I think, mainly there are two reasons. First of all, now we have a very short attention span. Secondly, there is a lack of quality teamwork in the process of song making. Speaking as a marketer, I think of a song as a communicative product. We are emphasizing on marketing but not on the quality of the product. It is more important how the average listener will evaluate the song rather than boosting on Facebook. It is more important than the music video is coherent with the song rather than being glamourous.
What is the most rewarding part of being a lyrist?
It’s tough to say. We never think about the monetary aspect, but it feels very rewarding when our work is appreciated. For example, when Nobel, who is representing the third generation, sings our song on a foreign platform or being appreciated by artists like Shantanu Moitra who didn’t know me very well. I think it’s a failure of ourselves and our media that we are underrepresented. In other countries, every member involved in the song gets recognition. There used to be a practice in music shows where they used to mention the name of the artists involved in making the song before performing it. This practice should be strictly followed like it is done in the rest of the world.
Recently, an analysis claimed that there is a correlation between musician and marketers. Both of them are in the work of communication and creative mediums. Currently, I am proactively working on sound branding. I want to add one more thing; a lot of my songs have different stages of dreams. What I am trying ta say is, we are dreamers but we are practical dreamers.