Essence of Music

Arneeb Mahbub aka BABA NYZA speaks candidly about his journey



When did you decide you were going to make music professionally?
I’ve always been very passionate about music. I joined the school choir when I was 12 years old and discovered my passion for singing at a very early age. I have been interested in songwriting since I started college. Often, I would record melodies on voice memo on my phone in between classes. I decided to pursue music more seriously in 2015 because I really wanted to see if I could make songs that people would like and listen to.
When I returned to Bangladesh in 2015, I jammed frequently with my friend Ridwan Faruq. He would play tunes on an old keyboard and I would try and sing melodies over it. Some of BABA NYZA’s earliest songs came from those jamming sessions. One thing about me is that I don’t do anything half-heartedly. If I set my mind on something, I want to be the best that I possibly can in what I do. And I’m extremely competitive by nature. My goal has always been to make the most of my talents, and this is why I decided to put effort behind my music and give it a real go, regardless of the sacrifices.

How would you describe the music that you typically create? Why do you think your music is so popular among the Millennials and Gen Zs?
I would describe my music as Bangla fusion. The beats fit the vibes of urban music, typical of what you will find in afrobeat, dancehall, and reggaeton genres, but I try to mix and mash English and Bangla lyrics, hence the term Bangla fusion. I used to make RNB music in English only. However, I grew bored of that genre rather quickly and the songs I was making were sounding very depressing and appealed to a very small niche crowd. Now, I am making more upbeat sounds, with catchier lyrics, and I think that is one of the main reasons why my music has hit the right chords with millennials and Gen Z youths in Bangladesh. I think this particular audience craves a westernized sound that is different from the Bollywood style folk-pop, pop-rock music that has dominated the Bangladeshi pop-culture scene for the last fifteen years.

As a musician, how would you define success? Is there a specific piece of work you are especially proud of?
When I released my first song in 2016, I was naive about success. I wanted to be world famous. I thought by the time I would turn 30, I would be headlining tours, have millions of views, see my name on billboards, and become the Bangladeshi Drake. Trust me, I’m not the only musician who thinks like this. If any aspiring creative tells you anything different, he or she is lying through their teeth. However, over time, this notion has changed and softened. Five years into my foray into the industry, I now make music to tell a story in my own way in the genres I love. Of course, I try and promote them as much as I can, but my ultimate goal is to find those who want to listen and keep them engaged.
I am most proud of O Sonia, which has generated over 1.7 million streams on Spotify and sparked a dress change challenge on Tiktok. It assured me that there is an audience in Bangladesh willing to listen to afrobeat-dancehall style pop music. The song also sparked some funny memes on Reddit, but as they say, no press is bad press, especially in entertainment.





How would you assess Bangladesh’s pop music scene?
The music scene in Bangladesh is definitely evolving. For the longest time, Bangladesh’s pop music was defined by folk music, rock music, and the classic dhoom dharaka type of cinematic sound. Bollywood music reigned above all of that and to some extent still does. Hip hop, RNB, and rap were never that big. EDM never had a massive foothold either. But now, the scene is expanding due to the entry of Spotify and a growing demand for an international sound. There is definitely a taste for urban sounds and I think Bangla rap music is definitely making a huge comeback. Labels are also taking more risks with the genres they choose to promote. But by far, the most important industry insight is that there is a whole generation of young adults who grew up exposed to Western culture and ideals. And Western music was a big a part of that upbringing. These people think and speak in both languages and they want to listen to stuff that is Bangladeshi, but doesn’t sound Bangladeshi. They enjoy lyrics they can relate to but also want it to sound like their favorite Western artists growing up. I make music for everyone, but I’ve gained a particularly favored following within this crowd.


I am most proud of O Sonia, which has generated over 1.7 million streams on Spotify and sparked a dress change challenge on Tiktok.


Is there anything you wish would change?
To be honest, I don’t know. I’ve been releasing music worldwide for five years now and gathered a following in different countries like the US, Canada, UK, and Netherlands. The music industry in places like Canada and the US is so well regulated, but in Bangladesh, the industry is murky. There are so many concepts like royalties, rights, and licenses that artists don’t know about in Bangladesh. Creative content is so powerful and the savviest musicians know that keeping rights to your music allows you to make bigger gains over the course of your career.



How do you envision your career progression over the next five years?
That is a great question. I actually don’t have a great answer for that. I’m definitely not trying to be the Bangladeshi Drake anymore! However, I would like to see myself as an internationally accepted crossover artist from Bangladesh. I’m very cognizant of how difficult that journey is. It doesn’t happen overnight. But I do think my music has the potential to reach audiences globally. My goal is to cross 20 million streams on Spotify for my songs and I want to keep releasing new music regularly to keep my fans satisfied. I’m sure with time, patience, and a little bit of grit, my music will find a home in the hearts of Bangladeshis, at home and abroad.


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Photographs: Courtesy of Arneeb Mahbub