Vol. 5 Num 567 Fri. December 30, 2005  

Nolok Babu
From the streets of Jamalpur to the hearts of millions

It's a classic rags to riches story: a dirt poor street-singer wins over the hearts of millions in the course of winning the most lucrative title in singing in recent times. Farhad Hossain AKA Nolok Babu has become a star overnight through attaining the top position in Closeup1--Tomakei Khujchhe Bangladesh. From the narrow roads of Jamalpur district to the dazzling stage of Closeup 1 in Dhaka, Nolok has proven if you believe in your dreams and you can dream big, the world will take notice.

The 20-year-old singer was crowned Closesup 1 on December 22 after grueling seven months of checking and crosschecking from 40,000 contestants by judges and the TV audience across the country as well as overseas. The ultimate judges were the masses who sent 7,85,391 SMS to vote for him. Those SMS, online votes from Bangladeshis living abroad and the points given by the judges, secured Nolok the first position with a total of 91 points out of 100. At the gala where the results were revealed, Nolok received a cheque for Taka 10 lakh, a brand new car and a plasma television set.

Even days after the big night, the crooner seems ecstatic, "Yes, I made it! You have no idea what this achievement means to me! We were always poverty-stricken. But even in the midst of destitute, my love for music never diminished.

"I never received any formal training or had any knowledge about the grammar of music. I sing from the heart. I started singing in public after my father walked out on us when I was just nine. My mother became ill. I was forced to beg for money. I began singing in train compartments to raise funds for my mother. I could earn about 80 taka a day. Through the hardship my mother always inspired me to sing though she is not a singer," says Nolok.

Talking about his journey in Closeup 1, Nolok recalls, "Eight contestants were selected from a pool of about 500 contestants from the Mymensingh zone to compete in the final rounds. Among the eight, I was the first from Jamalpur district to get the green light to go to Dhaka. The song I rendered in front of the judges was, Shoachan pakhi, composed by Ukil Munshi, a renowned Baul from Netrakona."

Has victory changed him? Nolok smiles, "Well, there have been some drastic changes. In fact, it won't be an overstatement to say that Closeup 1 has changed my life. I've grown with the experience. However I had to work hard to get to where I am today. I constantly keep listening to my earlier performances and contemplate what I can improve and what I must avoid. I strive to get better everyday, and I want to ensure that I demonstrate versatility. I believe versatility is a crucial quality for an artiste."

About his future plans, Nolok says, "First of all, I want to continue my studies. I intend to take up music as my career. Music is what got me through the rough times and it is what fetched me glory. I want to make a mark in the music industry; I want to be a part of a winning team. The people of Bangladesh are my inspiration. Without their love and support, I'd be nowhere today. I am grateful to my fans who have always believed in me."