Vol. 5 Num 857 Sun. October 22, 2006  

Eid Albums: Quality or quantity?

After the rigours of Ramadan, the joyous festival of Eid-ul-Fitr is around the corner. The glitzy shopping malls and roadside vendors attract buyers with a range of home grown and imported ware. There's something for everyone. The music album corner in the malls, becomes one of the busiest ones with young and old alike streaming in to see what's new.

It seems there is a flood of new releases targeted towards Eid. But some frustrated customers often question--are we balancing quantity with quality?

Closely associated with the music market is Golam Haider of Commitment Products. Running a steady business for 17 years he says, "We experienced a boom period in the music industry from 1992 to 1997, when folk melodies and the Harano diner gaan sold like hot cakes. There was a steady rise in the popularity. Baul artistes also came to the fore. Now the listeners are a confused lot. Most of the Bauls have literally taken to the streets, begging, while many producers have taken up part time jobs," says Haider.

"Some producers have innovative techniques of selling mixed albums with popular Indian hits with a few unfamiliar local singers. It's a bizarre combo," he adds.

"Like a thunderbolt, the fusion music and remix turned the tide of the music scene," says popular singer of the '80s, Khurshid Alam. "While it has enhanced a steady rise of 'trendy' listeners it has also pushed aside the 'perpetual' listeners. While experimenting with cutting edge music software and synthesisers several artistes have taken to artificial voice effects and annoying prolonged yodelling, distorting the traditional melodies. In the gamble, the tunes have lost their previous charm and crept to oblivion," he says.

However, popular singer Kumar Biswajit differs: "Music is something that cuts across all age groups. We have planned to release a mixed album featuring new songs of James, Ayub Bachchu, Bappa Majumdar, Nakib Khan, Shafin Ahmed and Hassan under the banner of Gancheel production. Then there is also an album featuring Andrew Kishore and Nolok and other finalists of the talent hunt Closeup 1. Generally Eid is a good time to release albums since people like to spend on entertainment."

"The traditional listeners mostly do research on gammaks or intricate details and are not our biggest clients. On the other hand it's amazing how even the substandard and 'not with it' music videos sell among a certain class of audience," says Haider.

"Producers for the mass market prefer well known artistes such as Asif, Baby Nazneen, Momotaj, Robi Chowdhury, Ankhi Alamgir, Monir Khan, Andrew Kishore, Rizia Sultana, Bari Siddiqui and others. They are the apple of the eyes for this season. On the other hand popular sound tracks by Habib, Bappa, Shumon, SI Tutul, Fuad and Ayub Bachchu have created another cross section of fans at home and abroad.

"Big production houses Soundtec, Ektaar, Sangeeta, G series, KT series, Laser Vision, Gancheel, Beauty Corner, Sonali, ATN Music, Impress Audio Vision and Aarshee have targeted a record number of more than 270 music albums this Eid," Haider continues.

"While the number of quality albums should not exceed 50, this season the target has surpassed that optimum number," he says.

While recordings are mostly done in Dhaka, Amin Audio Complex in Chittagong is set to release 17 audio albums. Binimoy Stores and Zahid Electronics, also in Chittagong, are offering 40-45 albums. The local artistes of Khulna, Noakhali have also targeted the festival season," Haider says.

Experimenting with the traditional and modern music has always been a priority for musicians over time. But that has been backed up with a solid background in music. Once at a workshop on music, noted classical singer Pandit Ajay Chakravarti had cited a metaphor of discordant notes such as the car horns. "As the pedestrians are in for a shock with bizarre horns, so are the unsuspecting listeners with newer experiments on the music scene," he said.

However, among the barrage of cacophonic sounds, certain young musicians with apt knowledge have experimented by fusing folk with western style, and have uncovered a new dimension in music- some say, creating a new cult in popular youth music scene. These artistes including the band Bangla, Habib, Bappa and Dolchhut have a strong fan following among listeners.

There's a fine line between the bold and the bizarre. While some of the new faces have surely turned the music industry upside down in the true sense of a 'healthy reincarnation', many more seem destined for disaster from the start. And as some seasoned performers say, Darwin's law stands in the music industry even now - survival is for the fittest; and that's music to our ears.

New arrivals in the market