East goes West
By Rezwan Ali
If you've listened to any local fusion or rock music lately you might have noticed a talented flute player in the mix. Chances are you were listening to the music of Zubair Malik. One of the country's most respected flutists with a wide range of mastered styles. From classical Bangla folk music to contemporary and classic rock music, from Western classical to jazz, blues to traditional Celtic music, Zubair has mastered a diverse range of styles. His talents have brought him much acclaim from critics, fellow musicians and fans alike.
Joanne Kemp, Gabriella, Ustad Wajahat Ali Khan and Zubair Malik
A trained singer from the age of four, Zubair has been performing music as long as he can remember. He is a multi-instrumentalist, but these days his instrument of choice is the flute. Since childhood days, Zubair has been listening to and influenced by the work of folk flutist Pundit Hariprasad Chaurasia. Zubair's brother started playing the flute when Zubair was a young child. At the age of twelve he picked up the instrument himself. According to Zubair, “For the first two years I just fiddled around, teaching myself, then I became more serious about my music and started taking lessons under Abdul Bari Siddique for the next six years and during that time I started to realise my full potential.”
After his training under Siddique, Zubair began practicing with a Russian pianist and flutist, Uena, who taught him about Western classical music. “Uena and I practised Western classic pieces and worked on our own compositions for two years.” Zubair reminisces. After his time training with Uena, he then decided to learn more about rock music from his friend Kamal of the band Warfaze. Zubair tells me, “I wanted to learn as much as possible about many musical styles before forming my own band and writing my own compositions.”
In 2002 Zubair formed the musical group Purbo-Poshchim along with a number of other musicians who were also interested in performing fusion music. “Purbo-Poshchim isn't a band. It's rather a project to bring the fusion genre to the people and any instrumentalist can play with us,” says Zubair. Purbo-Poshchim was the first instrumentalist band in Bangladesh to perform an open-air concert. The group consists of a revolving door of musicians and a core group that has remained unchanged for the past seven years. That first year they won two awards at the Benson and Hedges Star Search. One was for Best Instrumentalist which went to Zubair, and another to their drummer, Tony Vincent Gomes, for Best Percussionist.
In 2003, Zubair began a series of sessions with visiting English multi-instrumentalist, Michael McGorlick. He also held sessions with singer Joanne Kemp and other musicians who were visiting with the London Film and Music School. McGorlick is a master flutist, well known in the West for his Irish fusion style. Widely known as, ‘The Pride of Manchester,’ McGorlick . Before the group went back to London, they held a jam session, ‘East Meets West,’ with Zubair and other local musicians at the British Council auditorium. Local favourite, Bangla, also performed at the jam session. With little time to practice beforehand the session went incredibly well. Starting out with composed pieces, and ending with an all-out improvisation with musicians from all around the globe jamming together.
In 2005, Zubair held a workshop with the visiting Chicago Jazz Quartet at the Amazon Club. They held a series of jam sessions which helped Zubair to learn about jazz improvisation techniques. Ever diversifying his range of styles, Zubair has stayed with the flute this entire time. He notes, “When I play the flute I feel that I can express more than with just words alone. It is a universal language that anybody who listens can understand.”
Many of Zubair's own compositions have been released and received radio play. Some highlights of his work include, ‘Pash Chatter Prachiye,’ ‘Katchar Bithor Achin Pakhi,’ and ‘Shesh Pranto’. These past two years Zubair has been increasingly concentrating on writing his own compositions. Some solo and some to perform with Purbo-Poshchim. Recently, Zubair is mainly interested in fusing spiritual Baul folk style, tribal music, nature-based music, and Western classical and contemporary rock styles. The tracks ‘Journey to Eternity,’ and ‘An Ecstatic Love,’ are prime examples of his style, melding Eastern and Western musical styles seamlessly as if they were never apart.
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