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     Volume 7 Issue 16 | April 18, 2008 |

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From Strength to Strength

Srabonti Narmeen Ali

Shayan Chowdhury Ornob

His musical journey began long ago in a small town 180 kilometres north of Kolkata. It was there, in Santiniketan, that Shayan Chowdhury Ornob, composer, vocalist and musician extraordinaire, was able to explore his talents. Perhaps he did not realise that one day his voice and his music would have the power to move people to tears. Be it the sweet melodious sounds of Rabindra Sangeet, the rustic raw feel of Lalon Shah or the funk-filled punch of adhunik music, Ornob's versatility allows him experiment with all kinds of music, which is evident in his latest album Doob.

Launched on April 13, 2008 under Bengal Music Company, of which Ornob is the CEO and sponsored by multinational mobile phone company Nokia, Doob is Ornob's third solo album. He originally began his music career in Bangladesh as one of the vocalists and the guitarist of the band Bangla. But although he was well known for his vocals two of Bangla's popular hits 'Mon Tore' and' Tui Gaan Ga', in their first album, Kingkortobbo Bimur, it was only when the melancholic and romantic 'She Je Boshe Acche' came out on his first solo album Chaina Bhabish (released in 2005), that there was no looking back for the young star.

Chaina Bhabish and his second album, Hok Kolorob, which came out in 2006, couldn't be more different from one another. While the former is dark and intense, its lyrics and tunes saturated with sadness and frustration, the songs in Hok Kolorob are lighter and more hopeful. In the album Doob, however, Ornob manages to harmoniously blend the mysterious intensity of Chaina Bhabish while keeping the light-hearted feel of his second album.

“To this day I still believe that my first album was the most mature,” he says. “I have not been able to capture that intensity in either of the other albums that I have done. This current album is definitely not as light as my second one, but I still feel like the first one was the most mature.”

However, despite what he says it is evident from this latest album that Ornob's voice has definitely matured and that he feels more comfortable experimenting with different musical styles. For example, although he is not really known as a rock musician per se, many of the songs in Doob have a hard rock feel to them, like Rastae, featuring Nemesis lead singer Zohad, 'Adhkhana' and 'Akash Kalo', featuring Nemesis guitarist the MAK.

“Because I grew up in Santiniketan I never really did much hard rock style of music, but I have always loved it,” says Ornob. “So in this album I did a lot of songs with rock guitar sounds and even tried to sing in a hard rock way, experimenting with sound effects and sometimes even singing at the top of my lungs.”

In addition to the hard rock sound in a few of the songs, many others also have a bit of a psychedelic feel to them such as 'Shopno Debe Doob', 'Dikbidik', 'Ghum' and 'Tati', where Ornob used lots of different sounds such as the sound of cell phone vibrating as the background beat to create a different kind of effect. In one song, 'Dhushor Megh' he fused a reggae style of sound with the esraj, an instrument that the artist was trained in during his days in Santiniketan. His playing of the esraj was also featured in one of the other songs called Dhaka Raate, which was originally a poem by famous writer Anisul Haque.

Despite the combination of western and eastern sounds in songs such as Noyono Tomare, an 11-minute interpretation of a Rabindra Sangeet with just piano accompaniment and clarinet played by London-based artist Idris Rahman, Ornob does not really want to label himself as a fusion artist.

“I don't really want to put a stamp on myself and say that I am doing fusion because I am working with many different types of music,” he says. “I guess I want to keep my options open and be able to try out various styles of music. I don't want to narrow it down to just fusion.”

Narrow is one thing that this album is not. Aside from the different genres of music that are atypical of Ornob, there are also a few songs, such as 'Chai' and 'Onek Dur', which is reminiscent of the songs in his previous albums -- rich in melody with simple, but evocative lyrics. In Chai, featuring Andrew Morris on the saxophone, and the song Lukiye, the singer plays a nylon-string small guitar, creating a pseudo country-rock feel to the songs.

In addition most of the songs on this album, such as Ghor Bahir, written by the artist's wife Sahana Bajpaie, are reflective and introspective. Sahana, also a Rabindra Sangeet artist, studied in Santiniketan with Ornob from the time they were both six, and writes many of Ornob's lyrics as well as doing back-up vocals on a number of his songs. It is probably for this reason that the artist dedicated this album to her.

“Thanking [Sahana] would be completely pointless because she is a part of my music,” writes the artist on his album cover. “She has been a pillar of strength and a source of inspiration to me throughout my life.”

The inspiration and strength Sahana has given to Ornob has had a positive affect on the music world of Bangladesh. It is musicians such as this one who have changed the way people perceive music. Gone are the days where we put people in categories according to what they sing or what kind of music they play. Instead we are embarking on a new genre of music, which takes the good from various different types of music and blend it all together, making the end product a beautiful and memorable sound that will stay in our memories for years to come.

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