Fuad Almuqtadir is a Bangladeshi-American composer, producer, musician, and singer-songwriter who is largely credited with establishing the style of new Bangla pop music in the 2000s and 2010. Fuad Almuqtadir established a new way of merging genres of folk, rock, pop, and electronic, so establishing a particular type of fusion of Bangla language and music, and the music industry in Bangladesh experienced a significant change in sound. Not only did the style captivate younger listeners, but Fuad’s music was welcomed by every other music enthusiast in the country, particularly the urban masses. We at TINDS had the incredible opportunity to get down face to face with the legendary man himself to discuss his career so far and his plans for the future.
Where were you born?
Fuad: I was born in Chittagong. I lived in Chittagong up until the age of 8 then my family moved to the US. I have been there since and grew up in the US mainly but during the hype of my career I moved back to Dhaka and lived here for about ten years or so.
What was your childhood like?
Fuad: It was rather usual, like every other NRB’s (Non-Resident Bangladeshi) living abroad. It was interesting growing up in the middle of two different cultures. It was like any other bengali household at home but the world outside was rather different. It was confusing at times but the good thing is, New York city is like a melting pot of almost every culture around the world. After moving there, it was enforced that we weren’t allowed to speak in English when at home so that helped me speak in Bangla as fluently as it gets.
3 words that describe you the best?
Fuad: Sensitive, Hard-working & a Visionary.
What would you be if not a musician?
Fuad: If not a musician, I’d probably like to be an architect because I like the concept of building & designing things. I don’t know if I’d be any good at it because I’m not really good at math and I suppose architects are supposed to excel in math.
How’d you get into music?
Fuad: Definitely because of my family. I am the youngest of three siblings, my brothers are 10 and 8 years older than me and they would train in music where I eventually got involved as well. When I became a teenager, my brother got me a keyboard and that was it. I was in the house playing the keyboard while other kids were playing outside. I remember always wanting to be a musician and on the radio. When I was 10, I used to play with this tape recorder that I had and I remember recording radio shows. Ironically, when I came to Dhaka I had a radio show for years in Radio Foorti and I think the universe kind of aligns that way.
How many instruments do you play?
Fuad: I can play a little bit of guitar, the bass, drums and the keyboard. But I think I’m not great at any of it, I can barely play enough to write a song and get it done.
When did you release your first song?
Fuad: I walked into a studio for the first time in my life back in 1998. It was the same year when my first album ‘MAYA’ was released. Back then it wasn’t possible to release singles, one had to have enough materials to compile into an album.
How’d you come up with different ideas for the songs that you’ve produced?
Fuad: I think you’re a product of your environment and your art is the product of that and yourself. I don’t think anybody ever sits and says that I’ll make something today that will be different from everything else because that’s just funny. You just do what you do best, follow your instincts and everything aligns and follows its course. You go through different phases in life where you’re into so many different things until you hit adulthood when everybody struggles with their identity. Often people like to define themselves with the genre of music that they like listening to. I’ve had my fair share of times struggling with these identities until I was introduced to Bangla Band music which blew my mind. Also, living abroad had a kind of influence as well.
What do you think about the transition of Bengali music?
Fuad: It’s definitely not linear. It’s evolving like everything else. Less is more, I think that’s the concept that’s going on right now where it’s about more productions and more groove and more about how it’s making the audience feel. The world I think is getting smaller everyday and on its way to becoming one culture altogether. I’m excited on many fronts where guys like Muza & Nish are doing their own thing. There are labels like Qinetic Music backing a certain type of musicians, there are other bands like ‘Arekta Rock Band’ & ‘Farooque Bhai Project’ who are making amazing music of their own.
How’d you compare the energy of audiences here in Bangladesh and abroad?
Fuad: First of all, I absolutely love performing in Bangladesh. When I’m here, everybody that is present in the venue I know for a fact are my fans and are there to listen to my songs only. Performing or doing shows abroad is a little different because we don’t have solo shows there, it’s mostly an attached performance in an event. We are entertaining people at the end of the day, but you realize it’s not your fans you’re performing for, which is a little more difficult. However, there are exceptions, for example the Toronto shows we did last month with ‘Shunno’ was phenomenal and almost felt like doing shows in Dhaka, because the entire venue was packed with Bengali people. Everybody sang with us from the first song to the last uninterrupted and it was a great experience. It is things like that that validates you as a musician, your choices and the path that you’ve taken in life.
Tell us a little bit about what you’ve struggled with coming this far?
Fuad: Initially the struggles were that we didn’t have enough data and education out there available to us. There wasn’t enough material for people to learn from. We didn’t have places to learn new stuff from, we had to do it the wrong way until maybe accidentally you do it the right way when you figure out what’s been wrong all this time. Technology has advanced so much that anybody who can probably save up to buy a macbook, and spend enough time online going through tutorials can produce music which can be of as high standard as any producer producing music anywhere. Back when we started, these are the options we didn’t have. We either had to have access to a big studio and instruments, which cost a lot of money. It was very difficult at first because we had to hustle to gather all the resources at one place.
Where do you see Bangla music in the future?
Fuad: It’s going to be amazing. We’re going to be producing international artists very soon. We’re going to crack into the mainstream global industry very soon I believe because there’s no issues in distribution as everything is being streamed only. The kids that are coming into the industry now are so well read and educated that it’s just a matter of time that they break into the global industry.
What would your advice be to new musicians?
Fuad: My advice would be to aspire to be a musician instead of a star. If you stay grounded and your dream is to become a good musician, you’ll be able to handle it once you’re successful because you’ll still be yourself. People tend to change when they hope to be a star, once they get the fame they feel like they have to wear a different hat and fit into some sort of a box of being a celebrity and what not. So, it is very important to stay grounded, humble, true to yourself and don’t cut corners because there aren’t any shortcuts.
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