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To Lucky Akhand: A personal goodbye from a stranger

  • Published at 01:19 pm May 4th, 2017
  • Last updated at 03:35 pm May 4th, 2017
To Lucky Akhand: A personal goodbye from a stranger
In 1992, when I was eleven and a budding music fan, my father took me to see my favourite band Feedback live. They played at the Engineering Institute Auditorium, with a female chorus backing up the mighty Mac Haque. The highlight of the show for me was when they performed “Palki”, a song dedicated to their late friend Happy Akhand. Twenty five years later, I can’t help but think of that song again as I consider Lucky Akhand’s gifts to Bangladeshi culture. Tar kotha je cchoriye acche boba batashe, Tar smriti je shonali pakhi shurer akashe, Shob jawa ki shesh jawa hoye, phire she ashe, Kan cchuwe she gaan cchuwe she royecche mishe. For someone who recorded only a handful of songs under his own name, Lucky Akhand’s influence on Bangla music is pervasive. Without delving into the countless songs he wrote for the likes of Kumar Biswajit, Ferdous Wahid, James, Ayub Bacchu, Samina Chowdhury, and Tapan Chowdhury, let’s look at the album he’s best known for, Neel Monihar. “Age Jodi Jantam”, “Amaye Deko Na”, “Neel Monihar”, “Mamunia”. Four of the greatest hits of Bangladeshi music just from one album. That doesn’t include his songs that Happy Akhand sang, like “Ke Bashi Bajaye”, and, of course, the immortal “Abar Elo Je Shondha”.
I think of how quiet he was, with a head full of starlit melody; how he meditated before he played; how he mastered every instrument and the art of song; how the musicians I considered masters considered him a master.
What do you do when your work is the thread that forms the tapestry of an entire culture? Most seek fame. Some are forgotten. Lucky Akhand was neither—a household name, revered by musicians, yet shunning publicity and quietly creating memorable tunes, taking part in every major movement of Bangla music. He was signed by HMV when he was a teenager. During the War of Liberation, he was an artist at Shadhin Bangla Betar Kendro. He was the musical director of Bangladesh Betar. We breathe in the cadences of music he crafted, even when they don’t bear his name. He wasn’t just the sui generis songwriter; he composed much of the music you hear when you turn on the radio, when you’re watching television, when you’re listening to songs of freedom on national holidays. I doubt many would recognise him in person. I met him once, when he was interviewed by Radio Foorti. I was working on its music database at the time and spent a good year obsessed with the song “Neel Monihar”. My songwriting partner Imran and I would speculate interminably on what the “monihar” really was. We visualised desert landscapes and Ennio Morricone treatments where a steel-eyed cowboy hands a blue jewel to his sweetheart before walking off to meet his destiny. “Shudhu mone rekho”—remembrance is all he asked for. Keno_Bolo_by_Lucky_Akhand When I met Mr Akhand, I was disappointed by his quiet, unassuming demeanour. He was a genius. Why didn’t he act like one? Instead of proclaiming how he came to arrange chords and notes in his inimitable way, he was professorial, avuncular. He was the politest person I had ever met. But I expected some kind of bombast. I think of how quiet he was, with a head full of starlit melody; how he meditated before he played; how he mastered every instrument and the art of song; how the musicians I considered masters considered him a master. I think of the melancholy of his being. How it must have felt to lose your best friend, musical soulmate, your younger brother, before you’re even thirty. Lucky Akhand took a decade off to mourn his brother Happy, and did not release any music under his own name between 1987 and 1998. I can’t imagine—just as I can’t imagine how he wrote so many of his songs—how it affected Lucky to lose Happy and yet be surrounded by evidence of Happy’s life and work. It’s disrespectful of the dead to speculate, but I hope that he took solace in the joy Happy left behind, staying true to his name. Underneath the gentleness, he was a warrior. You’ll find video of him singing “Age Jodi Jantam” on YouTube, sitting in a wheelchair and breathing through a tube, surrounded by some of the musicians whose lives he touched. Even with a body ravaged by cancer, unable to stand up, he gives himself fully to the song. And to the end, he worked on writing new materials. Artists pass, but their work lives. I have wept at his music but I do not weep that Lucky Akhand left us. I like to think of Lucky Akhand and Happy Akhand together. Brothers reunited, writing songs in the key of forever. The day passes. Night comes. Abar elo je shondha, shudhu dujone, Cholona ghure ashi, ojanate.
Arafat Kazi is a Bangladehsi musician and writer based in the USA.
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