AB, or Bachchu bhai, may have died on October 18, 2018, but his genial personality, his love for music, and most importantly his friendship, will forever keep him alive in our memories
October 18 will forever remain a sad date for Bangladeshi music lovers. It is on this date of 2018, that the legendary singer, songwriter, and guitarist Ayub Bachchu breathed his last at the capital's Square Hospital.
According to a press release from the same hospital, the cause of death was heart failure. However, AB fans of the previous generation, such as my mother, readily blame God, for always taking the 'good' people away from earth first.
Ayub Bachchu continuously sang and played for more than four whole decades, so naturally his fan base spans generations of musicians and music lovers. One of Bachchu's earliest band members and closest friend throughout those decades, Kumar Bishwajit told us the story of their friendship.
"This was some time in 1977. In those days every musician would know everyone else, as musical instruments were not so widely available as today. So, everyone had to share. Bachchu was playing for a band called Spider, and for one show he needed to borrow a guitar from me. From then on we started speaking regularly.”
"Our houses were also next to each other in Chittagong's Jubilee Road. In those days both our parents were very conservative, and not really supportive about a career in music. Therefore, we would always give each other's name as an excuse to step outside of the house, when we would go to practice music. There is not a single alley or road in Chittagong, in which we do not have memories together.”
"My first band with my friends was called Rhythm 77, and was formed when I was in grade 10. Even if I was senior to Bachchu in age, due to our shared passion in music, we became very close and he used to play with my band often. Later, when I began college (grade 11) I formed the band Feelings and made Bachchu join the group. He played with us for two years, before joining Souls.”
"After he moved to Dhaka in 1986-87, he moved into my apartment and we lived there for 3-4 years. When it was time for his wedding, I did everything from shopping to acting as a guardian. As we both got busy with our respective career, naturally we drifted apart. We met at a program a few days before his death, and he said to me 'Dosto! (pal) At the end maybe one of us would have to carry the other,'" Bishwajit said.
Imtiaz Alam Beg
AB was loved most by his peers for his remarkable humility and down-to-earth personality. I myself saw a display of it when I met him for the first time (and the last time) in the only interview I was able to get from him. He was so devoid of “celebrity”attitude that when I asked him if he would kindly listen to this new artiste I heard on Nescafe Basement, he readily agreed, and heard the entire track with me in his studio.
When I asked veteran photographer Imtiaz Alam Beg, about the most noteworthy things about AB, he said: “I met him first in the 90s. After he moved to Dhaka from Chittagong, we frequently met at concerts, and from those instances our friendship naturally developed. We frequently had addas (a very informal gathering of friends full of conversations and laughters) about music. He would consume all kinds of music, and enthusiastically talk about them all. His favourite was Carlos Santana of course. But we talked about Neil Diamond, Gary Moore and many others as well. He would ask me if I had heard so and so song from those artistes, and if I had not, he would play them for me. If I mentioned that I heard this new album, which he did not hear yet, he would also ask me to play it for him.”
“When he met people, he would speak to them as familiarly as with any of his friends. He would not care for what the man does, or what his background is. He was nice to everyone. In any shooting set or concert set up, he would speak with everyone at least once. There was not an iota of celebrity hype around him. Only his easily recognizable face and popular hat would give it away, but he would interact with people in just the same way one would talk with their friends.”
“I consider myself very lucky for having spent so much time with him,” Imtiaz added.
Imtiaz Alam Beg is a celebrity among photographers, and has covered innumerable concerts both in Bangladesh and abroad. His collection of band musicians’ vintage photos, all taken by him, is unmatched by anyone. Therefore, naturally I asked what AB was like in his early concert days.
He replied: “This might be a lesser known fact about him, but Bachchu bhai, during the early stages of his band LRB, would begin his concert performance with a cover of Pink Floyd’s ‘Shine on you crazy diamond’. The cover was so beautiful to hear, that it was the most memorable things about LRB concerts in those days. He used to also cover ‘Rhinestone Cowboy.’ Gradually, LRB tracks started becoming popular after creation, so we rarely heard those covers in his later years.”
“Three years back, I was hanging out with LRB at AB Kitchen, and Bachchu bhai all of a sudden proclaimed ‘Imtiaz bhai has been with us for a very long time, and contributed massively to all our achievements.. We never repaid all that he did for us, so this instrumental piece I wrote is just for you.’ Then he started playing this amazing instrumental track which I never heard before, and never will I hear again. It is my most favourite memory of him. I do not know if he has ever done something like this for others, but I will cherish that memory forever,” Imtiaz added.
Another most notable thing about AB was his love for guitars. He had a big collection, and often musicians would buy and borrow guitars from him. Jazz guitarist Imran Ahmed, who recently toured Poland with his jazz band and frequently plays in various events in Dhaka, bought his jazz guitar from AB.
Regarding the experience, Imran said: “It was the only time I met him. I was looking to buy a jazz guitar before forming my band, and I asked Saif bhai of Groovetrap, if I could buy his guitar. He had already left the country by then, but he said that he sold his guitar to Bachchu bhai. So I contacted Bachchu bhai, and he readily agreed to sell the guitar, after hearing what I wanted to do. I went to his studio, and I got to see his entire guitar collection. He was very nice. He sold me the guitar, and the amp that came with it, at the same price with which he bought in the first place. The jazz guitar I play with is that same guitar.”
“I saw his band practice that day as well. It was the first time I got to see a professional band working. I realized then how much hard work goes into making professional music. They looked as efficient as a company,” Imran added.
AB, or Bachchu bhai, may have died on October 18, 2018, but his genial personality, his love for music, and most importantly his friendship, will forever keep him alive in our memories.