I never saw real Azam Khan in action. I listened to his songs hundreds to thousands of times, but never live in his trademark style performance. It was mid 80s when I started hitting concert venues in Dhaka and Chittagong and began following Bangla pop scene. Although his songs were the most demanded songs in all concerts, Azam Khan the person was a matter of past by that time.
Until Azam Khan was rediscovered by our content thirsty media and icon thirsty merchants a few years ago, he was a man in oblivion — lost from the music scenario. We all know of his performances in early 70s, but no one really tell us when and how Azam Khan went AWOL from Dhaka rock scene.
Thanks to corporate TV, the Azam Khan we saw was the skeleton of the Azam we knew of. This Azam Khan no longer could sing. His bohemian image with long beard and hair smoking hasish was not there anymore.
This Azam Khan was a middle aged man struggling to make ends meet in a low middle class neighborhood in Kamalapur area of Dhaka. It was a broken health lungi clad man going to local kacha bazaar with a gunny sack. It was the home his father built, single story. There was never any good furniture at home to give TV interview or pose for photojournalists . Every time any TV crew, photo journalist would go to see him, he would take them to his roof top.
Azam Khan was very unprepared to deal with sudden media attention on him. He did not have prepared fake answers to fake questions of journalists.
Journalist: ” How did you find the inspiration to compose the legendary song ” Ore Saleka Ore maleka? ”
Azam Khan: “পাড়ার বন্ধু রা ছাদের মধ্যে বইসা ফাইজলামি করতাছিলাম — এমনে এমনেই গানটা চইলা আইল আর কি…”
Journalist: ” How do you feel when people call you Guru”.
Azam Khan: “মেজাজ খারাপ হইত. এই গুরু গুরু এইটা আবার কি. আরে আজাম ভাই ক. এখন গা সইয়া গ্যাছে”
When he tried to answer the way journalists wanted, it was very clear he was out of words, he was very uncomfortable.
Journalist: “You fought our war of liberation. Now again you are also fighting another war. What and how is your new war?”
Azam Khan: ” হ যুদ্ধ — আমার এইটা হইতাছে নুতন একটা যুদ্ধ , এই যুদ্ধ টা হইতাছে গিয়ে আমার নুতন যুদ্ধ. হ এইটা আমার … এই যে বুজছেন না… এইটা আমার .. হইতাছে নুতন যুদ্ধ. এই যে সব কিছু … এইটাই নুতন যুদ্ধ”
His stage performances in recent years were more painful to watch. He lost his voice long ago. Corporate TV would make fun of him by forcing him to do dance moves those would at best be caricature of his old self of 70s. He unsuccessfully would try to go back to 1972 again. But that was never to happen.
To sell their products, big corporations needed Azam Khan craze that runs from generation to generation. They made the best merchant like use of Azam Khan’s ever green songs, ever green ever living popularity.
Our corporate culture could have support him financially. They did not have to abuse him for their commercials.
And why I blame the corporates. What the state did to him? While all the sycophants bite each other to grab swadhinota podok, Ekushey Podok, Bangla Academy podok— Azam Khan gets no national recognition in his lifetime.
Azam Khan’s songs will outlive all of our generations and next hundreds of generations to come. The legends of Azam Khan the father of Bangladesh rock scene will never die. The singer Azam Khan died many years ago, some times in late 70s. The man who was very uncomfortable carrying the body so long just gave away.
I am not too sad at the departure of the legend. I am sad at his sufferings of last decades. And I am happy that the new generations, even a 12 year old kid embraced Azam Khan song exactly the way his/ her dad- grand dad did.
Long Live Azam Khan.