An Indomitable Spirit, Azam Khan’s Last Interview

Nazmus Saquib

Left: Azam Khan (3rd from left) with Sabina Yasmin, Kabir Suman and daughter Ima Khan (left)

 

Azam Khan, the pop legend who had been ailing from cancer, passed away on June 5, 2011. Earlier, after having been diagnosed with oral cancer, the singer went to Singapore twice and had undergone chemotherapy and tomotherapy. But Khan didn’t complete the full course and returned to the country. Cancer spread all over his hand and body, resulting in his sudden collapse. Renowned artiste Sabina Yasmin and her husband, singer-musician Kabir Suman, visited Khan just a few months ago at his residence in Kamalapur. Khan was looking confident to stage a recovery and come back to the music scene to entertain millions of his fans once again. But fate had other plans. The void the “Pop Guru” has left is irreparable. I was there when Sabina Yasmin, Kabir Suman and noted cultural personality and lawmaker Asaduzzaman Noor visited Azam Khan and managed to speak to the ailing artiste. This is the last interview (to my knowledge) given by Azam Khan to the media. The interview was taken on March 27, 2011. Excerpts from the interview: Azam Khan: “After the surgery, I’m feeling quite well. Initially I was unable to talk, but I’m feeling better now. The song aired on ‘Ityadi’ (after treatment) has been a moral booster for me and hopefully after completing the follow up, I will stage a comeback and sing once again for the people of my country.”

On being called “Guru”, the singer said, “I really felt embarrassed when the guitarist of my band first called me by this name. His name was Rocket. One day he started calling me ‘Guru’ and I objected right away. But he continued calling me ‘Guru’. Gradually it caught on and everyone started calling me ‘Guru.’ I’m used to it now.”

Reminiscing his days on the battlefield, the freedom fighter said, “When the (Liberation) war broke out, my father told me that if I go to the battlefield, I’d have to come back only after the nation has been liberated. I took it as a challenge. His words encouraged me a great deal on the battlefield.”

When asked to compare the independent Bangladesh with the pre-1971 state, a frustrated Khan said, “I would not have taken part in the war had I known this is how it’d turn out. Before independence, Bengali politicians were not corrupt; they were inspiring figures. Pakistanis tried to marginalise us in every way possible. So, the war was inevitable. But is this what we fought for? We had a vision of a state that would uphold the rights of every citizen. Has that happened?”

His views on the current music trend in Bangladesh? Azam Khan: “The longevity of songs’ popularity is on the wane. Listeners can no more remember a particular song even after listening to it repeatedly. Maybe it’s just me, but back in the day people were more passionate about music.

We did not create music just to earn money, but rather to entertain the audience and make an impact on them. Our music was able to connect with the audience. These days, musicians are becoming more dependent on technology. Moreover, if music doesn’t reflect the lives and views of the people, it’s only logical that it’d fail to create a lasting impression on the listeners.”

Reflecting on his own music, Azam Khan said, “Whenever I sang a song, I took my country and the listeners into consideration. I’ve yet to find my dream song. I’ve not yet recorded my best song.”

Regrets? Azam Khan: “No regret at all. I’ve been bestowed with immense honour and love from the people. I’m 61 now and if I die, I’ll have no regret. I fought for freedom, tried to inspire the youth to stay away from all evils through my music, and in return received love from everyone. I have two daughters and a son. All of them are students and I’m proud of them. When I walk down the streets, people recognise me and call me ‘Guru’. They ask me about my well-being and shower me with their blessings. Why should I have regrets?”

When asked why he hasn’t cut music albums of late, Azam Khan replied, “I’ve been working in the music industry for the last 40 years. I’ve seen many singers come and go. But I’m not done yet. My last album was released in 2009. I would’ve released an album this year had I not been unwell. However, I’m devoted to music despite everything. It’s true that music companies prefer younger artistes but if my songs have a demand in the market, they will release my album as well.”

When I was about to bid adieu to the iconic singer, with a smile on his face, he said, “Try to be happy. If we all try to be happy, the world will smile on us and Allah would bestow his blessings on everyone.”

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