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    Posted on 28 November 2012

    Not just a homecoming

    Axomiya-Bangladeshi singer Maqsoodul Haque spreads the message of peace through music at the Guwahati International Musical Festival

    Ratnadip Choudhury

    Photo: Ujjal Deb

    “Moi 16 years er pasot ghoroloi ahisu” (I have returned to my homeland after 16 years), says a handsome man to a gathering of hundreds at the popular Guwahati International Musical Festival organised by the Eastern Beats Music society at Silpagram. Maqsoodul Haque, who calls himself an Axomiya-Bangladeshi, is one of the most popular and legendary anti-establishment rock stars. A poet, writer and philosopher from Bangladesh, he is renowned the world over for creating fusion from rock-jazz with Bangladesh’s Baul sangeet. However, when he took to the stage in Guwahati, it was a not only homecoming after 16 long years, but a return with a purpose to spread the message of peace and brotherhood in a land that is still healing from the aftermath of the bloody ethnic clashes between the Bodo tribals and Muslims that took place a few months ago. Assam’s air is still thick with rhetoric of driving away the ‘illegal immigrants’ who have supposedly entered from Bangladesh.

    Maqsoodul, better known as Mac Haque, or Mac, who is considered a pioneer in progressive Bangladeshi music, started singing professionally way back 1976 as the lead vocalist of a band called Feedback. A second generation Axomiya-Bangladeshi, Mac’s ancestral roots lie in Jorhat district of Assam. He was born in 1957, five years after Mac’s family migrated to what was erstwhile East Pakistan in 1952.

    “By religion my parents were Muslim, by ethnicity Assamese. As I grew up I saw lot of political turmoil in the Indian subcontinent — the wars and the liberation of Bangladesh. Today I am a Bangladeshi national whose mother tongue is Assamese. In the British era, before Partition, all this was a single land mass. Geo-politics have separated people-to-people-contact, it has created trust deficit and borders. But music is beyond this, the entire subcontinent has seen mindless bloodshed, we can only heal the wounds through music and that why I am here,” says the musician who has been singing for 20 years now. After several compositions aimed at the establishment and radical regimes, with Baul philosophy at its core, Mac has formed his own band now and named it Maqsood O Dhaka.

    Ever since Mac’s family settled in Dhaka, Northeast India, particularly Assam that once shared open, porous borders with Bangladesh, has seen decades of ethnic insurgency, much of which was aided and sheltered by the Bangladeshi regime. Added to it is a continuous process of influx of illegal Bangladeshis into Assam and other parts of Northeast. The July-August ethnic riots in lower Assam between the Bengali-speaking Muslims and the Bodo tribals have upped the ante against migrants. With sealing off borders with Bangladesh, there is a sense of mistrust that prevails. Mac’s presence in Assam is symbolic of a fresh lease of hope for people inhabiting the fractured land. “Migration is a global issue, in different parts it has local nuances, I am feeling very much at home in Assam as in Dhaka, and this feeling is beyond borders, this is a sense of the closeness that this region has amongst communities for centuries. Baul music and philosophy believes in worshipping the great God in man, this is what thinkers and prophets of the subcontinent irrespective of religion and ethnicity have preached,” Mac explains.

    Onstage Mac mesmerises the crowd, which is mostly young, with his songs that appeal for peace. “Mac’s presence has not only given a new dimension to the festival, but has kindled a new thought process of how to strive for peace. What can be better if it can be achieved through music — the aim of the festival?” asks Aiyushman Dutta, secretary of the Eastern Beats Music Society and a noted music critic in the Northeast.

    “I brought the feelings, philosophy and culture from the land of Srimant Chaitanya Dev and Lalon Fakir to the land of Srimant Sankardev and Azan Shah; and the essence of all these great men lies in love for humanity beyond frontiers,” Mac signs off leaving the crowd somewhat quiet, somewhat thoughtful.

    Ratnadip Choudhury is a Principal Correspondent with Tehelka.
    [email protected]

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    Posted on 28 November 2012



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