July 19, 2009

Today we are extremely lucky to listen to a selection of music from multi-talented and award-winning music composer SUJAN E BIN WADUD. Last month he won the Grand Prize of a PBS sponsored music competition on the music website Indaba Music. His winning composition will be featured in a Music Instinct album distributed by PBS. Without further ado, let us join him as he takes us through his musical journey; from his childhood years in Qatar to his current exciting projects in the media.


I was born in Chittagong in 19~ (ha ha!). My father worked at the Chittagong Steel Mill. Shortly thereafter, we moved to Qatar, where I grew up among other Bangladeshi expatriates. In fact, my fondest memories to date are from the 13 years that I lived there, up to the point when I came to America for my undergraduate degree. No, not in music – in Chemical Engineering.

While in Qatar, my father would point to electronic keyboards displayed in the glass shelves and tell me that one day he would buy me one, when I was old enough. He did buy me a Casio 5-octave keyboard with built-in speakers (these days termed “home keyboards”), and my musical journey began.

In retrospect, I can trace back the genetic framework behind my passion for music to my parents. My father, who grew up in a remote village in Bangladesh, was raised in a fairly rigid Islamic culture in which singing was not viewed to be a talent of “good sons”, or a talent at all. But he would sing on his way to school, while among friends. In fact, some of his teachers had heard him singing in the courtyard a few times. My mother was and still is a huge fan of Indian Cinema. She told me that her highlight in the day was quickly taking her morning shower, and rush to be the first to turn on the radio – to listen to songs.

Today, this son of the secretive singer and the Bollywood fan (before it was ever referred to as such), finds love, refuge and therapy in composing music. During the years in Qatar, my mother would select songs from the golden era of Hindi film, and I would play them on my keyboard. I had taken introductory piano lessons from a great friendly teacher, Mr. Srinivasan. What he taught then, something that I practice even today, is how to listen to a piece of music. It wasn’t my set of fingers that got trained, but my ear. Thereafter, I’ve learned everything myself – guitar, drums, bass – though not to a maestro level, but just enough. I don’t remember a single year when, had I entered, I didn’t win first prize for music competitions at school.

After moving to the US, my father again invested a large sum of money to buy me a professional keyboard, with an on-board sequencer – full 16 tracks. The real fun began then. I’m including most of the pieces that were composed on that memorable Korg X3 keyboard. Music seemed to flow; I never had the problem of sitting on my keyboard, and not being able to churn out something satisfying (to me). 


In Qatar, I heard a chart-topping song named “You” by the band Ten Sharp. I loved the song (still do), and from that time on, I had this desire to one day compose something and call it You”. The Korg X3 broadened my horizons enough to be able to fulfill that tiny desire. I had wanted the music to flow easily, and convey the warm feeling of thinking about a loved-one.

I saw a movie starring Wynona Rider – didn’t like the movie much – but this phrase was repeated several times in it, and it got stuck in my head. With music being my outlet, my daily diary of a sort, I composed this piece that, to me, hinted at a place “Where Love Resides”.

It was a nice weekend, and as I pulled the blinds, this beautiful sunny day greeted me. I sat down on the keyboard, and this thing just came out. This is one of 2 pieces of music that was composed instantly after experiencing something. And why not – it was such a good day. Recently, this piece was used in a TV natok (drama) “Chena Ochenar Golpo”, at a point when the guy says “Marry me, please,” the girl finally agrees. “A Good Day” for him, no doubt!

Recently, I’ve taken to composing on more sophisticated computer software – that enables me to do almost what the pros do in the studios. Again, I’ve learned the tricks of the trade by reading up on stuff myself and using my ear as judge, jury and executioner. This piece was requested by a friend who wanted a theme music for a show on TV, called “Probasher Janala (The Emigrant’s Window)”. It had to have elements of Bangladeshi sounds and tones, as well as western influences. Back then I used to travel a lot for work, and while driving back home, I started thinking about what he had said, and this tune just popped in my head. By the time I reached home, I had the whole musical arrangement percolating in my head.

I’ve composed few more tunes for other TV shows, which can be heard online:


Last month, I entered a competition that was sponsored by PBS, and hosted by a music website called Indaba Music. We had to used given stems of music by famous artists, and come up with a unique theme music for an album of songs. The top prizes would be selected by the producers of a PBS show called ‘The Music Instict’. No one was more surprised that I when I opened the page and it declared that I won the Grand Prize! It is a great feeling, being recognized for what you love doing anyway.

My win was a personal catharsis. My father, one of 2 adorable people who have shaped me, passed away less than 3 months ago. I didn’t know if I had any more music in me, if the music also got buried in grief. This win means a lot more to me.

Currently, I’m enthralled by my 6-month-old daughter. Also, I’m working on scoring music for a TV film. If I have time, I write poetry for my 2 blogs. With any extra time, I write screenplays. At the end of that, with any time that I may have left, I work as Senior Scientist at Philips-Lumileds Lighting Company – my day job!



To read more about SUJAN E BIN WADUD’s winning composition for Indaba Music / PBS, please visit here

MONIRUL ISLAM’s paintings used in this feature are:

1. Songs of the Road. Mixed Media. 66 x 156 cm. 2004
2. Red Tulip. Oil on Paper. 50 x 78 cm. 2004
3. Undefined Self. Oil on Paper. 104 x 74 cm. 2004
4. Crying Women. Mixed Media on Concrete Board. 66 x 90 cm. 2004
5. Memories of the Last Spring. Oil on Paper. 74 x 104 cm. 2004
6. United. Mixed Media on Grey Board. 67 x 79 cm. 2004
7. The Blue Mirror. Mixed Media on Concrete Board. 67 x 80 cm. 2004

All prints of paintings taken from the exhibition brochure, “MONIR 2004: The Artist and His Work”.



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