1. Let’s start with some unknown facts about Habib Wahid that people don’t know yet.
I’m a very private person. It’s not that I’m like that all the time, I have sides that I’m extremely open about, sides that I’m always very carefree and vocal about, and at the same time, there are certain things that I’m equally secretive about.
See, the thing is, I have 2 sides, right? I mean, I’m a performer and at the same time, I’m a composer. So, from the performer’s aspect, people can expect me to be extroverted, because that’s what a performer does – they’re always amongst a crowd, they’re the center of attention, and they’re doing something that everyone’s watching. It’s a very dramatic effect and people would expect that side of me to be very open and free and everything. But that’s where the other part comes in. Whatever I perform on stage, I create them, and I don’t do cover songs. The creating part is a completely different process that has nothing to do with my performance side.
My career started in 2003 - that’s 17 years ago. And, even now, I have stage fright. When I’m on stage, at that time all I have in my mind is just me and what I’m there for. I’m there to perform, I’m there as a musician, I’m there for the art. That’s why I hardly talk in any show before I start. My shows are very technical, I use a lot of electronic instruments and then I have acoustic musicians to play over them. It’s like electronic fused with acoustic instruments. It’s only a 3-men setup in my band – me and two other guys. So that’s a surprise to a lot of people as they sometimes expect 7/8 musicians but they see only 7/8 keyboards on stage, haha!
It’s just that I have my own sound and because I have been experimenting with so many musical instruments in my own studio, I would choose my studio over the stage always.
2. What comes to your mind when you hear the title, “Marvels of Music”?
The first thing that comes to mind is that one of the biggest marvels of music is that it actually heals people. It could be psychological healing, and to some extent, I believe that it may even lead to physical healing. If you can connect mental health with physical wellbeing, then definitely, like meditation actually heals people physically too.
I think music can bring a lot of positivity and peace of mind to people. It’s an unseen force that makes you reach for something that otherwise you couldn’t have, or it makes you break free or go beyond or it gives you a lot of courage or a huge kick to do something. Music may inspire you to do something really big.
3. If you were an Avenger of the Music Industry, which character do you think you’d be, and why?
Why I really like Ironman, is because this guy doesn’t have any superpowers but he’s so creative and talented that he actually developed something iconic. He turned being a normal human being into a superpower, and that is what I love about Ironman.
4. When did your passion for music start? And please share any favorite experience of yours with music.
My passion for music started when I was 7/8 years old. My dad was performing on stage at a concert and there was someone playing the instrument called a conga, and I was in the backstage pulling his shirt so much that I literally almost tore it saying ‘Get off, I wanna play!’. So, I actually, in the middle of the song, managed to pull him down and get up to start playing. And the song was ongoing with my dad facing the audience, he didn’t know what happened, he didn’t notice that one of the instruments stopped for a few seconds because there were other instruments being played too.
But then, you know how artists look back and interact with the musicians, my dad was doing something like that and suddenly saw me sitting there and playing in the actual concert. It was a professional concert, he was being paid to perform, and I think he felt really embarrassed, like “what the hell is going on? This is so unprofessional!”
So, what he did was that he finished the song, probably shortened it, and then he took a little break, dragged me backstage, and was furious at the musician, saying “What the hell do you think you’re doing? You think this is a joke?” They used to call him ‘boss’, and so the musician was like “Boss, I swear to God, you ask anybody, I didn’t do anything. Your son literally tore my shirt, there wasn’t anything I could do!” And that got settled soon after.
But then, after the show, there was a big discussion about the whole thing at dinner, and everyone said things like, “Boss, we know you’re very upset, whatever happened wasn’t nice. You’re looking at it from a very professional point of view which is absolutely fine, we get it. But, you know what, the entire time Habib was playing, he didn’t go out of rhythm, he wasn’t out of sync, he actually managed to play properly the entire time.”.
It’s still a very clear memory. I remember the entire conversation and I remember seeing my dad getting very surprised to find these out, all the other musicians were surprised too, but I wasn’t surprised at all, haha! The reason why I did that in the first place was that I always used to practice. I was very confident about it because I had hours and hours of practice before that. I didn’t do it for no reason, I knew I wasn’t going to mess it up.
And that is probably one of the best memories that I have, that was something very different for me, you know.
5. How would you describe your style both in music and in fashion?
When it comes to music, I would say my style is something that makes you feel the music. It doesn’t matter if it is a piece of soft melodious music or if it’s a hard-hitting dance number. Whatever it is, I believe I need to feel whatever I’m playing, and it’s the same for the audience. I want them to feel my music too.
To me, clothes should be all about comfort, which also includes shoes, meaning they could be sandals or whatever that’s comfortable. But one thing that I like to see myself in and also find fashionable is accessories. It doesn’t matter what I’m wearing, I could be wearing a really nice suit or a casual T-shirt and shorts, but I like to wear nice earrings. They could be a pair of diamond studs or it could be something in silver with a nice shape – I don’t wear gold though. I have to wear them on both ears, and they have to belong to the same set. I could be wearing a very nice pair of earrings but with a very normal attire and I could also wear the same earrings with a very suited-booted outfit.
6. Where would you say is Habib’s hub for music?
My hub would be my studio because it is not like any of those commercial studios where you’d go, you’d record, and there’d be waiting rooms and stuff like that. It’s my personal studio where I just do my own work. It’s not up for hire, it’s only for my own work.
Sometimes I’ll have to record a musician, sometimes I may have to ask a lyricist to come over who I’m not personally close with, or a director may have to come to my studio to meet with me. So, I have separate entrances for my studio which actually shows that my studio is also my private hub for my creativity. The separate entrances make sure that the entrance that I have for myself is the one that is also for the people I know and consider my friends. That is my private area that is connected to my studio. So, if anyone else wants to come to my studio, they come from the other side. It’s just for my own comfort.
7. How have you seen the Music Industry transform over the years?
When I started, my first two albums were the last to see the era of cassette tapes. 2003 and 2004 were the years when cassettes used to be released. Then, CDs were up and running until around 2011. Mobile completely changed the scene. Suddenly online streaming began to gain popularity. Compact storage from memory cards in phones led to the fall of cassettes and CDs as everything was going digital.
See, it’s like if someone wants to produce music with me, they’d invest in that album, and that album would have to sell for their record company to make a profit, which was fine up until the convenience of memory cards. But for movies, it is different as the movie producer would have a budget for the entire movie that would also cover the music. So, there is no need for a record producer to come with a separate budget just to produce the music, it’s all included in the movie’s budget.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t like that for us, and it was going on up until 2015. The 3 years between were completely like that, and business was completely dipping. And, I’d say that concerts were the main source of income for musicians back then. But again, since 2015, things started to change a little when the internet started booming, like 3G and with apps such as Facebook, YouTube, etc. Smartphones were cheaper and they became easily available as well. That created a whole new market for us.
In local music videos, they had these caller tune codes encoded at the bottom of the screen itself - it used to be spread because not as many people had internet access back then. Now if you take a look at it from a user’s point of view, there are a lot of mobile phone users in Bangladesh. And for the caller tunes, you didn’t even have to have a smartphone, it could be the simple ones as well. So that was a very good revenue source up until 2018. But then there was a big blow to that as well mainly because it was a booming business, and then shady companies started to pop up into the scene. They didn’t have the proper license, administration, or even the right intentions. So they started stealing by putting codes into people’s phones which they didn’t even subscribe to, like all of a sudden, you would get a message saying that “X amount of money has been deducted from your account” because you subscribed to a caller tune which you had no idea about. And then slowly, lots of people started complaining because of this. And then this came into the government’s radar which changed this whole system.
A lot of people who used these welcome tunes were from rural areas and people in urban areas didn’t use them that much. But nowadays there are local music streaming apps, like GP music, Banglalink Vibe, Airtel Splash, etc. which are slowly coming along.So this is how the industry has shifted from the cassette to music streaming - a very big transformation.
And if you ask me what I’d prefer, I would say streaming because I know that once people start subscribing to these streaming platforms, there will be a huge volume, and people won’t need to look for it again and again. You’ll get access to all the original artwork, and even watch artists talk about their songs. It does make you feel connected to the artist in a way, like you are genuinely contributing to the artist. So I think that once this reaches a large volume of people, the revenue will bounce back into this industry.
8. According to you, what has been your best music till now and why?
Life is all about experiences, and whatever a musician experiences, he expresses through his music. So at different stages of my life, I have felt different emotions, and I have expressed them through my music. Now, maybe they may or may not have been equally commercially successful, but to me, they are equally important because every time I listen to them, I feel very connected to them. So it is impossible for me to name just one song.
Raat Nirghum was on a CD and it was for Banglalink. They even put a sim card inside the CD box, so that if you bought the CD, you also got the sim. In that album, it was the first time I ever sang. There were two songs, Din Gelo and Raat Nirghum, which were of very different genres of songs. But they were my experiments just to see the audience’s reaction to my songs. And thankfully, everyone liked it.
9. If you could change anything about the music industry, what would it be?
I’m not going to change anything but I would love to introduce a structure where an absolute 100% transparency is ensured, like how much money a user is spending on a particular music app or song which would be seen in a neutral way on a neutral platform by everybody. Nobody will have any kind of power to hamper with it and everybody can see what is going on. It would ensure that every musician, singer, and writer is getting their part of the share. This is something which is very important but we don’t have a mechanism like that yet. It would be something that no one has any control over and it would all be automated.
10. When do you usually sleep?
I have this thing where if I sleep at 2 am, I cannot wake up at 4 am, so I just make sure I pray Fajr before going to sleep. And even though I used to pray before, I only started this schedule from this year because I used to miss the Fajr prayer every now and then. So I made it a point this year to never miss a prayer, let’s see how long I can continue it.
11. Which one would you consider to be your favorite concert? And what made it so special?
It’s not actually a favorite concert, but I loved the time when people started to know about me and I started to know other people as well. I started to discover new sounds and have new experiences.
During the first days, I could feel the craze that people felt while they were waiting to see me because they only heard about me - there were no music videos out at that time. I could feel that they loved me. And it was a mutual feeling because I was waiting to meet the crowd and perform in front of them as well. That entire era, the first couple of years were very special.
12. What would be your dream destination for a concert and why?
I know some people say that they would love to perform at the Oscars, or Grammys or different festivals but I don’t have anything like that. My dream environment is to perform in a place where all the people present are genuine music lovers and of course my biggest fans. And maybe the place is open -by the beach overlooking the ocean or a valley with mountains all around. Just a very naturally beautiful environment with genuine music lovers.
13. Do you believe that great music always comes from being artistic or does it require any form of academic knowledge?
Well, to put it simply, if you have a talent, you can create something without any kind of academic background, even if it’s half-done or just a scratch. But with just academic knowledge you can’t create anything. However, when you have talent, backed up by academic knowledge, it helps you to enhance the craft.
Even when you are playing something, there’s pressure, velocity, sensitivity, gestures, body language, etc. which matters. Sometimes you will see a guitarist or a pianist playing and their entire body moves and feels the music and how they put pressure with their fingers changes the whole tune of the music.
14. Name your all-time favorite Bangladeshi musician and the current artist that you think has very good potential?
First of all, I don’t have all-time favorite musicians because music is of different genres. There’s rock, pop, classical, modern, and so on. But I can name a few musicians from different categories who have songs that I enjoy from their specific category.
Like, if I am talking about film music in Bangladesh I personally love a lot of compositions by Alauddin Ali. And then if I am talking about rock music, I personally love a lot of songs of Ayub Bachchu, Miles, Feedback, and Ark. Now moving on to the generation after, like people who started off around the same time as me, I loved Fuad, Hridoy Khan, Balam, and Arnob. These are some of the guys whose sound I really loved. And right now, from people who came after me, I would say that I find a lot of potential in Pritom Hasan and Minar.
15. What would be your advice to young music enthusiasts, upcoming bands, and solo performers like you?
Whatever you do, your intention behind it has to be pure. The goal should not be to achieve fame but to satisfy your own hunger and if that happens, the audience will follow. You don’t have to go and ask for their attention. And in fact, the audience looks for genuine people like that!
16. Since October is a month for Mental Health Awareness, why do you think mental health is important for all of us? And, according to you, what is the relationship between music and mind?
I feel that mental health is probably one of the most important things because without proper mental health you won’t be able to do anything, and music comes way later! Mental health has everything to do with your life in general. Your life has to be meaningful, and for that your mental health is absolutely vital.
This is something that can only be fixed at home, and parents have to start this. I think these are issues that are so engraved in their mind that music can’t heal them. Music can only heal the sadness that they feel but it cannot fix the main root of their mental state. It can only provide temporary relief like if the root is the beginning of a whole tree with branches of problems, music can only heal you from one or two of those branches, but the root will still be there.
1. What is the first song that comes to your mind when you hear the following names:
Tahsan - His own song, ‘Alo Alo’.
Scarlett Johansson - It has to be a love song because I like her, but it’s hard as I don’t like her as much to dedicate one of my songs to her, haha! And, there’s no song that I can say off the top of my head.
Justin Bieber - one of his songs, ‘Baby’.
Fuad - ‘Nitol Paye’
2. What’s the one thing you would like to change about the music industry?
It’s hard for me to think about what other people are doing in this industry, so I think I would just add transparency. It’d be something at the government level that ensures transparency.
3. Which character from FRIENDS best suits you?
To be very honest I haven’t watched friends in a million years. Last time I watched it was probably 15 years ago.
4. React in one word to the following:
Remakes and Remix: Remakes have more character, A remix is easy stuff.
Trust: An absolute must-have quality.
Playback Singer: Arijit Singh
5. One app that you hate, but use anyway?
Gmail, any email app.
6. Select THIS or THAT:
Read minds or see the future: See the future, of course
Fame or Fortune: Fame
Be Batman or Ironman: Ironman
Music Composer or Music Director: Composer
Silence or Crowd: Crowd
Studio or Live: Studio
7. Who is your celebrity crush?
I don’t have just one, I have many, haha!
8. If you were asked to sing a song right now, which song would you choose?
It would be a new song that I was working on last night. But it could also be another song that I have been listening to a lot lately - a song from a show on Amazon Prime called Bandish Bandits. The song is called ‘Virah’.
9. What song comes to mind when you hear the following words:
Rain: ‘Tip Tip Brishti’ by Sheikh Ishtiak
Instagram: Some loud rap songs probably
Prestige: I probably have to think of a song from the Mogul times or something, haha!
10. How do you like your clothes? Solid colors or printed?
11. The perfect gift for you would be?
Honesty and Dedication.
12. Your favorite holiday destination?
13. What’s your theme song?
‘Sultan!’ from the movie ‘Sultan’ because it has one line going, “Upar Allah, niche dharti, beech mein tera junoon” and I can relate to it.