From a college dropout to Times Square billboard
Two years back, he created quite a buzz with his song ‘Noya Daman’. Later two of his songs, ‘Beni Khuley’ and ‘Jhumka’ made it on the list of music streaming platform Spotify. Though this youth, who grew up in New York is known to all as Muza, the name his family gave him was Muzahid Abdullah. He came to visit Dhaka lately and had an interview with Prothom Alo at a studio in Banani.
Music streaming platform Spotify has featured Bangladeshi youth Muza’s photo on their billboards at several specific spots over New York, Toronto and London. They wrote, “Listen to all the best music from South Asia only on Spotify” in the caption. Muza’s parents took a snap of the Spotify billboard, displaying their son’s photo at New York Times Square from afar, which went viral once posted on Facebook.
Muza’s parents, who have been living in New York for more than two decades, have passed through this street year after years but they had never imagined of witnessing such a moment in their lives. They had dreamt of their son to become a physician or engineer one day but their son chose to pursue music. And, this music put him on Spotify’s billboards after all.
Bangla music audience has known Muza for five years. He came into limelight with the song, ‘Bondhurey’ and then went onto release many more songs including, ‘Ashi Bole Gelo Bonbdhu’, ‘Buker Bhetore’, ‘Shwapno to Dekhechi’ and ‘Tomakey’. But his parents became sure of their son’s musical talent after the song ‘Noya Daman’ was released.
Alongside Muza, the song featured Toshiba from Sylhet. Muza gained popularity by mixing Bangla songs with the modern genres of music. He believes that emphasising on simplistic lyric, tune and melody has led him to win the hearts of audience.
A few days back, Bollywood choreographer Remo D’Souza danced to his song ‘Jhumka’ and also posted the video on his Instagram account which came to Muza’s attention later.
He said, “While making a song, I never give any thoughts to whether it will be a hit or not. There’s always a belief though. But, it’s never easy to guess how the audience is going to receive the song. I only worry about if I find it amusing or not. If I myself like it, then those who have similar mentality like me would also enjoy it, that’s how I see it.”
Muza, born in Balaganj of Sylhet’s Osmani Nagar moved to New York at the age of four or five with his mother and younger sister. His father had been living there already. He attended school at Queensborough Community College. After passing school, he started attending classes at LaGuardia Community College but couldn’t finish college because of his musical career. He admitted frankly, “I am a college dropout.” This college dropout from New York is now being featured on Times Square billboard.
Muza’s father drove taxi in New York and his mother used to teach in pre-school. In Muza’s words, they were actually poor and both his parents used to work very hard. Their hardship would also pain Muza a lot. Since childhood, he used to think of the day he would be able to help out his parents.
Muza said, “My parents worked every single day. There weren’t much scope for us to have dinner together or have a chat. All of us were busy in our own way. My father would drive taxi even at night. My mother would work during the day while I and my younger sister stayed at the school.”
“These used to pain me a lot. So I started thinking of ways to help out right from the childhood. I started working from the age of sixteen. My first job was at a music studio. I made jingles for the Spanish market back then. Later I did some office jobs as well,” he continued.
Both of his parents wished for Muza to do better in his studies. But he didn’t enjoy studies much. That’s why he used to bunk classes and then visit the studios instead.
Muza said, ‘My parents always wanted for me to get an A+ in every subject. They wouldn’t even be content with an A. Though I always thought of getting an A+ in my mind, wouldn’t get one every time. Music was my only escape amid all this frustration and stress. I used to feel that I could express my frustration through music. By playing piano, I would be able to make myself believe, that indeed is my therapy. And I fell in love with music. While I was still at the middle school, I decided to pursue music.”
‘Bondhurey’ was the first Bangla song, released by Muza. Everyone then used to point at me and say, “That’s Muza, who created the song ‘Bondhurey’.” Then there was the corona pandemic. He made the song, ‘Noya Daman’ during the Covid period. Whiteout having any academic education on music, he introduced everyone to a new musical sound through his songs.
On the topic of ‘Noya Daman’ he said, “I stayed at the house of one of my cousins named Iqbal in New York during the pandemic. I was scrolling TikTok when I suddenly found Toshiba there. Many had also tagged me on her name and song. Then I visited her page and listened to her songs. I thought to myself, it’s a beautiful voice. We could record folk songs in Sylhety dialect with this.”
“Later I texted her and said, ‘let’s make a song together’. She also replied, ‘let’s go for it’. I asked her what kind of a song we should do. We thought we should make something that would be familiar to the people in Sylhet. She then suggested of ‘Noya Daman’. I told her to send me the recorded voice. Then I did all the production, mixing and mastering. I finished the song within just a single day,” he added.
While the song, ‘Bondhurey’ became popular among the youths only, ‘Noya Daman’ became a fan favourite, said Muza. Later, with his song, ‘Amar Hrido Bole Chena Chena’ he proved that he’s skilled not only in making covers, but also in making original songs.
Muzahid Abdullah alias Muza used to play football while studying in high school. He also had the chance to do something great in football but couldn’t pursue for his parents didn’t wish to let him out of their sight.
He said, “An agency had come to our house in New York. They said they would take me to Italy. I was about 13 or 14 years old at that time. My mother said, ‘I wouldn’t send my only son to Italy alone’. By that time I already knew I didn’t want a career in football I have to pursue music.”
In between the chats Muza said that he used to play football as an escape. “We all have an idea in our head about how can we get out of this situation? Messi, Ronaldo, they all were poor. They too used to think of a way to get out of that situation. I had that thought in my mind as well.”
Music has made Muza self-sufficient. He’s trying to ease his parents’ hardships. That topic too came out in the discussion. Sitting in that studio Muza said, “My father was talking of buying a new car some days ago. I said, I would buy it for him. My mother was talking of buying a home and I said I would help with that. We had been living in a rented house till now. We only recently moved in to our own house.”
Raised in a conservative family, Muza has made up his mind to pursue music as a career. While he was a school student, Habib Wahid’s music had made an impression in Muza’s mind.
In his words, “Since childhood, I have been a huge fan of Habib Wahid. When we used to go on a picnic, my father would play the song ‘Krishno’ and my uncle would play the song ‘Din Gelo’. At that time I was dealing with a lot of frustration and this song used to help me a lot. It freed me of my pain and it’s a huge inspiration. I used to listen to Fuad Bhai’s music also. I listened to Linkin Park a lot.”
Muza has big dreams about Bangla music. He believes, the way people are playing K-Pop, Bollywood or Afrobeats now, will be playing Bangla music someday as well.
Muza said, “Not everyone has to be Bengali to enjoy Bangla music. Despite belonging to Africa, France or of any other race, people will listen to Bangla songs. We just have to produce good songs, that’s it. This can happen within the next couple of years.”