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Raja and Rubayyat, creating music-breaking barriers!

45 By A Shahid

UK Asian music and entertainment scene continues to produce versatile and memorable singers that go on to enjoy success across the globe on many levels.  It is an exciting and multi faceted industry helped by the advance of social media, Asian satellite TV channels and radio. In addition, the growing number of festivals and shows across the UK has propelled many artists to the top.

This music goes beyond UK market with some enjoying international success. Some are legends such as Apache Indian, Bally Sagoo, Talvin Singh, the groundbreaking Joi and Nitin Sawhney. Others like Mumsy, Rishi Rich and most recently Jay Sean need little or no introduction either.

Once dubbed the Asian underground it has now flourished into a mega industry producing exciting and talented singers like Raja Kasheff and Rubayyat Jahan.  Raja is of Pakistani and Indian background and Rubayyat is Bangladeshi.  Raja, best known for Bollywood inspired music has a wide repertoire stretching from religious songs to semi classical tunes enhanced by his formal training in music.  Rubayyat has been a successful singer and performer at a number of Asian festivals up and down the UK and has featured many times on British Asian tv channels and other media and was a finalist in a Brit Asia TV show couple of years back.  She has performed regularly in London and other cities for over six years and her successful collaboration with ace producer Rishi Rich catapulted her onto the Asian music scene.  Rubayyat always had a fascination with music and live performances.  She recalls fondly her formative years in Kushtia, a place made famous by literary giants Tagore and Lalon Shah.   Her late father, AKM Shamsuddin, a chemistry graduate from Dhaka University, would take her to the Lalon akra in Kushtia where she watched gleefully the vibrant performances of musical devotees.

47When the two singers met at a music festival, Raja immediately felt a musical connection and wanted to form a partnership.  Though he tells me, rather amusingly, that Rubayyat was less enthusiastic.  Her hesitation had nothing to do with any musical difference but rather the prosaic matter of contract terms and conditions. Time passed and the two singers eventually finalised the formal details and began their musical journey. From the outset, they were clear about the music they wanted to create. Raja calls this style “fusion language music” a blend of Bollywood inspired songs mixing Bangladeshi and Pakistani music. As they share a common musical culture and heritage perhaps, it was only natural that two individuals with a deep love for performing music and their respective countries should come together in this way.

The idea of musical collaboration is not new but Raja and Rubayyat are certainly the latest couple to emerge onto the scene. For the past few years and on the success of hit songs such as ‘Meri Pardesi Babu’ ‘Srabone’  ‘Koh Jaon’ and ‘Sathe Robe Tumi’  they have enjoyed popularity and been in great demand in the live music circuit performing in UK and abroad.  Rubayyat returned recently from singing to a multi cultural audience in the Philippines that included ex pat Bangladeshis who were very eager to hear her sing. Next week Rubyyat will be performing at the forthcoming Radha Ramon festival in east London.

A versatile and adaptable singer, Raja has worked with many major stars from across the globe and once led an orchestra featuring Tafo Khan Saab, the famous percussionist; the tabla maestro share the same music style (or Gharana) as ustaad Alla Raka Khan. Yet another very well known musician, Balu Khan Saab famously paired with legendary Jazz maestro Winton Marseilles. Ghulam Ali, Govinda and Pyarelal (one-half of the famous composers), have shown an admiration and willingness to work on future projects.  Birmingham based master mixer Hunterz has also said he wants to cut a track with Bengali lyrics sang by Rubayyat.  Raja enthusiastically name checks these high calibre musicians to demonstrate how long established Pakistani musicians have welcomed the opportunity of working in Bengali music and particularly with Rubayyat.  It is an exciting time for the duo as they expand their musical horizon working on new and exciting projects. It is almost taboo for musicians from these two countries to work together and each time any musical alliance is formed, with the out stretched hand of cordiality, the results have often been lacklustre.

It is clear that Raja and Rubayyat wish to put to rest those tired old clichés while breaking down stereotypes creating harmony moving forward in a spirit of friendship, respect, cooperation and mutual love for creating beautiful music that everyone will want to hear repeatedly. Raja speaks enthusiastically about his love for Bengali music and says, “If we sing well, people really don’t care. We could be from Bangladesh, India or Pakistan. It’s the universality of music.”

His efforts to foster better relations using music as a medium has not gone unnoticed and the strong social message his music gives led to one of his past albums, 9 Matre or Nine Beats launched at the British House of Commons.  MPs mingled with singers and musicians from across the music and entertainment fields.  In addition, he can count on the support of a number of British MPs such as Khalid Mahmood, Sadik Khan and Seema Malhotra. The launch focused attention on his music generally but particular interest and kudos heaped on the cross-cultural element. This led to interviews on various media including the BBC World TV  programme, ‘Impact’ focussing on 21 February which is international mother tongue day dedicated by the UN.  This gave Raja great satisfaction as the music was gaining popularity outside of the music industry and general media was keen to feature their work. It seemed his vision and inspiration to make fusion music was gaining greater recognition.

One song he is most proud of from that period is ‘Koh Jawo Teri Negahon May’ that features a spoken poetry much like the famous Khabi Kaabi number where Amitabh Bachchan narrates ace lyricist Javed Akthar’s infamous prose. “This is an old style we have reintroduced for the new generation, and has been received very well by young people.” Naim Haider wrote the poetry for the song.  Raja arranged and composed the music for the song.

Moviebox is exclusively featuring Raja and Rubayyat’s Bengali songs. The Birmingham based company famously has Jazzy B, Gurdaas Mann and Malkit Singh on its’s label. Moviebox predominately features Hindi songs. Due to Raja’s association with Rubayyat and Bengali music, Moviebox now plan to bring more Bengali music and musicians into their label.

As if not all that high praise was, enough they have hooked up with Bollywood legend Govinda and will be releasing some exciting new songs in coming weeks and months. Raja is very proud that he has taken Bengali music to new producers, new backers and new audiences around the world. Despite some criticism about Rubayyats involvement in the non Bengali music scene the reaction now is much more positive as audience appreciate the blend of different genres of music.

Raja and Rubayyat are working on an original sound track for a film called Rathrir Jathri. Starring Moushami, the famous Bengali glamour actress and newcomer Naila Nayem who is causing a bit of a stir shaking up an old and often stale film industry.  She is comparable to Sunnny Leone. Debutant Habibul Islam Habib is the writer and director. The OST videos will feature shots of Rubayyat overlaid with original film clips. Ami Shundori Nari is one amongst a number of songs to feature on the forthcoming album.