When asked to name the oldest yet influential bands of Bangladeshi rock, along with Miles and Souls, one would name another band that electrified the crowd and heightened the level of competition in Bangladeshi music. Feelings, a band which altered the course of Bangladeshi rock culture.
How Feelings came into the scene
The wave of rock music has swept through the hills of Chittagong since the middle 1960s. From the southern-east part of Bengal, several bands emerged. Zynga and Souls were two bands from that region.
Feelings from the same region, Chittagong, was formed in 1978. This ‘chatgaiya’ band, rose to prominence as one of the Bengal’s leading musical ensembles. But back in those days who knew that this band would once be in the list of Bengal’s greatest of all time!
Earlier Days of Feelings
Perhaps the motivation behind the formation of Feelings was to introduce something new and exciting to Bangladeshi rock music.
The band was founded by Mangu from Rangamati. Their line-up in 1979 consisted of Mangu on drums, Rodie Thomas on vocals and bass guitar, the very famous Ayub Bacchu on guitar, and last but not least, Kumar Bishwajit on vocals and keyboard. If one were to look at the band’s lineup, one would undoubtedly get a sense of how huge it was right from the beginning.
The Chittagong Agrababaad hotel was a popular destination for music enthusiasts in the late 1970s. It developed into a centre for musicians to gather and play. The hotel’s performance room was used to draw an audience from the upper middle and upper classes.
In that place, Feelings began their journey. In those days, the band used to play English and Hindi songs as Bengali songs were not well received by young people. Not only Feelings but also other contemporary bands started off with English songs. According to several music enthusiasts, not a not a single full-length Bengali album could be found, then.
The Sheraton Hotel, Hotel Purbaani, and a few of the Chinese restaurants located in Dhaka and Chittagong led to the mid-1980s Bengali song trend.
Later in the 1980s, Feelings released their debut album that included two English original tracks.
How James joined Feelings
Stars like Ayub Bachchu (AB) and Kumar Bishwajit began their careers with Feelings. However, they didn’t continue with the band. Even today, it’s not clear to many why they left the band. AB wanted do something different and joined another popular band Souls. Kumar Bishwajit focused in solo career.
People might have sensed a void in the band in the absence of AB and Kumar Bishwajit but that didn’t last long. A voice that was as solid as a rock and as loud as the sky soon filled the vacuums. Faruk Mahfuz Anam, popularly known as James, it was.
James quickly rose to prominence, not just within the band but also across the nation. His voice also blew the West Bengal like a soothing breeze.
James came to Chittagong leaving behind his wealthy life in Rajshahi because of his intense love for music. In 1983, he joined Feelings. Since then there was no turning back. Drummer Fanti also joined Feelings the same year. The band formed a new lineup in 1985, this time with James in the lead.
Feelings relocated to Dhaka in 1987. And the next year, they release their debut album “Station Road”. The record quickly gained popularity. Meanwhile in 1989 James’ debut solo album, “Anannya” was released. But the band’s second album, “Jail Theke Bolchi”, released in 1993 took the stage by storm.
Other members of Feelings
When James and Fanti departed for the capital, Fakhrul remained at the port city. Pablo too left the band. He had written and contributed vocals to two of the English tracks on their debut album, “Ever Since You” and “Plus Beat Games”.
Swapon, the bass guitarist of Feelings left the band in 1990. He joined Ayub Bachchu’s newly formed band LRB. During the time, Mobin and Sumon sequentially entered the stage as bass guitarists for Feelings. However, Sumon left the band in 1992, a few years after he started his band called Aurthohin.
Albums of Feelings and James
After people saw the release of Feelings’ second album in 1993, their third album “Nagar Baul” was released in 1996. Albums “Jail thekey Bolchi” and “Nagar Baul” were both immediate best-selling albums. People had to stand in queues to buy the cassettes.
The solo albums of James and the band albums complemented one another. Like the most anticipated things, tickets for a football match, James’ very own “Palabey Kothay” (1995) and “Dukhini Dukkho Koro Na” (1997) were completely sold out. The final and fourth album by Feelings, “Lace Fita Lace,” was released in 1998. After that, Fanty also quit the band, and James changed the band’s name to Nagar Baul in 2001.
Songs of Feelings
Feelings’ hits helped Bengal’s rock and pop culture breathe new life into music. Songs on their debut album took a critical stance on social inequalities, discussed the horrors of war, and emphasized the need for humanity. Songs like “Eager Jonom”, “Dukkho Keno Koro Mon”, and “Aar Noy Juddho” received positive reviews.
However, the rock vibe began to emerge with their second album. The rock flavor was introduced with the title tune, “Jail Thekey Bolchi”, along with “Joshi Prem” and “Hridoye Ekla Prantor”. The 90s audience responded overwhelmingly to these songs.
The release of the “Nagar Baul” album marked a turning point in Bangladeshi rock culture. In addition to the title track, other popular songs were “Mannan Miyar Titash Molom”, “Shundoritoma Amar”, “Haragacher Noorjahan”, “Khela”, “Humairar Nishash Churi Hoye Geche”, “Kotota Kangal Ami”, “Jongole Bhalobasha” and others.
The poem “Uttor” was written by the famous poet Shamsur Rehman, whose alter ego “Shundoritoma Amar” is frequently heard singing among the audience anytime there is a Nagar Baul concert.
The Feelings over the decades
Who the country’s first rockers were is a topic of intense discussion. While some believe that the Windy Side of Care was the first to introduce rock music to the folk-based Bengal Delta, others point to the band Zynga from 1963. Whoever it may be, the bands from the 1970s and 1980s served as the cornerstones of Bangladesh’s musical foundation. If not the best, Feelings was without doubt one of the most influential bands to shape Bengali rock music and to reach beyond the borders to the Bangladeshi diaspora and non-Bengalis living abroad.