For his unique rock style, Faruk Mahfuz Anam, popularly known as James has become an icon in Bangladesh. His spontaneity, ability to connect to the audience and psychedelic voice are the keys to his success. For over the last two decades he has maintained his position as one of the leading rock singer-composers in Bangladesh. The lead vocalist and guitarist of the band 'Nagar Baul', his solo albums are equally popular. James is often referred to as “Nagar Baul”, and many of fans adoringly call him “guru”. Following the huge popularity of some playbacks he has done for Bollywood films, James has also won the admiration of Indian music lovers.
After doing playback for three Hindi movies -- Gangster, Woh Lamhe and Life in a Metro -- recently James has spent a major share of his time abroad. After a couple of years of eclipse from the rock music arena in Bangladesh, James is going to release a solo Bangla album sometime in the middle of this Ramadan. The title of the album is Tufan. Most of the songs featured in the album are fusion of rock, blues and folk. James is optimistic about the album. In his words, “I was pretty busy in India, particularly in Mumbai. Then I realised that I should also be regular in my own country. Besides, working in India, I'll be more regular in releasing albums in Bangladesh.”
How was he received in India? James' response: “They like my music. Renowned Indian producer-director Mahesh Bhatt, director Anurag Basu and music composer Preetam Chakraborty (of the film Gangster) approached me to do a playback for the film. After the song, Bheegi Bheegi, struck gold overnight, I received offers to sing Chal chaley (in the movie Woh Lamhe) and Al vida (in the movie Life in a Metro). These songs have become quite popular in the subcontinent as well. The Music videos are still on air on several music channels. Currently I'm working on a Hindi album in India too.”
Sharing his work experience in Mumbai, James said, “They use more expensive, cutting edge equipments than we do here. They can afford to do that because they have a huge market.”
Has he always wanted to be a rockstar? James: “Yes. Since I was a kid. I began playing guitar when I was in class seven. In 1982 my friends and I formed the band 'Feelings'. That's how I stepped into the rock music scene. In the late '90s I formed my own band 'Nagar Baul'.”
So far James has released seven solos and several mixed albums. Four albums of his bands are also available in the market. Of these Ananya, Jel Thekey Bolchhi, Palabe Kothaye, Nagar Baul, Dukhini Dukkho Koro Na, Lace Fita Lace, Thik Achhey Bondhu and Dushto Chheler Dol are noteworthy.
What is the difference between his approach to solo and band music? James says, “Members of my band perform in my solos too. In that sense, there is not much difference. Usually the band albums are rock-based. I do a lot of experiments with music in the solos.”
Recently James has performed at a fusion music concert with Indian classical vocalist Sarathi Chatterjee at the National Theatre Stage, Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy. Sharing his experience, James says, “We were excited. During the initial stage we were a little confused. After practicing we both enjoyed the performance.”