A journey from poet to lyricist
Though he never thought of connecting with music, Zulfiqer Russell used to write for Ittefaq and many other publications from an early age. He said, “It was truly an indefinable feeling to see my own writings in print.” In the beginning of the 90s, his poems were published in different reading materials. In the process of working with different newspapers, he came to be acquainted with many artists like Samina Chowdhury, Shompa Reza and many more. He started wondering, “If I can write poems, then why not lyrics?”
However, the words of a song by Mohammad Rafiquzzaman, from the movie Shubodha, made him realise these words weren’t written by him. After a while, he started writing himself, but gradually realised that writing a song isn’t as easy as it sounds. He added, “A song can only be a good one if it sounds good with the words.”
Initially, no one showed interest in working with him, naturally. However, Munir Zaman from the band Symphony, worked with his song for the very first time that was voiced by Tuhin. Interestingly enough, it was never released.
Nevertheless, Zulfiqer believes his journey as a lyricist actually began when working with Bappa Mazumder. The story behind this is a bit different. Zulfiqer didn’t know that Bappa worked with his lyrics, and after hearing the news just one word came through his mouth, “Really?” After listening to the songs he discovered that Bappa got the lyrics from Bashudeb Ghosh, which were given to Ghosh by Zulfiqer a long while back.
Factors of influence
“As a lyricist, one has to write based on the requirements of the composer and story angle, but I write mostly based on my relations with my country or with other people. I write incidents from my life,” said Zulfiqer. Even a character from a movie or novel equally sways him. He revealed that sometimes he doesn’t write for three to four months, but he never forces himself to write.
Creating a new song
Now-a-days, everyone is busy. On top of that, every music director has a studio of his or her own. Although Zulfiqer Russell himself follows the current structure, mails his lyrics to the composer, and if the composer thinks there are improvements that need to be made, it is replied back through email. Russell said, “That’s how we work now-a-days. There was a time a song was made through a combination of balance presence and recommendations from composer, lyricist and singer.”
He continued, "There are times when the composer doesn’t like a word or thinks it to be inappropriate, he changes it with a word that doesn’t go near to the thought of the lyricist. It creates obstacles for reaching the fulfillment for both parties.”
He believes a wonderful work is waiting for the audience as each and every progress is being done by sitting together with his co-artist Nachiketa Chakraborty.
Tearing down the boundaries
Apart from working with domestic artists, Zulfiqer Russell has been and still works with singers and composers of West Bengal. However according to him, many prominent artists are upset because he's working together with people on both sides of the border. Zulfiqer thinks differently. He said, “If artists from outside these borders can join and work in Bangladesh, then why can't we spread our light of talents to the world?”
He shared his experience of working with artists of Kolkata. His happiness reaches peak when he witnesses his lyrics uniting countless Bengali people. “Many people tell me, that I work more for India. But, now I see the whole thing. Through one song I am bringing so many Bengalis together. Isn’t it a great recognition for an artist to see Raghav Chatterjee, Anjan Dutt or Rupankar Bagchi perform my song in different programmes?”
Being a writer
His zeal for writing stories for movies may be unknown to many. In 2013 a children’s film, Akash Koto Durey was directed by Samia Zaman and was written by Zulfiqer. He said, “While writing for movies or dramas, I always prefer to bring contemporary circumstances. One thing is that when I write a song, some sort of romanticism reels inside me. However, story telling usually drives me towards writing for kids. As he mentioned another upcoming movie named Shomporko, which is also directed by Zaman in a story of a teenager.
With a soft smile, yet holding the boldness of personality, Russell said, “I usually stop writing in the phase of writer's block.” This reminded him of stories regarding years of his unfinished work saved in his mobile phone. Zulfiqer, who writes mostly on his phone said, “Some unfinished ones are five to six years old.” This is, unfortunately, what writer's block can do.
In the question of his best work, Zulfiqer's immediate response was, “Difficult to say that I never thought about it. I love each and every creation of mine.” He paused to think and continued, “The song, Oprithibi Ebar Eshe Bangladesh Nau Chiney, is what I consider my best work out of everything.”
An award, for him, is an inspiration and an achievement. He said, “I consider it as a recognition of work. It is an assessment of whatever I did through this award to influence me to work further.” He has been awarded plenty but these standout the most:
• Best Lyricist- Citycell-Channel i Music Awards 2008 , 2010, 2015]
• Best Lyricist- Bangladesh Cultural Reporters Association `08
• Best Lyricist- Dhaka Cultural Reporters Unity '09
• Concord Fellowship for Environment Journalism ‘03
• Best Lyricist Nomination- Fizz-up CJFB Performance Award `05
He is waiting for the upcoming Eid, a duet album, Ekta Bandhu Chai by Raghav Chatterjee and Samina Chowdhury
“I've already started to work on my dream project to give it a distinctive real appearance . However, I won't be able to reveal it until it is finished."
A father’s expectations
It's comforting to know that Zulfiqer seeks but the best for his beloved daughter, Parisa Russell. He says he will appreciate and support her in any line of profession she chooses for herself. The only genuine thing he asks of his daughter is to be a lover of music.
Mohammad Rafiquzzaman, Abu Hena Mustafa Kamal
Nachiketa Chakraborty, Raghav Chatterjee and many more.
Samina Chowdhury, Fahmidanabi, Bappa Mazumder, Nachiketa Chakraborty and many more.