Rupam on song and Toufik Riaz on canvas made for a jugalbandi at ICCR. Picture: B. Halder
A musician does an unplugged concert for various reasons, stripping his songs to bare essentials being one of them. On Saturday evening, it was Rupam Islam’s turn to show the raw power of his songs and singing at an unplugged solo show in ICCR on Ho Chi Minh Sarani.
Playing a set list consisting of mostly unreleased tracks, the singer-songwriter chose an entirely different route. Setting the tone with Atmabishleshon, he performed the numbers like a raconteur. For two hours straight, Rupam — also playing an acoustic guitar and a ukulele — presented a set that was by turns innovative, inspiring and intriguing.
Songs, stories, critique and comments interlaced. Sometimes he would start a song, maybe sing a verse, pause at a word, explain its nuances or the underlying theme.
At the end of the folk song Kotoi rongo dekhi duniyay, he started muttering “prayoschitto”. “I played a folk song on a guitar! I have to make amends!” he said with a tinge of irony.
Adopting a playful, self-deprecating, tongue-in-cheek tone, Rupam also busted a few myths around him. “There are those who think I hire people to applaud me at my concerts and there are those who feel I am successful and that I cannot fail. I humbly say that both are wrong. I don’t have to hire people, nor have I felt the need to do so. And the proof of my failure? Well, if I hadn’t failed, would I still be able to write songs?” he said to rapturous applause.
After the song Palao, he said, “I haven’t been able to flee.... I want to see this world, know this world.”
Rupam revealed another side of him by admitting to his fears — of playing solo (“people have been telling me to do this for a while now”), of playing the piano on stage.
He talked about the purpose of songs, the role of an artiste, John Lennon’s utopian ideas in Imagine, Bangladesh and religion, before reflecting on the nature of existence and the time when he was forced off the stage in September 1995, and then how a song (Biday) gave him hope to soldier on.
Performance artist Toufik Riaz and his team interpreted Rupam’s songs on canvas and screen.