Rupam’s first album – “Tor Bhorshate” was released in 1998. Hardly anyone bought the album, it was a super flop. It was re-released later on as “Neel Rong Chhilo Bhishon Priyo” which later went on to become one of the biggest hits of all time. To release that album Rupam had to spend years – not months but years visiting the SaReGaMa office requesting them to listen to his demo cassette. The album contract was on a royalty basis and I still have cheques issued to Rupam of Re 1/- and Rs 2/-.

Rupam 1st album

Rupam’s next release was the self titled album of Fossils. After a long struggle of visiting all the record labels of Kolkata, finally Asha Audio agreed to release the album in 2002. Needless to say that Fossils didn’t get a money for this album, in fact they had to pay out of their own pockets as they had exhausted the recording hours allotted to them. After remaining in the shelves for over a year this album suddenly started selling after the FM stations started playing their tracks.

Rupam Islam cheque

Fossils or Rupam never had to look back since then.

All the releases that followed were released at the request of the recording labels and I have no problems admitting that both Rupam and Fossils have always got a sufficiently decent amount for their albums since Fossils 2.

Glorious years of Bangla Independent Music followed. Bangla Music Channels came up. TV Channels even owned by Film Producers played Independent artiste’s music videos on a high rotation. FM Channels played independent bangla music all through the day. CD stores like Music World and Planet M were doing good business and their Top 10 charts always had ‘basic albums’ at the top spot.

Fossils 3

Planeu M

Talent hunt shows got big names as their sponsors. Bangla Bands and Bangla Independent Solo Artistes ruled the media.

But this was short lived. Next came the era of Bangla Film music with music directors like Debojyoti Mishra, Neel Dutt and Jit Ganguly. Like the bangla independent artistes they too were doing good music, but they had something more than just good music. They had the power of money, and money not just buys but also sells. FM stations and TV channels were soon bought over by the Film Producers. Newspaper houses too soon became puppets to the big bucks. Hence money did what it does best – buy! But it not only bought but also started selling. These film music started selling, selling- because of the publicity they got – the unfair advantage over independent musicians. If you keep hearing a really really bad song, you will actually start humming it. Independent Bangla Musicians thus got an unfair step motherly treatment from the media which they didn’t deserve.

Though Rupam did compose for quite a few films but he never got to do a film for the BIG DADDIES of the film world. After all it was only the big daddies who had bought off all the slots and spots.  But that didn’t affect Rupam or Fossils. They continue to rule the LIVE music scene till date. If Rupam or Fossils want to release an album, all he has to do is dial some recording company and he will still make money from the releases. But Rupam is a fighter. He is a self-made man who lost both his parents at a very early age. As a young boy without any guardian, living all alone, he spent his days teaching at a school and dong music the entire day. Inspite of all the failures he never gave up, never fell prey to drugs or alcohol. Someone who can easily brush off any investment discussion by saying –

“Taka na thakata ki jinsih aami jani, aaj aamar aachey, aaj aami enjoy korbo. Kaal jodi na thake aami aabar ager obosthaye pherot jabo. Aami konokichhu-ke bhoy pai ni bhoy pabo na…”

Obviously doesn’t care about how much he gets from a recording label for his album. To him it is always about winning. When FM Channels, newspapers and TV Channels were busy with Film music, Rupam spent his free time editing Bangla Rock Magazine and learning new instruments. For the last 3 years he has been learning and putting the knowledge to work. Old songs and new songs alike were recorded and arranged at home, with the only aim to learn and keep learning.

What Rupam himself did not realize was while he was learning he was actually giving birth to a new album. So when one day Rupam met Sayak Basu of Anandalok magazine and Sayak asked him what he has been upto these days, Rupam’s reply was simple – working on some new songs. Sayak was prompt to ask – When will you release them?  ‘Release? I shall not release them’  was Rupam’s reply. That reply had a lot of hidden emotions in it – anger and sorrow. Sayak somehow didnot take Rupam’s answer very seriously. Not only did he keep enquiring about the songs, but asked for an exclusive interview when Rupam finally decides to release them.

These songs were not meant for everybody. Only a selected few got to hear them. As Rupam himself was not confident about his instrument playing skills he made sure no musician heard them. Probably the only musician who heard these tracks was Prasenjit ‘Pom’ Chakrabutty who instantly told Rupam that the tracks were worth releasing. He of course had to spend sometime with the tracks at our studio and very soon they were ready to be released as an album. The name Rupam Islam sells and he could have given the album to any recording company who would have given him a handsome package for it. But to Rupam it is the time to fight. Fight – for the future generation. Fight – so that young musicians do not need to depend on recording companies for their albums. Fight – so that talented musicians like Sudipto Das do not have to leave the city and go back to corporate life. Fight – to prove that you do not need a lot of money to record and release an album and make it a hit. Fight – to let everyone know Rupam Islam is still that fighter who spent hours sitting at the SaReGaMa studios.

Here is “Notun Niyom” – An album by Rupam – the new-comer instrumentalist,  Rupam – the  new-comer arranger along with Rupam – the veteran singer-songwriter. These are the sounds that played in his mind while he wrote these songs. A singer-songwriters album.

Success has never come easily to Rupam. He doesn’t believe in luck, but I do. I believe that 15th September 2010 was a lucky day for us, when we had walked into our home with a 3 day old Rup for the first time and got the news of Rupam’s national award. But I also believe ‘lady luck’ is very biased towards some people. While Rupam insists –

“Kaaj-i kotha bole, aaj na hok, kono na kono din bhalo kaaj kotha bolbei..”

I insist –

“Sudhu bhalo kaaj-e kichhu hoye na jodi na bhaggo tomar sohaye thake”

Some people are “just” lucky – lucky to have all the media support possible. Fossils-er first album-o hit hoto na jodi na FM Channels hotath kore oi album-er gaan chalate shuru korto. Yes, back then Fossils and Rupam were “lucky” to get some amount of media support – ‘some amount’ – which doesn’t even come close to the kind of support some others get today. If Gautam Chattopadhyay was a little more lucky he would have been alive to see people listening to his songs and talking so highly of him, unfortunately what he got in his life-time was not even 1% of what he deserved. It is all ‘luck’ I say.

Rupam is used to failure, failure doesn’t scare him. He is used to hearing negative comments about his releases. After all hardly anyone had anything good to say about “Neel Rong Chhilo Bhishon Priyo” or “Chokkher kalo” way back when it was released and standing today hardly anyone has anything bad to say about that album. Same goes to “Fossils 1” and “Fossils 2”. “Notun Niyom” is another beginning, another new sound in the Bangla Music Industry. So when the first single was released this month Rupam expected only negative comments to come in. He was take by surprise when talented musicians like Timir Biswas Tamal Kanti Halder and Kabir Chattopadhyay said they liked the song, when one of his favorite keyboardist Shibasish Banerjee wrote – Piano-ta bhalo bajchhe and an excellent arranger like Sugata Roy Palodhi shared the promo asking everyone to listen to the song and join the ‘revolution’. Yes, he was touched by these comments but didn’t take them to heart. Deep down he is waiting for those negative comments to come in, waiting to prove those negative comments wrong someday in the far far future.

Ugrobaader guptoboi music video

Hence, “Notun Niyom” is to be released without any recording label, without any FM playback, without getting any big names to direct music videos but with full faith in his own music and the support of his well-wishers and young talented video directors. So cheers to Independent Bangla Music and cheers to this one time when I would love to be proven wrong and be able to tell people – Luck doesn’t matter.