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Sam Zaman
DJ and producer Sam Zaman aka State Of Bengal gets into details about his new album and fumes at the paranoia in the West about ‘browns’ being terrorists.

Sam Zaman (born Saifullah Zaman in Pakistan) grew up in London, but his trip to Bangladesh was a turning point in his musical quest. His meeting with folk artistes in Bangladesh sparked a fresh approach in his music. He has been a noted live performer, DJ and a fervent speaker on the subject of racism in the UK.
He is perpetually concocting new patterns and complex structures that form his music. His music rings true to anyone who listens to it. Being a part of the bubbling Asian underground scene has taught him a million things; he has transcended the term ‘underground’, drawing artistes such as Bjork, Ananda Shankar and Massive Attack for collaborations.
Sam’s new work, Skip-IJ, taps a very uncanny rhythm and treads an exalting musical boulevard. On the release of Skip-IJ, The Record spoke to the musician to find out more about his album and the mystery behind his banishment from the US.

The Record: Tell us how Skip-IJ happened. How has the album shaped up according to you?
Sam Zaman: The idea came about when I was watching a football match on TV and [when] the Greek National football team arrived after winning and the commentator said they did not [really deserve to] win. The Indian team did not win only because they were brown. That’s where my idea for the album came about. It annoyed me when the British commentator said something to the effect of the team not deserving to win.

TR: What are the highlights on the album? How different is it compared to Tana Tani?
Sam: There are different people involved in the project, all of them sharing different stories about nature, culture and other things. I was trying to figure out where I was going with my music, and it was fun working [on] and writing music that made me feel happy. There was a change in me, because I had to move from my earlier house and I was getting adjusted to the change.
As far as the music goes, there’s a heavy rhythm; it’s a strange rhythm and it was fun working with my brother (Deeder Zaman) on it. The music skips boundaries of ages, [anyone] from a one-year-old child to a 100-year-old person [will be] able to relate to it. The ideology was to not box my music for a particular section.
With the previous album Tana Tani we couldn’t tour because our guest artiste on it, Paban Das Baul was demanding too much money and we were also touring with Massive Attack, so we couldn’t take it on road. But I plan to do that with Skip-IJ.

TR: How was it working with your brother on the record?
Sam: He is a talented musician and producer, more of a lyricist, a good instrumentalist and has a great understanding of music. He has stayed on my left shoulder, but now I cannot carry him because he’s too heavy (laughs). When he first heard the song, he loved the rhythm. It was the most innocent moment when he moved like a Bengali kid in Kolkata standing with a dhol. He moved very differently and just got hang of the complex structure.

TR: How has it been working with top names in the music industry such as Bjork, Talvin Singh and Massive Attack?
Sam: There are so many stories. My house is a space where artistes would come and record, experiment. My dad said I was very lucky to have music as a tool for my spiritual progression. My musical journey has been very long right from not being allowed to experiment with anything in school, which was strange, to keep growing as an individual despite all the barriers to meeting wonderful musicians. When Bjork first heard my music, she would come home and spend time in my living room listening to music, discussing music. She would say that a potato is a potato (laughs). Talvin also would come home and record on my homemade speakers. Asian Dub Foundation was pretty much formed and recreated from this space. It was an environment to record and write. The Massive Attack guys are great; they have their own style of working.

You can read the rest of our feature on Sam Zaman in the August 2007 issue of The Record Music Magazine available at your local newsagent.


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