In 1980, Mohammed Mohsin, vice-chairman of PHP Family, found an abandoned guitar without strings, tuning pegs and headstock at Sitakunda’s shipbreaking yard. That one piece of junk laid the seed for a unique music studio, a Sufi band, and a family’s undying devotion to music
The first thing you notice upon stepping inside the studio is a wall inscribed with different quotes and signatures from famous Bangladeshi singers such as Partha Barua and Sandipan Das.
More interestingly, there is a rare collection of musical instruments hanging from the wall, as well as many lying on the floor. The whole studio is decorated with modern musical instruments along with some exotic ones from different countries.
This studio is very well-known to leading musicians in the country, as they drop by when they visit Chattogram. It is the family music studio of PHP Family, one of the country's leading business conglomerates, based in Chattogram. It is located on the rooftop of their residence.
There is a 40-year-old history behind the studio. Mohammed Mohsin, vice-chairman of PHP Family, went to Sitakunda's shipbreaking yard area around 1980 and found an abandoned guitar, possibly left by seafarers. He found the guitar without strings, tuning pegs and headstock.
He then added the missing parts and tried playing on it. The love for the guitar helped him grow an interest in music.
"The abandoned guitar was the turning point in my life," Mohsin said.
"I collected all the missing elements of the guitar and started playing it. It is still in my collection. I started practicing music when I was in grade seven in 1987. I practiced Sufi music under a local artist named Gafur Pagla during my childhood," he recalled.
Mohsin and his family are very fond of Sufi music. His father Sufi Mohamed Mizanur Rahman, founder chairman of PHP Family, practices Sufism.
"We love Sufism. We used to do Sufi music, and got involved in it for attaining peace of mind. Music feeds our soul. Based on Sufi music, we are moving forward," Mohsin said while talking to this correspondent in his studio.
"All our family members attend musical events in our studio. My father, who lives next door, also comes here. Sometimes, we spend sleepless nights as we do music," he said.
"We also encourage our children to take an interest in music. The music is always kind of a healing medication, and that is why I think it is important in human life. My brothers play the saxophone, and I play guitar and sarod. I also compose and sing songs," said Mohsin.
He said his father also has a team of musicians.
"If any member of my father's team is absent for some reason, he comes to our studio and sings with us."
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Mohsin is spending most of his time in the music studio.
"We used to spend four to five days every month in the studio for songs. Now, because of the pandemic, I am mostly here," he said.
Prominent artists like Ayub Bachchu, Nasim Ali Khan, Pantha Kanai, Partha Barua and Sandipan Das have visited the studio.
"Many others also used to come here and spend time as the place has a good ambience," said Mohsin.
He said Pantha Kanai and James lived in Chattogram when he was a child. "We started music at the same time. We had a band named Ocean formed in 1987. Pantha Kanai used to play drums in the band. Later, he joined Souls."
The band broke up as the members became busy with different things in their life, such as studies. After completing his higher secondary studies in 1991, Mohsin left for the US for graduation. He studied marketing at Northeastern University.
Upon returning from the US in 2010, he formed a new band named Aswad.
"It is the first pure Sufi band in Bangladesh," Mohsin said.
The line-up of the band consists of Mohsin (band captain and guitar), Tanim (bass guitar), Tahim (vocal rhythm), Anowar (saxophone), Wasim (drums), and Mamma (vocal).
Mohsin loves to collect local, exotic instruments when he visits a country. So far, he has collected 12 instruments at least, from 12 different countries.
"Some of the prominent ones in my collection include Egyptian Tambourine, Darbuka (Arabian drum), and Sringa from Kashmir," he said.