Steve Charles—Junior chemistry major Syud Momtaz Ahmed shouldn’t have been so surprised when a standing-room-only crowd showed up for his noon hour presentation on the music of his native Bangladesh. Taz, as he’s known to most of us on campus, has endeared himself to audiences with his sense of humor and masterful tabla playing at concerts by Wamidan, the College’s world music ensemble. I’ve watched him teach faculty and students alike about his scientific work during the Celebration of Student Research and Creative Work.

But his program "Culture from Baul to Rock star" was the first time I’d heard him speak before an audience about Bangladesh and the music that is so much a part of his life. And almost all of what he had to say about the Baul—the gypsy singers of Bengal, their philosophy of life, how their ideals are being preserved by the "rock stars" of Bangladesh— was new knowledge for most of us attending. I was reminded of the wonderful resource for learning our international students are for Wabash, and how we benefit when they take the time to share their home culture with us.

But what made Taz’s talk even better was knowing that he is actually one of those Bangladeshi "rock stars" keeping the Baul traditions alive.

For the past several years, Taz has returned at various times to Bangladesh to play tabla during recording sessions with his group AJOB (which means, literally, "weird,"—and Taz will be glad to explain how they came up with that one!). As I write this, I’m listening to "Adorer Manush," an intriguing and tuneful cut from the group’s self-titled first CD, which was released in October of this year.

It’s a good listen and an eye- and ear-opening entre into modern Bangladeshi culture. And for those of us who know Taz and heard his talk about the Baul, it’s great to learn more about his professional work and to hear the threads of tradition woven into this innovative new music.

You can learn more about the group at their Banglamusic website.

Above right: Taz performs on tabla at this fall’s Wamidan concert.

Right: Taz taught an original percussion piece to Jake Feller, son of chemistry professor Scott Feller. and performed the piece with him this fall.