Tuneless Bangladeshi social media star grilled by police

DHAKA (AFP) – An out-of-tune Bangladeshi singer with a huge internet following was hauled in by police at dawn and told to cease his painful renditions of classical songs, sparking a furore on social media.

“Hero” Alom, as he styles himself, has amassed nearly two million Facebook followers and almost 1.5 million on YouTube with his unique crooning style and arresting, raunchy videos.

One of his numbers, “Arabian Song”, in which he appears in traditional Arab clothing on a sand dune with camels superimposed in the background, has garnered 17 million views.

But he has also drawn critics’ scorn, particularly for versions of classic songs of two beloved national treasures – Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore and Bangladesh’s national poet Kazi Nazrul Islam.

On Wednesday Alom told AFP that he was “mentally tortured” last week by police who told him to stop performing classical songs, that he was too ugly to be a singer, and to sign an “apology” bond.

“The police picked me up at 6am and kept me there for eight hours. They asked me why I sing Rabindra and Nazrul songs,” he said.

Dhaka’s chief detective Harun ur Rashid told reporters that Alom had apologised for singing the cherished songs and for wearing police uniforms without permission in his videos.

“We received many complaints against him,” Harun said.

“(He) totally changed the (traditional) style (of singing)… He assured us that he won’t repeat this,” Harun added.

Farook Hossain, deputy police commissioner of Dhaka, rejected claims by Alom, 37, that he had also been pressed to change his name.

“He is making these comments just to go viral in social media,” he told AFP.

Following his ordeal, Alom released a new video depicting himself behind bars in a prison outfit, warbling mournfully that he is about to be hanged.