Azad Rahaman was born on 1st January 1944 in Bardhaman , India. His father was late Khalilur Rahman and mother late Ashrafa Khatun. He was the first-born among eight siblings. Having been raised in a culturally endowed environment, Rahaman’s musical talents flourished at a very early age. He often used to accompany his father, himself a music devotee, to different musical shows around the region. He would take part in Jatras (Bengali theatre) as 'bibek' (the personification of conscience), performed Leto (a kind of folk song), Shatya Pir (songs blending Islamic and local religious ideas), and Sreekrishna Kirtan (a musical form of narrating a religious tale). He also play the Dhol (a double-sided indigenous drum) during Muharram (Muslim ceremony), Saraswati and Durga Pujas (ceremonial worship) as well as other religious festivals throughout the year. As a child, he acted, danced and sang on occasions like 'Puja' or 'Muharram. He was always more mature than the other children of his age.
Azad Rahaman started learning music at the Sangeet Sangsad in Bardhaman from Sree Gopeshwar Bandyopadhyay, the court musician of the Maharaja of Bardhaman, who was a musicologist belonging to the Bishnupur gharana. He grew up in a peaceful environment before sectarian violence shattered social harmony. After finishing high school in Bardhaman , he joined Rabindra Bharati University to study Indian Classical Music. He stayed at the 'Jorashako Thakurbaari' as a student during his university life. He was awarded a gold medal for his outstanding academic performance and achieved his Honour’s degree in Hindustani Classical Music. Along with classical music, he received training in folk songs, kirtan, dhrupad, toppa, thumri, Tagore songs as well as songs of Kazi Nazrul Islam, Atul Prasad, Dwijendralal. Ray and Rajani Kanta Sen. He was priviledged to be trained under Tarapada Chakraborty (Kheyal), Tansen Pandey (Dhrupod, Dhamar), Ramesh Chandra Bandyopadhyay (Dhrupod, Dhamar, Toppa, Bhajan), Amiya Ranjan Bandyopadhyay (Kheyal), Maya Sen (Tagor Songs), Chitta Roy (Nazrul, Folk), Panchanan Bhattacharya (Kirtan), Paresh Mazumder (Kirtan, Tabla), Birendra Kishor Roy Chowdhuri (Instrumental Music), Sattar Ali Khan (Tabla, Pakhowaj), Nepal Ardhyo (Kheyal, Thumri), Krishnapada Dash (Semi-classical), Jatish Chandra Pal (Pakhowaj), Shib Prasad Bhattacharya (Tabla), Bindu babu (Dance), Guye Muchi (Bangla Dhol), Stanley Gomes (Piano) and others.
Azad Rahaman started his career as the Principal of Gopeshwar Sangeet College in Bardhaman. His first cinema as a composer and music director was ‘Miss Priyangbada’ (jointly with Subir Sen) 1967 in Calcutta (now Kolkata). Renowned singers Manabendra Mukhopadhyay, Arati Mukherjee and Pratima Bandopadhyay rendered the songs composed by him.
During the Hindu-Muslim communal riot in 1964, Azad Rahaman had to flee his birthplace and moved to Dacca (the capital of East Pakistan). He joined Radio Pakistan as a music composer, director and producer in the mid-1960s. Meanwhile the political situation heated up in Pakistan. Along with the other cultural activists, Azad Rahaman started to work in support of the freedom fighters. Rahaman composed two patriotic songs in 1970— ‘Jonmo Amar Dhonno Holo Mago’ and ‘Puber oi Akashe Shurjo Utheche Aloke Alokmoy - Joy Joy Joy Joy Bangla’, penned by Late Nayeem Gauhar, to inspire the freedom fighters during the Liberation War in 1971.
After Bangladesh attained independence in 1971, Azad Rahaman became involved in the film industry as a music director. His first movie in for which he composed songs and the background score was Agantuk (1969). Later he worked on other movies like Masud Rana, Badi Theke Begum, Ananta Prem, Jadur Bashi, Dumurer Phul, Amar Shongshar, Mayar Badhon, Priyotoma, The Father, Uttor Falguni, Rater Por Din and many more.
Many famous songs including Bondi Pakhir Moto Monta Kede More, Monero Ronge Rangabo, O Chokhe Chokh Poreche Jokhoni, Chira Balo Pitha Balo Bhater Shoman Noy, Chanchal Du Nayone Bolona Ki Khujcho, O Noyon Pakhire, Du Chokhe Kajol Ar Akbo Na, Shongram Shongram Cholbei, Bhalobashar Mullo Koto and others were composed by this highly-talented musician. Azad Rahaman also emerged as playback singer lending his voice for such popular songs as Koro Mon Bhokti Mayer, Bhalobashar Mullo Koto, Loke Amay Koy Gunahgar, Dora Kata Dag Dekhe Bagh Chena Jay that made him popular as a singer as well.
Bangladesh film industry’s first film based on female reproduction and population planning, titled ‘Gopon Kotha’ was directed by Azad Rahaman. Sohel Rana, Kabori Sarwar were the protagonists of the film.
Azad Rahaman was the Secretary of Bangladesh Federation of Film Societies and Shuveccha Film Society for several years. Besides he was the Chairman of the University Music Syllabus Committee (1984-1990), Honourable Judge for National Music Competitions, Member for National Cultural Advisory Board (1970-1990), and Member of Film Censor Board.
Besides his musical talents, Azad Rahaman was also quite well known for his administrative capability. He was appointed the first Executive Director of the (now defunct) National Academy of Performing Arts, served as a Principal of the Government Music College, and also as the Director General of Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy for two terms. At the Shilpakala Academy, he established a cultural troupe for representing Bangladesh abroad through music, dance and drama. He led a number of cultural delegations to various countries. He retired from Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy in the year 2000.
Azad Rahaman has represented Bangladesh in western countries demonstrating his talent on the piano. His creation ‘Raaga on Piano’ was appreciated amongst the world music enthusiasts. As a representative of Bangladesh, Azad Rahaman has toured many countries around the world, including the United States, Japan, Kuwait, Pakistan, India, Singapore, Hong Kong, Russia, Germany, Australia, Italy, Bahrain, and Myanmar.
Azad Rahaman received the National Film Award in 1977 & 1993. He has also received several other awards, including Purbani Film Award (1975), Chitrali Film Award (1975), Zahir Raihan Film Award (1975), Bangladesh Film Journalists Association Award (1978), Desh Film Award (1978), Best Composer -National Conductor of Orchestra Award (1980), Radio Bangladesh Staff Artist Award (1982) , Bangladesh Film Producers' Association Award (1996), Nawab Salimullah Memorial Award (2008), Agrani Bank Award for a children's book 'Macher Goppo', and few others.
Until his death on 16 May 2020, he was the Founder Chairman of Sangskriti Kendra – Centre for Education, Creative & Performing Arts. He was associated with music departments of several public universities in Bangladesh and also taught at the Stamford University, Dhaka. Maestro Azad Rahaman was a pioneer in popularising Hindustani Classical Music in the Bangla language, referred to as ‘Bangla Kheyal’ and published several books and long-playing record of his composed Bangla bandishes (Kheyal Bilombit Ektal, & Trital, Toppa, Thumri, etc).
Azad Rahaman was married to singer Selina Azad and the couple has three daughters Rumana Azad, Rozana Azad and Nafisa Azad.