Ten Producers & Artists From Bangladesh To Watch Out For
Siaminium – Image Courtesy of Rishova Hayat
The last few years in Bangladesh have seen rapid economic success; the cost of which seems to drown under the voices of the people and the many problems on the ground; however artists continue to take a stance and speak through the language of music.
We have also seen the local underground music space go through a major overhaul, much of a renaissance if you will. This happens to be the most critical movement when it comes towards democratising creativity from the classist definition of ‘talent’. Both exposure and tools to make music have reached a state where young artists can float their creative expression from their laptops. The most critical evolution probably to note, is the slow declassification of genres and move away from ‘fusion’ sounding music. The genre-wars have been a segregating tool in our industry since the battle between classical vs popular music started; whereas soundscaping today stands out with the intersecting of genres or free flows of ideas.
Certain acts have been at the forefront of this change, experimenting with audio-design, genre-gentrification, visual narratives, and synergising the sounds of the past with the future. Electronic music is now slowly making its way into almost every form of music being produced. It’s a media in itself, not just bound within the scope of an overarching genre. The last decade saw the rise of how well many artists could emulate different genres in electronic music from around the world. This era has just started to embrace artists who are bold and experimental, pushing the limits of lyrical expression and localising sounds. In this article, we look at 10 acts who are – starting revolutions from their beds, and some who are already on the highway…
deepsteel operates in the domain of noise, and stitches seemingly random artefacts into an audible spectrograph. For the local tech nerds, this is a treat, with filters, LFO bursts and an expansive set of effect racks used to shape noises into highly meaningful compositions. However, the much earlier discography of the artist doesn’t resonate with this approach. Bridging 8-bit analog with a finely meandering saxophone, deepsteel plays on the low-key nostalgia feel in ‘Mario needs a break’. The act’s rhythmic reggae influences, coupled with complex chord structures which are constantly nudged by noise signals, shine into a little wordplay with ‘mousetafarry’. The artiste may garner a specific following and may not be to everyone’s taste, but for those who will, these tracks are a treat.
Breaking down any (and every) aspect of social struggles, poet and frontman Arup Rahee makes no exception to this rule. The band touches on a spectrum of subjects: justice, freedom, feminism; going as far as relevant slurring and field recordings. ‘Holi’ lands as an exemplary track of the band. With Leela, there’s little left to the imagination, except questioning yourself about the fairness of cultural and social dynamics. But that’s the metal-jaari side, a moniker that the band chooses as a vehicle to voice out against the system, using heavy riffs and an almost monotonic scream of angst. The band also takes inspiration from religious and spiritual scriptures, Leela makes it clear through an alternative set with instruments such as the dotara and dhol used in ‘Morar Deshe Bhalo Laage Na (Don’t like it in this damn country)’, or sometimes a vocal and lyric-based jibonmukhi (life-oriented) approach blended with a 4/4 rock song that is depicted in ‘Nayok (Hero)’. Yes, everything comes at face-value with Leela. And then, there’s the band’s stage act; but that’s a story for another day.
In a community that is heavily divided by the war of genres, EIDA stood out with ‘Nightdriver’ from their full-length album ‘Pop Songs for No One’, presented a new take on pop music for local listeners. As the notion of nostalgia hit the scene hard, the group bridged pop-rock strands with synthwaves, or in other words, delivered a straight-up 80s pop song. The band has more tricks up their sleeve with a new age alternative rock flavour that seamlessly blends with their sound. What EIDA did is a follow through of fellow artists like Attic, Level Five, Pretty Never Grew, Conclusion, et al, introducing an era of indie-rock with a production value that crosses over the genre-curtains, bridging closer ties with future electro-rock-pop sounds to float. EIDA chose to exclusively take a step to scribe their lyrics in English, hovering around concepts of personal emotions and relationships. While the language choice is debated, very few acts have aimed at a market beyond Bangladesh, and locals will be proud if these sound waves were to travel abroad.
When discussing Bangladesh’s electronic music circuit, you can stereotype output from Dhaka or Chittagong. For urban-dwellers, it is hard to contemplate the democratic freedom that has come along for young producers – you could make a top-charter track with an everyday laptop sitting at home. This is a luxury often taken for granted, yet it can be marked as one of the most critical revolutions in the history of creative expression. Hailing from Dinajpur, C3ll Project breaks the notion that a simple setup equates to a big sound – through musical expression and artistic quality. With minimal tools at hand and a fire within, he stands as a testament to the notion that talent can come from anywhere. Sadman Sakib, who is the powerhouse behind C3ll Project, systematically juggles jobs producing, performing and remixing tracks. He even creates the lofi visuals and artwork that accompany his tracks. ‘Crave’ and ‘Suffer’ stand out as well-articulated audio spectrums that could easily work as earworms for those who crave such a sound. ‘Like a diamond’ is the last original release which is heavily based on sampling, a different experimental region that slowly expands C3ll Project’s view of production.
Heading back to the capital, DHAKAminimal or minimal animal is a magic box of well-crafted beats and percussive structures. Sometimes a dampened kick accompanies the flow in tracks like ‘Tarito’. The producer’s rhythms emulate the feel of a tweaked TR-808 drum machine in ‘Untitled22’, creating a very relatable yet experimental feel. The latest minimal animal release delves into a plethora of minimal techno, an approach to designing sounds that the artist has kept consistent across the releases over the years. The latest release ‘Warm Up’ solidifies that space and delivers the artist’s signature sound with steady basslines and a sweeping take on the drum fills throughout the track.
While we are yet to have more prominent female electronic producers, there seems to be increasing representation in the singer-songwriter space. Let’s take the entrance of Naoha’s music into the scene. Her sound takes us back, layering vocal harmonies with an acoustic guitar, beautifully painting her emotions. The words penned in ‘Kaalo (Black)’ serve as a gateway to the artist’s mind – presenting an elusive concept in simple terms, while taking the classic yet effective approach to songwriting and producing.
A.R.A. X taraga
Local freestyle rappers, beatboxers and hip-hop producers seem to have the spirit which existed in the 90s amongst our rock acts. If the past is an indication, hip-hop’s slowly gaining momentum is arguably making its way to become a major music style embraced by the country. And rightfully so – like the pioneer Tawfique or Jalali Set, Nizam Rabby talks about the gritty realism that lies in the deeper lanes of Dhaka. While Nizam is not a new act on the block, he is on the verge of becoming a major name in the scene. Nizam is bringing his A-game to the community, alongside frequent collaborators including Shift Haq, Bigg Z, A.13.D. The track ‘Savages’ with these artists is a manifestation of suppressed emotions where Nizam Rabby delivers a solid statement with the right flow and pacing, standing out with the only Bengali scripted segment.
We end the list heading to a more organic side of the musical spectrum, handing the accolade to Chitropot for presenting a unique blend of acoustic arts. The 6-piece group has been active in the university circuit for a few years now, but came into the limelight with the release of their single ‘Jaabo Megher Deshe (Will go to the world of clouds)’. The masterful bows of the Esraj and the muffled lead over the acoustic sets the tone of the track. As the baritone voice with aptly penned words cut through the mix, it brings about a fresh spin on the old wheel, much like the earlier work of Shironaamhin or Joler Gaan. With layers of harmonies on the voices, the track solidifies the sonic positioning of Chitopot and has helped the audience re-imagine the power and possibilities in the acoustic territory.
written by Nafis
(The author is not connected to any artist/group, but is an active promoter, producer and artist at BLKBX, and a keen observer of new music and trends. Special thanks to Maliha, Abrar and Nahiyan for research support.)