[On 16th-19th January, 2019, Homegrown is throwing a first-of-its-kind music festival in Mumbai designed to celebrate the city’s vast and diverse music culture. Dive deep into a wide variety of dynamic workshops, exhibitions, curated tours, panels, pop-ups, performances and parties that promise to be inclusive of all kinds of tastes and people.
There’s something for everyone, click here to find what’s perfect for you.]
India’s music space has gained momentum over the past ten years in a way that was probably hard to predict at the outset. Our neighbouring countries of Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan have similarly been evolving fast, with pioneering producers stepping up to take the helm and drive it decisively forward.
Where OML, Krunk and Bhavishyavani Foundation laid down solid foundations with their pop-up gigs, festivals like NH7 and Sunburn picked up, kickstarting the revolution on a much larger scale. A slew of labels, promoters and artist collectives have kept the momentum going strong since, with venues adapting fast and opening up to an array of sub-genres.
‘Cultural catalysts’ like Border Movement have been vital in binding the South Asian music movement together through their initiatives to help movers and shakers from the subcontinent collaborate, experiment and create quality underground music. Just as we’ve tirelessly documented India’s electronic music space, we move our sights to similar revolutions taking place in our surrounding nations, who are hot on our heels with their own adventures.
Bangladesh’s young musicians have been slowly working towards creating an imprint of their own in the South Asian music space, and while the genres of trance, dubstep, metal and house music enjoy a special popularity, there is a post-internet generation of overwhelmingly young producers (in their teens) who are treading into relatively more nuanced sub-genres.
There has been a long list of factors over the past two decades that have inhibited cultural exchange — from financial restrictions and a lack of music promoters and accessible venues, to western-style entertainment being frowned upon; creating a music market that is tough to navigate. The internet has changed the game in terms of distribution, though, so while many of these artists haven’t performed live, they’ve been paving their own, self-taught paths.
There are a couple of names we would be remiss if we didn’t mention, people who have been instrumental in the development of the Bangladeshi music scene; from the diaspora community, the late London-based producer State of Bengal has been a fierce proponent of underground electronic music since the 90’s, with tracks like Flight IC408 to Calcutta going on to become anthems.
Then there’s Dhaka Electronica Scene, a DIY project curated by Khan Mohammad Faisal, bringing together bedroom producers to kickstart a revolution through collaborative learning, which has spawned several other Bangladeshi artist collectives.
Border Movement’s ‘Sound Lab’ in 2013 was another landmark, with Rahul Giri (of Sulk Station), Gaurav Malaker (BLOT!) and Sasha Perera (Jahcoozi, Berlin) conducting a 4-day workshop with 12 participants exploring various topics including technology, limitations of performance and sound, as well as production workshops and lectures on club culture, marketing, labels and building a healthy and vibrant scene.
Here are the young artists who might just be the ones to help build it:
I. Albab Rana
Born in Dhaka, Albab started producing electronic music four years ago. “I don’t do live performances much, as it is not my thing, but I love creating and discovering new sounds,” he says.
Some of the major influences he cites include his own family, especially his mother, who is a passionate singer. “My brothers are guitarists but as they have grown they have slowly lost interest in it,” he shares. “I remember listening to electronic music in GTA Vice City, and that was my first-ever experience with electronic music.”
Citing some of his other influences as Eric Prydz, Deadmau5, Benny Benassi and HERO, Albab — who is currently staying in Singapore doing his National Service as a firefighter — is generally glued to his laptop, creating, whenever he’s off-duty. A fan of comics and gaming, he has recently changed his artist name to MESSUP.
Latest release: ‘Fool’s Game’ featuring a close friend of his called KADIN. On the mellow track with polyharmonic vocals, Albab Rana says, “The song is probably about understanding one another, but it can be anything the person is feeling while listening to it.”
II. I WNDR WHY
Ummid Ashraf aka I WNDR WHY is a 19-year-old independent electronic musician, and an amateur street photographer, based in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
“I started making music two years ago as a house music producer; as I started discovering more and more underground electronic music, though, I just could not do it anymore,” he says. “So I opened up another Soundcloud account at the beginning of 2016, named I WNDR WHY. Underground music gave me the freedom I wanted and craved.”
His Digital Audio Workstation includes FL Studio 12 and a Sennheiser HD-25-Sp-II; on his influences, he says, “My music has a dark, moody aesthetic to it, and I am influenced by artists such as Burial, Shlohmo and Clams Casino.”
Landmarks along the way: He was involved in a compilation project called Polychrome 1, which featured his track Drowning. You can check out the video here, made by who he says are ‘the nicest people’, from Glitch Studios. Also follow him on Soundcloud, Twitter, Youtube, Facebook here or here & Instagram here or here.
III. Dameer Khan
Dameer Khan is a 16-year-old electronic producer hailing from Dhaka who started producing recently, in 2016, after being greatly inspired by the works of Tom Misch and J Dilla.
“Music has always been around me, as my father has been a musician for most of his life,” Dameer shares. “He has been quite successful, with his band ‘Renaissance’, in the 80’s and 90’s in the Bangladesh music scene. It is because of him that I have such a deep understanding, and appreciation, of music and art.”
After making his first track ‘Wake’, he was surprised to see some amazing response pouring in from the underground electronic music community in Bangladesh, and there’s been no looking back since. “I’m making music whenever I can, listening to every song I hear closely for any possible samples, analyzing each frequency, reverse-engineering each synthesizer,” he shares fondly.
Other influences include Joe Pass, Kaytranada, Loyle Carner, Flying Lotus and ‘King’ Kendrick. “Outside of music, I have to mention my sixth-grade English teacher, Mahreen Miss,” Dameer says. “So if you’re reading this — thank you for teaching me how to think for myself, among other things, like grammar and punctuation. I am also greatly influenced by the music scene in Dhaka, and have learnt a lot from my ‘boro bhaiyas’, as we would say over here. I am a committed football fan as well, and I support Manchester United, so I know a thing or two about rough times, which helps me stay positive in times of disappointment.”
“I want to give you my most sincere thanks for recognizing me with this article; I really appreciate what you do for people just like me,” he says earnestly. “I urge the whole world to look into the Dhaka music scene a bit further, because we have a myriad of talent that could rule the industry in the near future.”
Latest release: Ureshii, which means ‘happy’ in Japanese. “I came up with that particular name, because I thought it sounded particularly oriental,” the young producer shares. “I literally just typed in ‘happy translation in Japanese’ into Google. I have been inspired by the likes of Mura Masa and Marshmello for this song, and it features some really positive chord progressions, along with twinkly Japanese samples that make me smile every time I hear them.”
Landmarks along the way: Ureshii was recently reposted by the popular Soundcloud channel AnimeVibe, a milestone that means a lot to the producer. The song now has almost 3000 views. “It was kind of a wake up call for me, and made me realise that I was meant to make music for the rest of my life,” he reflects. “I have only pure gratitude and respect towards the people who have helped me on my journey so far. In our culture of constant educational pressure and social expectations, one needs the proper support to pursue their passion. I have received more help than I ever could have imagined from my community; they have shown me that there is a life outside of my GPA, that there are other ways to be successful, and be satisfied.”
IV. Fahad Zaman
Working as an editor and animator of videos by day, Fahad Zaman moonlights as an electronic music producer, with a special love for hip hop and glitch.
“When I was around 15, I developed a knack for experimenting with different softwares,” Fahad recalls. “I used to install whatever I could get my hands on, despite not even knowing how to use it. That led me to my first Digital Audio Workstation: Fruity Loops Studio. Without any knowledge of music — other than what I got from two failed attempts at drumming — I started creating patterns on the software’s sequencer. I figured that making patterns, and variations of those patterns, generated sounds, and by combining them to create a sequence of patterns, I made my first song!”
He made his friends listen to it and, egged on by how impressed they were, he took more time to teach himself how to ‘actually’ make a song, and started experimenting and practising more seriously.
“My biggest inspiration would be Kanye West — back when he used to produce, and not rap,” Fahad says. “His style of sampling soul music and fusing it with versatile beats, sounded like magic to me. Soon, I started digging for other samplers, and found Pretty Lights, Gramatik, Bonobo and DJ Shadow.”
Latest release: A bootleg remix of Radiohead’s ‘Present Tense’. “Thom Yorke’s voice and Greenwood’s guitar, laced with extra heavy beats and bass to create a sound that could be described as trip hop fused with glitch and ambient elements. I believe it’s my interpretation of the words to the original song, through my sounds.”
Landmarks along the way: Fahad was selected for a workshop held by Wild City, Border Movement, and the Goethe-Institut Bangladesh, through which he had the opportunity to meet, learn and jam with amazing local and international artists. “I got to be a part of training sessions conducted by RHL (_RHL / Sulk Station), Gaurav Malaker (BLOT!) and Sasha Perera (Perera Elsewhere),” the producer says. “The week-long workshop guided me towards the sound that defines me.”
Popeye started off as vocalist of a garage band when he was in school, and went on, a few years later, to form a band which performed at underground gigs and released a few albums, over the course of the next five years. After a few issues with the line-up — something that he notes is ‘the usual’ for most rock bands these days —he decided to go solo in 2009, and released his first debut solo album titled ‘Amar Shorgo’ the following year.
Currently based out of Ohio, United States, the 30-year-old producer explains, “I aim to create organic music in an age where technology has been most dominating, and to try making songs that trigger one’s underlying sentiments.” He cites major influences, “Jim Morrison, (who taught me the difference between music with lyric, and music with poetry), Pink Floyd, Thom Yorke (Radiohead), and Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree/Blackfield) are some names that have had a big influence on me, as an artist. Apart from the music space, I must mention Rabindranath Tagore and Friedrich Nietzsche.”
Latest release: Bhalobasha Baki. “My last release was quite some time back; it is really a melodious, feel-good sort of love song; simple, and yet, I am overwhelmed by the response so far. I usually avoid composing love songs, but this one I admit, is a piece I will be forever proud of.”
Landmarks along the way: “Two full-length feature albums, and six single releases, with three more on the way. But more than anything, the love of my fan following is what’s been keeping me going; mind you, I was never that vividly covered by mass media nor have I appeared live in five years. But despite everything, people seem to recognize my work and that’s my million dollar-achievement, I reckon. In an era where popularity is driven by number of plays in radio, television, for you to interview me could only mean that as a musician, whatever I am doing, I am doing it right.”
House music duo Bedheadz — consisting Kadin Ehsan Imdad and Zayan Khan — started making music around 2012, finding common ground in EDM, dance and house music.
A quick search on Google, ‘How to make electronic music’, kickstarted the adventure, with some of their greatest influences being David Guetta, Benny Benassi, MK, Duke Dumont, Tiësto and Skrillex.
Latest release: “We haven’t put anything out under Bedheadz in a while, but we have been working on our own individual music. However, we do have a few songs we’re working on with some of our good friends. So I suppose our last release, ‘Circles’, drew a lot of attention to us as we were the first Bangladeshi duo to have ever been on MrDeepSense. The song was inspired by a lot of club music that was playing at the time, like ‘How Deep Is Your Love’.
“The story describes a guy who is fed up with his relationship, but at the same time, feels empty as he is slowly dragged out of the shell of love that he was enclosed in for so long. He feels as if he is going nowhere with his partner, hence he is running in circles. It’s a very sad song lyrically, made uplifting with its pop elements, and I feel that’s what I like most about the song. You can’t understand it unless you really analyse the lyrics.”
Landmarks along the way:
“In March, we will be opening for American DJ and record producer Diplo in Bangladesh — fingers crossed! We also have a music video we are filming for a new song of ours, that will hopefully turn out well. These are just the biggest aspects of what we have planned, going into the new year.”
Farooque Bhai, the brains behind Farooque Bhai Project, describes himself as a man who is ‘slightly outspoken, slightly erratic and often politically incorrect’.
“Musically, I am genre fluid — I try to find little gaps within sub-genres in Bangladesh, and try to fill them in my own way,” he says. “Starting off initially as a vocalist, I have now picked up enough Major Chords to call myself a singer-songwriter; my slightly delusional side would also call me a producer, of sorts.”
He shares that his father was a huge Bob Marley fan, and his record player had an input for a microphone. Farooque’s journey in music started off with innocent Buffalo Soldier covers, he did not ‘play frontman for any bands in school’ (“Early puberty was not nice to me.”), and he wasn’t allowed me to jam with the other kids either; “The music culture is usually (and incorrectly) portrayed as a gateway into drug culture in Bangladesh. I therefore got my start in first year of University when I went to study abroad in Canada, and I never looked back.”
Farooque pinpoints his influences: his father’s reggae vinyls, classical Indian and Rabindranath Tagore songs he learnt as a child (“Which I hated with a passion then, as it took away from my time to play with other kids on weekends”). His high school days and early university were all about thrash metal, but as time progressed, he fell in love with Radiohead and later, indie acts such as Andrew Bird and Bon Iver. “Currently, I am really into Jazz, Hip-hop and World music, and have been listening to lots of Kendrick Lamar, Robert Glasper, Anderson.Paak and early-90s rap,” he says. “For the World scene, I have really been exploring into North/North-West African musicians such as Tinariwen, Fela Kuti and Salif Keita. I have also been getting into a lot of Brazilian bossa-nova, and really falling in love with artists such as Jorge Ben Jor, Antonio Carlos Jobin and Asturid Gilberto.”
Outside of the music space, he remarks that he is influenced by people’s misinterpretation of him (“I love to write from other’s perspective of hate for myself.”), as well as sadness, anger and insecurity.
Latest release: “My most latest release is a collaboration with a couple of other budding artists from the Bangla scene (Mishaal Masud Sinha and Saf1). The track is called ‘Boro Bhai’, which translates to ‘big brother’. Genre-wise, I would say it falls under the hip hop category, and is heavily influenced by beatmakers such as J Dilla and Q-Tip. The sample is from an ‘Andholan’ in a Bengali movie, and we created the track around the sample.”
Landmarks along the way: “I taught myself how to play the guitars at a relatively late age of 24. It was my first instrument after being a vocalist for so long. I also play for an online project alongside my childhood heroes (from the underground rock scene in Bangladesh), called ‘The Attempted Band’. I had grown up listening to them, when they were previously a part of The Watson Brothers.
“I have a day job as a Software Engineer within the Business Intelligence realm, and I often get mistaken as Sri Lankan (for reasons unknown) in various places, including at the Bangladeshi Airport.”
VIII. Tabeen Siddiki
Tabeen Siddiki enjoys various kinds of music; “I’m not very picky about the genre,” the musician says. “I listen to stuff from eastern classical music (the likes of Ustad Ali Akbar Khan) to metal giants like Iron Maiden, Pantera and Megadeth. I love ambient music as well as post-rock and blues.”
Tabeen picked up the guitar when he was 16, when he decided he loved listening to music so much, that he wanted to make some. Eight year later, today, he plays the guitar in an underground band groove metal named Audoibik and confesses he has plans to stay in music for the long haul.
“My love for metal truly began with Pantera,” the guitarist says. “I’m a diehard Dimebag Darrell fan, and I suppose it’s because of him that I do groove metal. Aside from that, I dabble with post-rock and blues. My favourite guitarists from the blues genre would be Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan. In post-rock, I follow God is an Astronaut.
Outside the music space, he mentions other inspirations as the writers Roald Dahl and Edgar Allen Poe. “A strange combination, but I love the former’s sense of humour, and the latter’s style of writing. When I write lyrics and think of leading my life as a musician, I look to these two, and their biographies, as a sort of inspiration. Both lived quite miserable lives, but they created great art.
“When, aside from the guitarists and bands I mentioned, I look to these two.
Latest release: Audoibik’s latest release is a track called ‘Puppet Show’. It came out in a mixed album named Shongshodhon in Sep 7, 2016. The song basically defines a scary show. The people are riveted to their seats mesmerized and disgusted by the works of the puppet master on stage. It’s a symbolism for man’s obsession with something they hate but cannot give up.
Landmarks along the way: “We’ve done a bunch of shows in the underground scene, and taken part in a few band competitions as well. Currently, one of our landmarks has been making a mark outside of Mymensingh, Dhaka, so that the crowd literally finds Audoibik’s name synonymously with Bangladeshi metal. We hope to perform bigger tracks along the way, and release another single by March, 2017. Keep an eye on our Facebook and Youtube!”