The Ghaashphoring choir have been the talk of the town for their perfect melodic synchronicity in their live performances. The group’s founder, Armeen Musa, and other members explained the mystery behind their harmony and the experience of their first international performance in India to Dhaka Tribune Showtime’s Al Faruque Ratul
How was Ghaashphoring formed?
Armeen: I have experience of being part of a choir, so when I moved to Bangladesh in December 2014 I wanted to have the same energy around me when I sang. I did not have any other noble goal to begin this. I held the first auditions for Ghaashphoring choir in January of 2015 and it just got bigger as we kept performing.
In our first round of auditions we had 10 people. After few people left, we had another 10 people in the second batch. There was a time when people were coming and going, after a while we were able to fix 10 people who will perform regularly. We do not plan to take any other audition for the next year or so.
How does the choir rehearse?
Armeen: One of the things that set apart Ghaashphoring is that, instead of any regular band, members have to give double the energy. Where other bands probably rehearse once a week, we have been having two rehearsals per week for the last four years.
We need those two days of dedication every week from all our members.Even if everything else is stalled around us, our rehearsals are held regularly. To be able to sing in a group is not something you can practice at home.
Furthermore, we have compartmentalized the singing and the managerial parts to Ghaashphoring. I do not let the singers play guitar or bass or any other things. They just sing. These songs have to be performed with a lot of attention. We sing anything from three layer harmony to nine layer harmony. It is just something you cannot practice at home. It is something you need to be present for.
Is Rushnaf Wadud still part of Ghaashphoring?
Armeen: Rushnaf does not perform with us anymore, but he is helping us to make an album, and helping with other managerial aspects.
Some of your members performed at “Wind of Change?” How was that?
Armeen: Many of us work with “Wind of Change”. In fact, on the first season of “Wind of Change”, the full Ghaashphoring sang backing vocals. We actually got the honour of singing with Ayub Bachchu. He performed “Shei Tumi” and our whole choir was singing behind him.
One of the things that we tried to do is create opportunities to branch out, outside of the choir. That is one of the main reasons why we have reached our current status.
What challenges do the choir members face in maintaining their commitment levels?
Tahmid: We do this through time management. We divide our time as per what we will be able to do in an entire day, while ensuring that we maintain our singing commitment. It is quite challenging for us all. So we have a schedule every week to rehearse at least two to three days. We have to juggle our professional life as well as our studies for our commitment.
I am trying to be an entrepreneur so I do not have any fixed time. Sometimes I have to hold this (Ghaashphoring) as a constant and address the other life as such. This is because Ghaashphoring means being together and singing together. If we are not together, then the rehearsal does not have any meaning for me.
Armeen: The rehearsal on Wednesday is fixed but the second rehearsal is not. Today is the day of one of those second rehearsals. We wanted to do a rehearsal during the day, when people have an energy that is not the same as during the evening. Sometimes two of us have office, and another has exam during a rehearsal. Therefore I would say synchronizing is the biggest challenge - synchronizing the schedule of 17 people! (laughs)
Sometimes it may happen that you have this last rehearsal before an important event, but some professional or personal issue is clashing with the timing. Through which conviction do you manage to attend, maybe after making a last-minute hustle?
Deepti: Since there are 17 of us, if I miss the rehearsal for which some incident occurs during the show, or some blunder happens, then it does not good look for us collectively. This is a commitment I made when I joined. I was told that I will have to give time. I joined knowing full well the commitment I made. Due to some personal problem if I make 16 other people blunder because of me it will not be fair.
Sadia: It is like a duty for us.
Armeen: This has never happened that someone missed a rehearsal before a show, unless it was like an extreme cause. We schedule well before a show is supposed to happen.
Sadia: My family knows that I will not be present among them during the time for a Ghaashphoring rehearsal. I tell them the rehearsals beforehand. My friends also know that Wednesday I am unavailable due to rehearsal. If by chance they ask if I would like to go out with them on a rehearsal day, I think automatically “today is Wednesday. Why are they knocking?” There is no other space. On Wednesdays I am with Ghaashphoring.
Scionara: Rehearsal time is our first priority. We do the scheduling in the beginning of the month because we have to match 14 to 17 people’s schedule together to set rehearsals. After fixing the time, we balance our professional and academic life or whatever other commitments we might have.
Tahmid: This is because we know, that we if do not rehearse together, the feeling we will have after a show will be very negative.
Scionara: We will miss the confidence and the synchronicity. It is not just about having harmony in the sound we make. We need to have a harmony among us.
The last performance of Ghaashphoring was in India, for a workshop by Berkelee College of Music. How was the experience?
Sadia: It was our first international performance. The concert was for the workshop for vocal training. After the workshop we performed in front of all the participants who were present. We performed in a group in which there were many singers from India.
There were 107 people who were the other participants. We were the only choir group who were present there. From Ghaashphoring there were four of us and the rest were from many other countries, such as India, Australia.
Tahmid: The workshop was vocal intensive. So we had training every day from 9am to 7pm. And they touched on many things from music theory to performance. They gave us a good idea about all these things - we even learned how to professionally deal with a music career. All in all it was four-day workshop and the concert was on the fifth day.
Armeen: The trainers of the workshop were Berkelee professors: “Women of the World”. They had a two-hour concert at the end of the workshop, in which they performed three songs with the workshop participants. One of the songs was a small acapella classical song, in which 25 were selected from auditions. Eight of us went from Ghaashphoring, of whom four performed.
Tahmid: Being able to perform with such experts of music was just an extraordinary feeling because I was sharing stage with people who could very well be my role model or idol. The entire experience was very new. We performed Western-classical songs which was also new for us.
Armeen: We even had body percussions, which were very fun!
Tahmid: Irrespective of the number of layers, or the arrangement, singing in such a large group which was synched to the dance choreography ... it was just an overwhelmingly positive feeling.