Raef Al Hasan Rafa a songwriter, sound engineer and music producer, has been gaining fame in the industry every passing year. Currently he plays with Cryptic Fate. Rafa gave an interview to Dhaka Tribune Showtime’s Al Faruque Ratul, about the challenges Bangladeshi musicians face in the industry
What is the story behind the name of your band, Avoidrafa?
Avoidrafa was formed in the time of “RockNation: The Revolution of Rock.” Aurthohin could not perform and I was supposed to fill in the void, as people already bought the tickets. So “Bassbaba” Sumon bhai suggested that I do a solo gig with one or two Aurthohin songs and some of my own, to at least appease the crowd. I agreed.
Initially they put the name Rafa and friends for my act. So I called them back and asked them to put in Avoidrafa. I did not want something as cliché as “and friends.” “RockNation” was a big success. Since I was doing a lot of work with my own name, such as jingles and telefilm songs, I just decided to “converge”everything under one name Avoidrafa. So, the things I have done before can be found in the same YouTube channel. It was easier to categorize after that.
I released an album, which was called “Bhaar” from Avoidrafa. It was a double disk album and I worked really hard for it. It did sound good, and when I listen to it I feel good. Yet the album didn’t sell much. It was like a loss of Tk70,000. Yet, I am still happy, as some of the songs were previously famous. So it worked for me. People know that the album was out.
Since when have you been involved with music? Have you had any formal training?
I never had formal music schooling. My parents were super-strict and did not want me to go into music. My older brother, Saadi Muktafi, is a very good guitarist and a teacher. He tried teaching me guitar when I was a child since he plays himself, but I really had no interest.
Then I got typhoid and I suffered for almost one year. I think I grew up musically within that year. After recovering, music is all I do. The most interesting fact is that I never learned anything. I got sick and I took a break from everything else. I came out a musician. People who are near me will attest to it. Maybe there is a correlation between me getting sick and then becoming a musician.
Since that break, I know how to play most things. My brother taught me the guitar. But other instruments such as drums or key-board, I did not learn from anyone or anywhere. I just know somehow that I can play it, so it can be God-gifted, as people like to claim. For those who do not believe in God, somehow I have this gift (…laughing). I really don’t know how this worked out.
I just know that I can create music and play the instruments that I have been playing. My love for music keeps growing every day.
What challenges do artistes go through in the Bangladeshi music industry?
It is very challenging to just do music. Even now I suffer while getting a credit card. When I do concerts, I cannot really guarantee where the money comes from. To the bank it appears vague, which is wrong. We are supposed to be entitled, right. After you are done with your graduation you should be able to decide to be a musician. If you choose to be musician, somebody has to support you in whatever you do. So if a Rickshaw has a signboard on it, with a digitally identifiable number, then we why don’t musicians have that. That is my question to the culture ministry and everybody out there. Over the years I have worked a lot, and received a lot of gigs. I was not able to finish a lot of them, because I did not have the paper works for it.
The biggest struggle is financial. If you want to be a professional musician, then at one point, it becomes such that it is “money over work.” In order to compose something on drums the way my percussion idols do, I will need to get a new drum set, which is priced at Tk11 lakhs. Where am I going to get that? So I have to make the money, to buy my instrument and also support myself.
So at that point, you do whatever work you get. Thus you see many artists walking this path, and then their creativity gets sucked out. If I were to give an example, then I will talk about myself first. I did so much work, just because those were paid gigs. I prioritized them over anything else. I also used my creativity in them. But I knew it was like “money over work.” I am aware but, most people are not.
So the biggest problems musicians face are financial. Then you have to be very strong. You must keep your music spirit alive. This goes for every profession but in music this challenge is harder.You might get opportunities or bands will offer to take you. But you need to be focused.
Which musicians inspire you to write music?
Every kind of music inspires me as I just love music. If the music is good then I get inspired.
First, I used to be a metal-head. The kind of crazy metal-head who would say that pop can go to hell. But since then I have done a lot of pop music. Genres change with age and everything. I listened to new hip-hop for a time. For now, my biggest inspiration in music is David Bowie and Pink Floyd. Dream Theatre is also super inspirational.
While writing Bangla lyrics I get super inspired by “Bassbaba” Sumon bhai. I worked with him for thirteen years. I know that this guy knows how to write. Arnob’s lyrics are also awesome. I also love Fuad Bhai’s lyrics. He is a huge inspiration for me. He changed the way I perceive music.
What future work do you have, that your fans can look forward to?
Currently I have four of my own albums complete, which are all in English. I will release them in the upcoming six to seven months. These are English projects that I have been doing for a long time, with the hope that they will be something big internationally. I will definitely release an Avoidrafa album in the beginning of next year. Cryptic Fate’s album “Noy Maash” will be released soon, as we are recording the last song. Definitely, I will do more Avoidrafa albums. These are things people can look forward to.