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‘I am a firm believer that the audience can cut through the BS’

  • Published at 01:10 pm September 22nd, 2019
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Photo: Courtesy

Interview with up-and-coming music producer Nabil Hossain

A metal guitarist turned music producer, Nabil Hossain was the founding member of the Dhaka based band Mirror Blaze. 

As a producer, his interest is in hiphop. Despite his rather nascent professional life as a producer, Nabil has worked on a number of different projects with established artists. Many of his works are already out in the market and some are due to release soon. 

Nabil spoke to Dhaka Tribune about his career as a producer and more. 

Tell us about your upcoming projects.

There’s a lot of stuff happening simultaneously. I produced Towfique Ahmed’s debut solo album, the songs of which are due to be released as singles. 

I also produced a song for Farooque Bhai Project, which is due to come out as a music video within a month at max. 

These are songs where I basically sold off the beats to the respective parties, the rights don’t belong to me anymore. 

Other than that, I have five completed tracks, the rights to which I own. These will all be released with music videos within the next 5-6 months. Artists that I worked with in these 5 songs include Nadia Dora, Black Zang, Faisal Roddy, Tashfee and Asir Arif. I am also working on an USAID documentary project, where I’m doing the score.

Take us back a little and talk about where you started as a producer and what led you here.

I started my musical journey with Mirror Blaze as a guitarist. That went well for a while but then I left for higher studies in Toronto. 

Living in Toronto for about four years changed not only my musical tastes but me as a person. The environment there was very conducive to experimentation and that’s exactly what I did. 

I used to hate hip-hop, used to look down upon it as an art form, as I am sure you know how many metalheads in Bangladesh still do. Suffice it to say that that has completely changed and hip hop and especially Bangla Hip-hop is my life right now. 

I have been extremely lucky that I have gotten to work with such talented and big name artists even though I only seriously started producing around a year and a half ago, so luck has had a huge part in me being able to take music up professionally. 

Sonically, what is the trend in contemporary Bangladeshi music production? Are they in tune with contemporary practices internationally?

Well, some are. I really don’t follow the absolute mainstream, videos that get 60/70 million views. So, I really am not aware of the sonic palette of the absolute mainstream. 

But I do quite religiously follow the producers in BD who have made it. This includes the obvious ones like Habib Wahid, Fuad Al Muqtadir, Arnob, Adit Rahman, Pritom Hasan and I also follow Minar quite a lot. 

If you follow these guys, you can quite easily tell that they are big because they have a unique sound. I am a firm believer that the audience can cut through the BS. It’s really difficult for me to say what the sonic palette of contemporary Bangladeshi music has to offer because as I just mentioned, the artists that I mentioned, they all have unique sounds and they are most definitely up to international standards. Are they in sync with contemporary practices internationally? Once again, some are.

Where do you fit in stylistically?

My main thing is bounce and swing, which is hip-hop. Like whatever I do, I try to keep the bounce, swing and groove and make that aspect the centerpiece of my compositions. 

But once you hear all my material, you will realize that I have catered to client’s tastes and hence the songs that I have thus produced, draws on many different influences. 

I also try to keep a balance of acoustic and electronic sounds. If you absolutely had to categorize me, I would like to be put in the pop genre as that is an umbrella term and covers a bunch of genres.

Songs are becoming less melodious. Can melody be hip again?

I understand the question but I think I also do not see the point of the question. 

Hip-hop and specially its subgenre, trap has been dominating the mainstream for quite some time now. It is the new rock and roll. So in that sense, the mainstream is more likely to use syncopated bouncy melody lines but that doesn’t mean these songs aren’t melodious, except for bubble gum pop, which I hate. 

But, when The Weeknd, Charlie Puth, Daft Punk, Ed Sheeran, John Legend, John Mayer, etc dominate the charts, you really can’t say that melody isn’t hip. 

As for why I don’t see the point of the question - trends in music are bound to change, especially in the mainstream, but if you broaden your horizon just a little bit you’ll find that now is the most exciting time in music in quite some time; I’m talking about the international market. 

Just look at all the sub-genres you have in music right now, that in and of itself should tell you that music as an art-form is truly thriving. It’s just that you have to look for it. I would urge you to follow the indie electronica scene, specially check out the YouTube channel Mr Suicide Sheep.

Who do you look up to as composer and producer?

I kind of go through phases where I just study one or two producers. Right now the two producers I’m trying to deconstruct are Timbaland and Bangladesh’s very own Pritom Hasan. 

I am trying to deconstruct Timbaland’s bounce, that swing that is omnipresent in all of his productions and at the same time I am trying to better understand sound design and Pritom’s sound design is out of this world. 

Other than these two, composers and producers I look up to include many obvious names such as AR Rahman, Arnob, Daft Punk, Massive Attack, Charlie Puth, Adit Rahman, Fuad al Muqtadir, Habib Wahid- there’s way too many to name here but these are the ones that are coming to mind at the moment. I have also closely studied a lot of bands, namely Radiohead, Incubus and Portishead.

What's ahead for you? Where you want to see yourself in 2020?

As a freelance music producer and beat-maker, it’s very hard to say what will happen in the future. I have been lucky and blessed to have been able to work with the artists that I have worked with, I hope that I will continue to work with such artists. 

However, since I don’t sing and rap, it gets very frustrating to have to wait for singers and rappers to complete a project. There’s a lot of logistical issues involved, so I have started working on electronic music where vocals are not the main attraction. 

I do have plans to produce as much as I possibly can but I won’t be selling off rights to songs or just beats anymore unless it makes sense financially. I am also looking to expand my network internationally and get into that market.

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