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In the pocket

  • Published at 05:49 pm June 8th, 2017
In the pocket
The word jazz had almost no significance in the context of Bangladesh and its music scene, even a few years back. Now it is strongly associated with the name Imran Ahmed, who is a very young guitarist with the credentials of a yearlong diploma from Swarnabhumi Music academy, India, to back this image of his. It is true though, that his unique sound is versatile and bold enough to get the attention of most music enthusiasts. With his new album coming up shortly, I thought of dropping by in order to see for myself what all the hype was about.

Every musician goes through a very confusing and versatile journey/process (jumping between genres), as he/she finds the most suited or preferred sound. Give us insight into how you happened to stumble upon jazz.

Yes, particularly in the case of most self-taught or non-traditional music practitioner, there is such a phase involved and is indeed quite versatile. As beginners, every other genre is overwhelming and so easy to get caught up with until it gets to a point where you can anticipate the music and strive for something more. That’s when you explore and acknowledge the fact we grow as musicians. And it’s a never-ending process/journey. In my case, it’s more or less the same story. I was overwhelmed by jazz music when I first listened to it, as it was so clear that there’s a tremendous amount of musicianship involved. So I consciously surrounded myself with that music. And I’m exploring every day.

As one of the very first, not to mention the youngest, musicians with intentions of promoting/indulging in jazz, what kind of advantages or disadvantages did you have, as there was no previously built platform for you guys?

The biggest disadvantage is that there are not enough musicians to run as a regular scene. And yes there was no platform built for us, but as we started performing and putting the music out there on the web, the response was really good and people were really appreciative and accepting. Although the crowd is smaller in number as of now compared to many established mainstream acts of our country, it has never been an issue. We love playing the music for our audience, which is growing on a regular basis.

It is true that the genre of choice for you happens to have almost no competitors or artists to be challenging your expertise/niche. Do you look at this phenomenon as a good or bad one? Do you feel that it might contribute tolimitations in your growth as an artist?

Haha. Well, if such a phenomenon exists, then it’s obviously a bad one. At this point it won’t be a competition rather we could all work together to expand the scene as there’s already a decent audience waiting for acts to play music they don’t often get to experience. I don’t think it brings any sort of limitations into my growth as a musician. But if there were more musicians practicing music that requires focus, hard work (a hell lot of it), we would have quite an established/Internationally presentable scene already. I’m hopeful this situation will change. We’re still young as a nation.

What do you have to say about musicians who claim that the process of getting a formal "education" is redundant after a certain point?

Well, to each its own, and it’s a subjective thing. As a musician, I don’t have a take on that. I don’t think anything is redundant if you’re enjoying what you do. It’s always an experience worth going through. Nobody should be forced in and out of it.

How do you feel about guitarists who are skilfully more advanced and adaptable, but lack any form of education in the line of music?

Players who are skilfully advanced and adaptable are already having a great time learning stuff. Music education would be great for them if they were interested in learning all they know in theory and be able to properly present their ideas in a professional music scenario. And there are plenty of instructions available on the web to get started with learning about harmony, rhythm and theories ingeneral.

To what extent do you think your audience and their wants/reaction affect the sound that you are consciously producing?

The audience loves it whenever we put in tiny details in the music and play around within a context they recognise. And it’s a great experience to always be on the page with them and feeling that relief together when the music dissolves and floats again. We automatically play better when the audience is attentive and responsive to musical details, so it affects the music in a huge way.

Some might say that this conscious effort to make music which is as complex, ends up making it less soulful and more of a showdown of skill. To what extent do you agree?

Sometimes it does make the music less soulful and in fact less accessible for ears that aren’t used to hearing such music. Anything that has effort behind it will be a little difficult for any “noob” to cope up with. But there will always be a group of people who will understand the effort and value that accordingly.

What advice would you give to guitarists/musicians in our country?

Listen to music all the time. If you can hear it, you can play it tomorrow if not today. Practice a lot. And don’t forget to dig really DEEP!