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Keeping in-tune

  • Published at 04:35 pm January 19th, 2019
Shovvota and the Band
Shovvota And The Band. Photos: Courtesy

'Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything' 

A lot of us would say the music industry is doing fine nowadays. Some would say that specific musicians, who have a strong hold over the target market, have the music scene covered. What we tend to miss out, though, is the speed with which we are heading towards modernization is, unfortunately, not the same in terms of music. We are losing touch with our roots and have become less welcoming to new forms and tunes.
Bangladesh’s music scene has always been dominated by a few specific genres - some that might have been followed by a few bands or artists who are able to attract a particular fan base. However, whenever there is an uptick in the music industry, we’ll waste no time rushing towards it, leaving no room for creating or appreciating something new. 

There are many forms of music that we haven't heard yet. Alongside, there are many who try to bring in new variations for the crowd. Bits and crumbs bring together a great melody binding the soul of a human. Very few artists and musicians play from the heart to connect to ours -- they test their boundaries to come across new tunes.

Keeping aside the new variations, classical music - which started off from our very own roots - is yet unknown to the vast majority. Many of us might not like it; we don’t have enough patience to understand the concept of classical music. In fact, for similar reasons many people do not like listening to Porcupine Tree. 

Speaking of variations, we’ve come across some musicians who are working on introducing existing forms to the crowd in a unique way. We had the opportunity to sit down and share our thoughts over music and its present state in Bangladesh.

Starting off with Karishma Sanu Sovvota, who released her first solo album “Jodi Thakto Dana” on July 7, 2017, at TSC, Dhaka. Later it was released in Kolkata on July 9, 2018. Sovvota got an early introduction to music through her father, Ustad Khoda Boksh Sanu and her sibling who have also been an inspiration to her. Her home, being part of a music school Anondom Songitangon School, gave her the opportunity to grow interest in classical music. Following her father's footstep, she now teaches at the same school. Groomed at an early stage, she now writes, composes, and sings her own song -- “Music is meant to be heard, I want to live and breathe in music as long as I live.”

Every song created has a few “parents” contributing their souls to it -- each member of the band contribute towards creating unique songs which make them stand out. 

Years ago, a random chain of events led Raquib Mahmud, guitarist of Sovvota and the band, to develop an interest in Indian classical music. This mutual line of work of interest between Raquib and Sovvota brought them to work with the band in 2017. Raquib started his music career with the band Seventh Sign and still is a part of it while working for Uttara Finance And Investments Limited. “My inspirations are Miles and Niloy Das.” Raquib said. “Music is a one-way tunnel, so take a step ahead, make something out of my skills and play till I fade away.” 

How do you think we can bring a change in the music industry? 

“We need to change our mentality first, starting with our families. Children should get the proper support from their families when pursuing music as a profession. The government has to be conscious about musicians and they have to regulate piracy in the industry. There should be better opportunities for studying music and a platform where music can be used as a profession. I personally think, there is no music industry in Bangladesh. Hopefully, things will change in the future.”

-Raquib Mahmud, Sovvota and the band.

Music is soulful and has always been so for Alistair Sarkar Raj, bassist of Sovvota and her band and The Seesaw. Raj grew up playing for his church -- inspired by his father and mother’s endless support. “My first guitar teacher who taught me how to hold a guitar, and our country’s music legends - Miles, Black, Artcell, Bangla band, Arnob, Kaartik Da from Banglaband - have inspired me a great deal. And now, as I am learning jazz, my inspiration lies in all the renowned jazz musicians worldwide. I must tell you that I've listened to a whole lot of music and I'm still hungry for more,” says Raj. 

How do you think we can bring a change in the music industry? 

Honestly, I don't bother about what is going on with the industry because I make music to feed my soul. But I do think creating more legal music apps like Spotify, Tidal, etc which would help the music lovers, would, in turn, keep the musicians alive and motivated. It is important to have a clear distribution chain and a fair market where musicians and producers get the remuneration. We can also focus on making good quality music and internet contents which may bring a change in the industry.

-Alistair Sarkar Raj, The Seesaw and Shovvota and the Band.

Many in our country say that music is not a proper profession, but it can be if you have the right attitude towards it. “Choto boro bole kotha na, I play because I simply love to,” says Raj, Shovon (Samiul Wahid) and I have been playing in different setups for a long time. So he introduced me to Sovvota a few years ago and that's how I ended up with the band.” 

Many like to stay in one band, playing as “one” but it is not the case for Alistair Sarkar Raj and Samiul Wahid, drummer for Shovvota and The Seesaw. They love music and it shows -- doing gigs, performing for other bands and most importantly, they are following their passion. Samiul grew up listening to Black and Artcell. “Other bands never encouraged me as much as them,” he said. He has known Sovvota for years: “She has been working on her songs for 10 years and I had friends - Shariar and Raaj - who joined us. We did live shows early on.” Samiul and Raj started studying jazz and when they saw Rahin and Jishnu performing, their common interest led Samiul to approach them for sessions. 

How do you think we can bring a change in the music industry? 

We are going through a transition period in the industry. Music has become mostly about the digital media, the market has become segmented and is already evolving into something else. The audience derives where the music trend goes, we just have to focus on creating good music. 

“Khaap marte jeye porichoy amader shobar,” says Rahin Haider, saxophonist for The Seesaw Quartet. Back in 2005, Rahin played the flute, but he found it difficult to play the 12 tones. Some may disagree, but the 12 tones can be played on a flute, but it was not meant to be played like that. Hence, Rahin started looking for instruments with which he could do something similar. Fast forward to 2011, Rahin started playing the saxophone -- a curious spirit with the love for jazz. He said, “Rising bands have to do their own marketing. We like to perform with other musicians at times; the place doesn’t matter as long as the money is good 

The Seesaw Quartet


How do you think we can bring a change in the music industry? 

I think the responsibility of “evolving” the music scene falls only upon the musicians. Not only do we have to make good, honest, and relevant music -- it's also our job to make ourselves heard as well. Fortunately, it has gotten a lot easier to reach the audience, thanks to technology. People can be better informed through social media about a new band and they usually come to their live shows if they like it. 

-Rahin Haider, The Seesaw.

Rahin’s younger brother, Jishnu Haider, the guitarist for The Seesaw, has a diverse taste in music, he doesn’t seem to belong to one single genre but to many -- giving him an advantage to various tastes and a knack to appreciate many forms of music. For him, the journey was growing up listening to his brother’s tracks, and most times Rahin playing -- “It all fell into place, happened so suddenly that I was left clueless.” For Rahin, it is his younger brother Jishnu, who seems to be more serious about music. 

As the two bands tell us their journey to finding their musical elements, we couldn’t help but realize their love and passion for music. It’s like they are meant to be doing this. It is truly amazing to see people talk about doing what they love -- it makes you feel as if we all are a part of this great journey. So, let there be music in your life and become a part of soul. 

As we focused on one simple question, their points of view, altogether, make it very clear that the music industry of Bangladesh lacks crucial elements that aid and direct young musicians and the ones who are talented enough and are seeking for a platform. Renowned artists and musicians, somehow, do not appreciate newcomers. Somebody has to set the trend, the music industry should not be about competing against each other, but creating heartfelt music that the country and even the world can appreciate. Music education should be an option for school going students, not just an extracurricular activity. It is up to us to bring these issues forward -- for many parents tell their children that it is difficult to make a livelihood if you are an artist or a musician, but why do you think that is?

Sovvota And The Band and The Seesaw are regular performing bands throughout Dhaka. Check them out today live at icchetoal, Uttara. For details - 01701342636.

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