LYRICS ON A POST-IT.
AN INTERVIEW WITH THE BANGLA
FOLK ROCK BAND
By Sarah Nafisa Shahid and Ahmad Ibrahim
Music is an ever mutating cloud; constantly on the move, changing and merging to form new shapes. With globalisation, this is true now more than ever. Every day we are exposed to newer genres, new combinations and above all, the exciting opportunity to enjoy good music. Our country is not short of talent in the music department and we take a rare glimpse into the workings behind fusion music with one of the pioneer bands of the genre.
Inside a meeting room of LiveSquare, RS caught up with the fusion band Chirkutt. Their musical journey started in 2002 when the budding musicians met on Dhaka University campus with nothing but enthusiasm and a desire to play music. Like all bands, their journey has been full of ups and downs and early struggles. After finally establishing themselves in their music niche and the release of their first album “Chirkuttnama” in 2010, the band is now settled. The band consists of Emon Choudhury on the guitar, Rokon Emon on bass, Pavel Areen on the drums and the vocalists are Sharmin Sultana Sumi and Pintu Ghosh.
The band labelled their genre as 'epic fusion', which in itself gets any audience interested. As Sumi explains, they did not have to work to find their unique style, it was spontaneous.
But that's what happens when you bring in a mix of musicians with diverse influences. From Emon's classical touch to Pavel's contemporary beats, the music is sure to be something you haven't heard before. Throw in the enchanting, deep, Eastern vocals and Rokon's bass exploring hybrid rhythms, their songs instantly become crowd-pleasers.
The band acknowledges that their songs can range from Nazrul Geeti to folk to rock and even to contemporary. The trick was to bring all these elements together cohesively. “It was one of those things,” Rokon tells us, “We would be holed up in our studio 24/7, working on our songs over and over again and without even realising, we came up with a good fusion. Of course, we will always keep trying to create and perfect our songs so that we can proudly say that we are not defined by strict genres and barriers. That we were brave enough to explore and we succeeded at it.”
The band has just returned from their India tour where they were part of 100 Pipers India Music Week 2012 along with 49 other bands from all round the world. Speaking about their remarkable experience; they explain how it helped them better understand the way people actually perceive their sound. “Meeting other artists from around the globe, we can understand how contemporary music actually is round the world and how much we are going forward, ourselves” says Sumi. “We can learn how to reach an international platform whilst still maintaining the rich roots of this country,” she adds.
Chirkutt, while touring India, received a lot of feedback from other artists and audiences; they were amazed at how well received they were by the Indian audience. “And the surprising thing is,” Pintu Ghosh exclaims, “we were communicating in Bangla the entire time there and faced almost no problem with reaching out to the audience.” The band recalls how quick the Indian audience picked up with Chirkutt's spirited lyrics and even sang along to the chorus of “Dhonno Dhonno”.
The vital part of the festival, according to the band, was representing Bangladesh and its music to the world. Guitarist Emon, with a sigh, says “It's rather unfortunate that Bangladeshis tend to appreciate foreign things more. If we want the country to be better, we need to acknowledge and appreciate good things within our country.” Chirkutt recently received a call from MTV India and their music video will soon be featured in the show 'Roots'. The band feels that after performing on an international arena, the benchmark gets higher and one can no longer be satisfied with just average output; it becomes a never ending process of improving themselves as musicians. Chirkutt is grateful for the support of their fans, their booking agent LiveSquare, Norway Embassy's patronisation and Rockstreet Journal for making this unforgettable tour possible for them.
But it's rather hard to maintain quality with limited resources in a pop-dominated mainstream music industry like Bangladesh's, confesses the band. The band believes that many Bangladeshi artists have the potential to perform on an international platform and they can take the nation's music industry to another level if they work with an open mind rather than considering each other as competition or being bogged down by genres. “Music is a very powerful weapon,” says Pintu Ghosh, “And we plan to utilise it fully and we hope that it stirs up passion and patriotism in fellow Bangladeshis.”
Answering some of the more light-hearted questions, Sumi jokingly tells us about the superstitions that many bands have. This includes believing that their concerts might go badly should certain friends turn up. And when asked about the zombie apocalypse, the band cheerfully exclaims: “Chirkutt's music can definitely bust some zombie heads and protect Bangladesh!” And the fact that the world did not end on the 21st just goes to show that they delivered on their promise. You can thank them later for doing such a good job that you don't see a single zombie around.
Chirkutt is currently working on a second album and they plan to release it on the 21st of February, celebrating the International Mother Language Day and the beauty of the Bangla language they sing in.