In conversation with EIDA

From the ethereal trance of Aurora Dreams to the interstellar realm of Night driver, EIDA has memorialized the fleeting details of everyday life, crafting songs out of the inhibitions of their own lives and the fragments of the world around them.

Sakib Manzur Zihan (lead guitarist), Hassan Munhamanna (song-writer, vocalist), M Samiul Haque (guitarist, vocalist, songwriter), Mohammad Raian Mahbub Rasha (drummer, producer) and Arjo Biswas (bassist) came together in a whirlwind of talent, skill and passion to make up this band that has resonated with many of us.

We sat down with EIDA to get a more in-depth look into the workings and hitches of everything that has set their journey in motion.

What is your inspiration behind starting a band? Did you plan to be in a band from the very beginning?

Almost everyone in the band grew up listening to old Bangladeshi bands, and a lot of inspiration came from their music. That actually helped to keep us all in sync as we experimented with different ideas for our music, and that had been encouraging enough for us to take the leap.

Read more: Looking back at the pioneering bands of Bangladesh

How did the band come together? 

We’ve all had some experience of music with other temporary bands before this. And most of us had performed live before as well. Zihan and Rasha had already worked together as a past band. Samiul knew his way around music production. There weren’t too many hurdles for us to get through. We actually never came together with the intention to form a band, but felt that we gelled well when it came to our taste in music and source of inspiration and so on.

Doing shows underground got us really good feedback and attention. Of course, our taste in music reformed and changed, and soon we wanted to shift to a different direction of music that reflected our own perspective. In the beginning, we wanted to simply see where we could take a possible band in the future. When Samiul was about to leave for abroad, Munhamnna got in touch with him to ask him to spend the last of his days in Dhaka strumming out demos for new song ideas. Zihan just so happened to be visiting him too that day, and we found ourselves playing some really good music together. Rasha joined the band next, he was Zihan’s bandmate before and used to help us during recordings. Arjo is the youngest among us, he has a good experience playing the bass in underground live shows, was a known face, and so we just called him in to play with us one day. And that’s how the band was formed.

What’s the story behind the name of the band?

We wrote our music first. It was when we were taking our song to the studio that we started searching for a name that would suit us. We’re all very simple people and we wanted to be genuine in how we expressed ourselves in our band name. It was during a random conversation between Munhamanna and Samiul, when Munhamanna kept suggesting names asking “eida Kemon” repetitively that Samiul was hit with a light-bulb moment, and took the word eida as a Bengali twist of the actual word ‘eita’ to be our band name. It defines us pretty well actually since we’re people who don’t tend to take ourselves too seriously.

we usually have a great time at the studio, laughing around and whatnot.

What are the most challenging aspects of recording a song? (From the very first idea to the finalizing stage)

We don’t write our songs in the studio, we follow a simple process of sitting together anywhere we can and writing a song. Then we go to a studio and jam out for hours before we get it perfect. We’ve even played overnight to record a single song. We know how different personalities can clash and cause problems sometimes. But since almost everyone’s had past experiences with a band, we’ve all past that stage and understand how to make things work. Rasha is the one who works with the skeleton of the song that we give him, he adds the finishing touches, listens to our input and then sees what works best.

Read more: Great Bangladeshi bands that disappeared after their debut album

What was going on in your mind when the band was recording its first song? Did it deliver as per your expectations?

Everyone always has their own take on a song. So we care a lot about getting everyone’s input into the making of a song. For our first song, we went to the studio with a rough draft of our song ‘In the Blind’, but we soon realized it wasn’t working out within the first 2-3 hours. While on a break, we were just lazing around, playing randomly on the guitar, when Samiul started humming a tune. Munhamanna tried to play that tune on the guitar, then Rasha came to add some chords to it. The song suddenly took a definite shape, and we ended up producing the song in 4 hours. And that’s how ‘Aurora Dreams’ came to be. It was truly an out of the world experience.

What genre do you mostly follow for your music? Why?

We don’t really follow a specific genre. Our philosophy is more or less in tune with the underground music world. Artistic integrity is very important and there’s not much inclination towards making commercial music. We always wanted to make good music that’s going to connect with a lot of people. We like to stay within the boundaries of indie, pop and synth-wave. Making music that feels real is our key goal. John Meyer is a huge influence on the type of music we want to make.

What’s your process of writing lyrics?

For almost all songs, Samiul plays the songs first on the guitar, and then tends to hums them before catching ideas for words and phrases that fits the song. He’s very fast at writing the lyrics. Then Munhamanna finishes up the lyric writing. For example, the song “What It Means”, felt like a song about shy people who are unable to express their feelings to Samiul. He communicated the song to Munhamanna who finished the lyrics with that concept in mind. “Nightdriver” has a different backstory to it. For “Nightdriver”, Samiul only worked on the instrumental part and left the lyrics to Munhamanna completely. Even though he tried to take his time to do justice to the tune, he ended up having to rush it on the day we were to record the song, but it all worked out for the best in the end.

The tune of “Nightdriver” gave a feeling of one’s wandering thoughts when stuck in a traffic jam, so that’s what we based the lyrics on. “Aurora Dreams” gave the sense of losing oneself in inspiration while “What It Means” felt like a feeling of love and so on. So more often than not, we start off by sounding out a tune and then sensing the mood of the tune to write the lyrics.

Who’s (or who are) your inspiration as a music artist and why?

There are a lot of inspirations for us, everyone’s influence more or less coincides when it comes to Bangladesh bands; be it Nemesis, Watson Brothers, you name it. We’re pretty much geeks when it comes to those type of music. In case of international music, our tastes can be a little different. Munhamanna and Samiul listen to metal, Zihan listens to grunge and Arjo likes contemporary music. We all like old bands as well, like Blink 182 and Simple Plan.

What do you want to express through your music?

We’re not really ideological. We don’t focus on philosophical or serious topics. We keep things very lighthearted and sing about everyday stuff. The song “Find me”, though, does have a different feel to it. It’s about how you feel as a soul departed towards people you’ve loved and left behind. It’s sombre but not really dark. “Aurora Dreams” on the other hand, has inspirational undertones.

Can you tell us a little about your most recent song: In the Blind?

We realized there was scope to try out making what you will call emo songs in our music. although it’s not really pop it can actually convey relatable emotions pretty well. So when Munhamanna asked Samiul to see if we can make music along this line, Samiul came up with some lyrics to go with this genre. The song is about how love fades away, simply put. It is a Cliché, but it’s something people can connect to.

Are there any stories from behind the scenes, or during recording. What are your most memorable moments?

Arjo takes the cake here. He’s a weird but talented kid. And he definitely brings a weird perspective to our group. We even keep a list of weird things Arjo says. But we’re all people with a good sense of humor, and share a love for comedy. So we usually have a great time at the studio, laughing around and whatnot.

As you’re going on hiatus, what can your fans expect from you in the future?

Well, as we all know, Samiul is leaving soon. And we are too attached to our current coordination to try anything else with this band. We do have other songs drafted but we’re not going to plan live shows without the whole group. We’re taking a break now for a few months but may release the drafted songs online in the future. And there may be an indie documentary with studio footage in the works.

Co-Authored by Rafid Zaman and Mashiyat Iqbal.

Read more: 5 relatively underrated musicians you should try

Looking back at the pioneering bands of Bangladesh

Bangladeshi bands have come a long way since the inception of rock here in the mid to late ’60s. They have transcended generations, musical genres and have firmly made their way into mainstream media. Their incredible popularity among the people of the country can be seen in most music festivals and concerts that are organized here.

Although the younger demographic is the majority to follow such music, there are many acts from older generations that garner a huge fan following to this day.  So we’ll be turning back time, to revisit some of Bangladesh’s earliest and most influential pioneers of band music.

Read more: Great Bangladeshi bands that disappeared after their debut album

Zinga

Zinga was the first documented musical group of Bangladesh or East Pakistan back then. The band was originally formed in 1963 by a group of young students from Chittagong Government College.  Zinga’s music journey started as an Orchestra Band in Bangladesh which later became the first pop group. The group was the first to incorporate western musical instruments such as Drums, Guitar, Grand Piano, etc. to modernize traditional Bangla Tunes by Tagore and Kazi Nazrul Islam.

Uchharon

The contribution and legacy of Azam Khan and his band Uchharon is quite unparallel in Bangladesh’s history. He and his band are called the Pioneer of Bangladeshi rock music. Their smash hits such as, ‘rail liner oi bostite’, ‘Alal o Dulal’, and ‘Saleka Maleka’ were huge to the point that they are still regularly getting radio play. Azam Khan passed away on June 2011 from oral cancer.

Souls

Souls was formed in Chittagong in 1972. They are considered as the most important band in Bangladeshi rock and roll. They were influenced by the music of The Beatles. In 1980, they released their debut album Super Souls, which was one of the first albums to be released by a music group in Bangladesh. There are still active to this day and is one of the most popular musical groups in the country.

Rock Strata

Rock Strata was one of the most influential bands to introduce and play heavy metal in Bangladesh. Alongside Warfaze, they have laid the foundation for many to today’s Bangladeshi heavy metal bands. Breaking up shortly after their first album, they reunited and also produce and released their second album on 2014. There are also the first to premier their live concert ‘One Last Live’ at Star Cineplex on September 2018.

The Era of LRB, Arc and Nagar Baul

The ’90s saw a huge boom in terms of great bands and great music being produced here in Bangladesh. And the three rock bands: Ayub Bachchu’s LRB, Jame’s Nagar Baul (formerly Feelings) and Hasan’s Arc, were at the centre of it.

These three uber-successful bands firmly established rock bands into the mainstream media with their immense popularity and were called Bangladesh’s ‘Big three of Rock’.

It’s quite difficult to imagine Bangladesh’s music scene without these three bands.

Read more: Trainwreck: The Bangladeshi metal band that rocked Wacken

Honourable Mention: 

Along with the bands mentioned above, the following bands have also played their part in developing Bangladesh’s music scene. They are The Windy Side of Care, Spondon, Feedback, Miles, Different Touch, Aurthohin, Dalchhut, Warfaze, Cryptic Fate, Black, Artcell, Arbovirus and Nemesis.        

Nemesis, the band announces an indefinite break

The last Friday of May 2019 comes with sad news for Bangladeshi rock fans. Acclaimed band Nemesis has announced an indefinite break in a Facebook post shortly after mid-noon.

Nemesis’s official Facebook page posted:

“Dear Nemesis Fans,

We would like to let you know that we are going on a break indefinitely and will not be able to perform any shows or take part in any music-related activities for the foreseeable future.

Till then, love from Nemesis! ❤️”

Nemesis debuted their first single, Obocheton in 2003. They rose to prominence in 2004-2005 with the release of their first studio album Onneshon and the subsequent releases of their acclaimed singles Dhushor Bhabma and Joyoddhoni.

With the release of their single Kobe and its music video in 2011, Nemesis took itself to new heights among the rock fans of Bangladesh. Nemesis performed in a number of reputed charity and commercial concerts in the following years.

Read more: Great Bangladeshi bands that disappeared after their debut album

Fans all over the country hope that this retirement is only a temporary one and their favourite band will return to rock the stage in no time.

K-Pop, Despacito and the lack of originality in modern music

Let us begin with K-Pop. South Korean “popular” music, which is actually a unique hybrid of many genres like hip-hop, electronic dance, folk and others. It can be traced back to the ’90s. But it really blew up in the span of the past couple of years. There’s hardly anyone who doesn’t have an opinion on it. It’s a religion to some people and the manifestation of society’s failure to others.

Music is subjective, but there is objectivity in everything.

Some things do distinguish modern music from music of the past. Are those good or bad things?  One can simply say “K-pop is the worst kind of music” and many would agree, many wouldn’t. Opinions can be right or wrong, but how do the facts weigh in? How hypocritical is it to bash K-pop for being foreign, unintelligible and its overuse of suggestive dance moves, while listening to pop songs in Spanish? Let’s try to analyze music from a neutral perspective.

What makes a difference?

Probably K-Pop fans make more sense than the average listener. K-Pop has a certain exoticness and a distinct aesthetic. It is unique, it stands apart. Which is more than what can be said about the stuff the average listener listens to.

Chart-topping songs of today have many things in common. The most distinct of which is ironically, their commonality. The Spanish National Research Council conducted research on over 500,000 tracks from 1955-2015, running each song through a complex and meticulous set of algorithms. They tested three metrics, the harmonic complexity, timbral diversity and loudness (more on that later). The first two metrics in simple terms mean the richness, diversity and quality of sound in the music. The research states that diversity in the context of timbre and harmony peaked in the ’60s, and has been declining ever since.

Answer: The difference

In more relatable terms, listening to the radio, have you ever thought to yourself that every popular song sounds the same? Well, because they do. Let us compare pop songs from the past to modern pop. You had The Beach Boys and their album Pet Sounds. They used orchestra instruments, bicycle bells, flutes, coca cola cans, barking dogs and Hawaiian instruments in the composition for each song. For reference, listen to “Wouldn’t it be nice” or “Kokomo”.  Against that, you have any chart-topper today, where the music can be attributed to the use of a drum machine, a keyboard and mostly a computer.

To some that might sound like progress. To a critique, it sounds like musicians are becoming less explorative and creative. Try to find one billboard topping single that doesn’t use a variation of the vocal cue “Wa-oh, Wa-oh”, also called the millennial whoop. This is one of the cardinal reasons all songs sound the same nowadays. And it isn’t restricted to musical cues either. You might be shocked to know that the majority of chart-topping pop songs from the past 20 years has been written by just two people, songwriters Max Martin and Dr. Luke.

Consider the song “When the Levee Breaks”, Led Zeppelin’s rendition of it. The band used a former poorhouse in Hampshire, England called “Headley Grange” to record parts of the song, because one of the staircases had a certain acoustic reverb. Imagine going that far. Against musicians writing their own songs and finding the perfect way to record it, today you have factory manufactured tracks for a popular musician to add their nice voice to. Against the originality, creativity and dedication like that, you have the same tried and tested formulaic songs being repackaged and presented as this month’s hot stuff.

The case of Despacito

If you want to ask why, it’s because our brain likes familiar things. When you are thinking that you’ve heard this brand-new release before, your brain is recognizing the same pattern it saw in virtually every other pop song. While you feel like the song is “catchy”, the brain is convincing you the song is good because it is familiar. Thus, people listen to music of a language they don’t even understand, music that they’ve listened to so many times before, only because it is catchy, and unknowingly, the same. Like Despacito.

Are we to blame? Limited attention spans

All of that makes musicians sound like very opportunistic people. But do we share some responsibility? The human attention span has drastically decreased over the past decade, which has factored into our music choice. Almost nobody listens to music for the sake of listening or enjoying themselves anymore. They listen to music that’s easy, music you can play on your way to work.  Facilitated by thousands of tracks on demand, we tend to flick through songs if we don’t like how long it takes to set in. Not many would sit through an 8-minute track to appreciate the subtle nuances of something like the track “Roundabout”. Musicians and record companies have thus resorted to shorter and louder songs with punchy basslines to demand our attention, and keep it.

The advent of dubstep is an example. The most enticing part of the song, the Hook, is being used sooner and more frequently throughout a track.

Moreover, producers have tried to make their songs sound louder to grab your attention. Although the volume control is in the user’s hands, producers have used compression to make quieter parts of a track match the loud parts, making the overall song sound louder. What this does is inevitably decrease a song’s quality and variety of music. Therefore, you have similar sounding, unimaginative pop songs, sometimes about butts.

So, think again

Make of all this information what you will. You might call the phenomena progress, you might call it evil incarnate. Studies indicate that music today is less diverse and creative than that of the past. Uniqueness and imagination are rare traits in modern music. So, the next time you rag on someone for listening to K-Pop, just pay attention to what you happen to be listening to on the radio.

Not just a clone: the Imagine Radio Story

It has been more than a full decade since Spotify revolutionized the music streaming industry, through their responsive app and it’s intuitive and intelligent A.I. Ever since, there have been no shortages of attempted replication of their success. Most of these have failed for one reason or another. We’ve had a couple of that right here in Bangladesh with Grameenphone and Robi attempting to launch their own music streaming apps. It’s safe to say they didn’t exactly catch the imagination of the intended audience as much as they had hoped.  So, the first impression of the average person of Imagine Radio is probably”Oh, another Spotify copycat.” But is it actually?

How Imagine Radio works

Firstly, the average Bangladeshi listener isn’t really familiar with the concept of Royalty fees or purchasing songs. Therefore the artists don’t receive the returns they deserve on the effort put into each song. In addition, it’s difficult for new bands to arrange record deals. Imagine Radio aims to give the artists a platform to distribute their songs directly to the audience. They boast a large selection, more than 10 million tracks of both local and international music, and plan to expand on the collection in the near future. Local artists will be paid a royalty fee for their songs on the app, which will be somewhat popularity oriented. The more popular a song is on the app, the larger the amount of royalty paid.

It will have unique features for musicians like per stream royalty, dedicated dashboards, audience analytics and marketing services. All of these services will be free. For the customers, Imagine radio will have custom made playlists targeted at specific moods, time periods and even the weather. It will also have a live aspect to it, as a selection of music will be played throughout the day on the app, sort of like a radio show. Many prominent musicians and bands like Nemesis, Feedback, Bappa Mozumder and Elita Karim have endorsed the app. And the general audience waits with bated breath for the app to reach the high potential it promises.

Does the model work in Bangladesh?

The point might be made that Mobile operators of our country tried a similar thing with GP Music and Robi/Airtel Yonder. And those weren’t the biggest hits. So is there really a demand for such an app in Bangladesh? If so, how can Imagine Radio hope to fill that demand where many others couldn’t?

There is certainly a demand for such a service in Bangladesh, as Spotify isn’t available here unless you own a premium account you made in another country. Music lovers clamor for an all-in-one music service like Spotify, and it is difficult to access it here. I spoke to an executive in Imagine Radio’s creative team, and he was of the belief that Grameenphone and Robi targeted too average a market to target their product at. They tried to generalize the market, which made for fewer opportunities for personal profiling. Imagine Radio targets a niche, urban social market. They mainly target the behavioral segment of the urban youth. In addition, they aim to have highly customizable profiles for each individual. No two people will have the exact same experience with the app, as it is oriented to make your experience as suited for you as possible. It is also to be mentioned that GP Music and Yonder tried to make the music platform very contained and partitioned. You needed a Grameenphone SIM to have access to GP Music and its contents, the same for Robi. The people at Imagine Radio hold the belief that music should be free. They want to spread music universally, without constraints. These things set them apart from their predecessors.

How is Imagine Radio any different?

It becomes important to separate your product from the one yours is often compared with. The fact remains that some people in Bangladesh still do use Spotify, with some form of workaround in play. Imagine Radio attempts to differentiate itself from Spotify in two key ways. Spotify doesn’t really evaluate Bangladesh as a potential market, hence it not being available here. Imagine Radio wants to make Bangladesh its primary target, with the added goals of distributing local music over the world and bringing international music here. In addition, opposed to Spotify’s AI generated playlist creation, the people at Imagine Radio believe something as subjective and emotional as music needs a human touch. As such, most of their available playlists are custom made by music enthusiasts and experts, adding a more personal touch to the product they offer. This also adds opportunites for targeting very specific and nuanced needs.

For example, they have a custom-made playlist for when one is stuck in traffic, as we tend to do that quite a lot. This is not to say that Imagine Radio execs do not acknowledge the need for an AI and a functional algorithm. In fact, they plan to implement an AI which will have twice as many information points as Spotify’s 6-8 to target specific moods, times, weather and other nuances. This also adds layers of content curation to their live aspect. The bottom line is Imagine Radio offers an intensely personal experience through their app, where you can listen to music curated to fit your every mood; be it uplifting music on the weekends or sad on a Sunday morning.

The ultimate goal

As stated by a representative, Imagine Radio is intended to be a cause driven project with two specific goals in mind in order to help Bangladeshi music. They want to spread Bangla music universally, and they want to create a platform for music and for musicians. It’s safe to assume a person from a foreign country won’t exactly go looking for Bangla music, so Imagine Radio brings the music to them. As mentioned before, they have adopted a very fair and rewarding royalty model for local artists. This serves to encourage the production of good music in Bangladesh greatly, as it is a convenient way to distribute music legally. Artists may choose to release new singles or albums through Imagine Radio as well. For International music, they use a third party distributor to stream quality music legally.

Imagine Radio adopts a Freemium model, according to the International standard unit. The free version has all the features of the app, while a premium version is set to be released over the next three quarters which will be free of ads and will contain other premium features. As of right now, their primary source of income is ad revenue.

Sounds promising!

In addition to the many music features and personalized experiences, Imagine Radio has a formidable line-up of podcasts and specials lined up; 14-15 of them in fact. They have held a Freddie Mercury special, hosting the late great Queen front’s best performances, his inspirations and parts of his story. They have a similar program called Legacy of Rock coming soon. It will be a 90-minute program with a host, with 10 minutes of the host explaining the story and background of the track to be played and music to fill the rest of the time slot. They look to adopt a “song and the story behind it” formula for some of these specials, which sounds very interesting to me. In conclusion, Imagine Radio holds an inconceivable amount of promise. And we look forward to it reaching the great heights it strives for.