5 relatively underrated musicians you should try

Music is a soothing aspect of almost everyone’s life. It can be anything one needs at any point in time. A safe haven, a serene escape or a blazing motivator; these are just a few of the things music can be to a person. Discovering music new to one is often one of the greater joys a person can feel at a particular moment. Due to the busy life most of us lead, the magic of discovering music is lost to many. To help you find new music that can speak to your soul, here’s a few recent musicians/bands that might have flown under your radar. 

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

Eida

Suggested Tracks: Nightdriver, What it means

Eida can no longer be considered underrated. They are a local band, consisting of a few university students with a great collective (and individual) sense of humour; evident by the name. Their music, in simple terms, is akin to modern dream-pop and retro wave with influences from 1975, Gorillaz and even The Strokes.

But from a more curious perspective, Eida’s music is much more. This group of talented musicians are not afraid to experiment and wouldn’t limit themselves to any specific genre. Their tracks invoke a very melancholic mood, and it is well worth giving them a try.

Chitropot

Suggested Tracks: Shondha Hole

Another local group. I found these guys off a random YouTube autoplay. Their music closely resembles fusion, in that they use a curious combination of instruments. But again, you shouldn’t fit things in a box. Very simplistic tone, vocal performance and the sheer emotion make them worth checking out.

Mitski

Suggested: Be the Cowboy (Yes, the entire album)

An American singer-songwriter, Mitski emphasizes creativity and experimentation in her work. Be The Cowboy is her 5th and latest album; she self-released the first two. This album received critical acclaim upon release and sets itself apart from contemporary pop music and music in general. The artist has designed the album with very short tracks, but each track invokes emotion and tries to get a point across. I suggest taking some time with this album, it is truly spectacular.

Oblique

Suggested track: Krishnopokkho, Bhondo

Not much introduction is needed for local Rock band Oblique, after the success of Aloron last year. They have been around since 2007 and are known for their use of unconventional, thought inducing and emotional lyrics. Rumour is that they are about to release a new single. So go ahead and check out their work.

Courtney Barnett

Suggested Track: Need a little time, Sunday Roast

The Australian singer-songwriter has a very loyal following. Her lyrics are embedded with witty humour and delivered with a dry, deadpan singing style. The combination is usually hilarious, emotional and curious at the same time. The best way to describe the emotion her music invokes would be; it encourages you to get to know the singer better. It enforces the need to delve deeper into her work, and that is possibly the best thing any music can do for its creator. Try out her recent album “Tell me how you really feel”, and please do.

Most of the time the reason for detachment to enjoying music is a rut.

All you might need is a little help with getting out of the said rut and finding the joy in music again. So take these musicians as a start to discovering music and musicians again, and let us know about the less known musicians you enjoy.

Trainwreck: The Bangladeshi metal band that rocked Wacken

What a time to be alive for any fans of heavy metal music in Bangladesh. The country’s very own, Trainwreck, has represented Bangladesh at Wacken Open Air 2019.

They are part of the 29 bands from around the world competing in the “Metal Battle”. Metal Battle is the music festival contest for international newcomers. And judging from their performance, it’s safe to say that they have definitively left their mark on the crowd and back here at home.

The long journey

Trainwreck’s journey all the way to the German music festival was not an easy one. They had to overcome several hurdles on their road to Wacken. They were part of a number of bands to send in their demo which saw them take part and win the first Wacken Metal Battle Bangladesh chapter, up against four other supremely talented local bands.

That paved the way for their slot in the “Bangalore Open Air 2019”. With bands from India, Nepal and Sri Lanka, the victor would receive the opportunity to perform in Wacken Open Air. After coming out on top, the band got its ticket to Wacken. They started a crowdfunding campaign to fund their trip to Germany. Some of the country’s most popular musical acts such as Shunno, Arbovirus, Mechanix, Powersurge, Owned, Conclusion and our very Tahsan Khan got in on the action, to raise support for the band.

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

Live At Wacken

Anyone who’s been to their local gigs knows what sort of intensity Trainwreck brings to any show with their brand of groove metal. And to see that same energy on Wacken’s history stage with the flag of Bangladesh strapped to A K Rahul’s a guitar was quite unreal. 

The stage or the crowd of wacken did not seem to faze them and they delivered a killer set. They performed four of their own tracks and finished their set with a bang with their mosh-pit inducing “909”.

Abir Ahmed Shuvo, A K Rahul, Ekram Wasi, Habibullah Farhan, and Asif Mahmood, take a bow, you guys have truly outdone yourself. 

Trainwreck is in contention with 29 other bands from all over the globe as the newest international newcomers and five thousand Euros which will be announced at the end of the festival.

This can only be a blessing for our local music community and industry from all genres here in Bangladesh. Hopefully, it’ll also get us to invest in our music scene which was clearly long overdue.  And as for Trainwreck, the sky’s the limit to them right now.  

Great Bangladeshi bands that disappeared after their debut album

Recently, I came across an article stating, “People stop discovering music after 30”. This is a rather downlifting study for many of us. There will never be a shortage of great music. But most often they are unnoticed and dominated by substandard crap. Bangladeshi millennials can boast of the band music scene they have grown up listening since the 2000s. Speaking of, have we given due attention to the bands who rightfully deserved it?

Read more: Not just a clone: the Imagine Radio Story

Making a career as a band musician is hard in Bangladesh. Many promising bands have shown their potential but eventually gravitated towards other professions. Apparently making music can barely pay your bills. So this article is a homage to the bands who have shown tremendous musicianship but faded out of the scene. Some of them went abroad, others are inactive…or subject to typical rockstar feud.

Icons

Great Bangladeshi bands that disappeared after their debut album

Icons is an alternative rock band who released their debut album Ishshoronio in 2005. Before landing a studio album deal with G-series, Icons made quite a name through various mixed albums. Yours truly still fantasizes about their reunion show…maybe in the distant future.

Notable tracks: Oporanho, Ishshoronio, Neon

Read more: Sodium Batir Gaan – changing the culture of open air music

Vibe

Great Bangladeshi bands that disappeared after their debut album

If I could resurrect one band from dormancy, it would be VIBE. This alternative/heavy metal band created a lot of buzz when their album ‘Chena Jogot’ hit the market in 2007. I remember my peers complimenting about Vibe by saying, “they could be the next Artcell!”. Let’s not go into comparison because Vibe have created a sound of their own. Please come back, we need you!

Notable tracks: Shesher opashe, Nostalgia, Shopnodeb

Read more: Bangladeshi graphic novels: 5 essential reads

The Watson Brothers

Great Bangladeshi bands that disappeared after their debut album

Cryptic Fate and The Attempted Band, two bands that varied in genre, got together to form ‘The Watson Brothers’. Thankfully, the chemistry worked very well. In 2003, TWB released their album “Ohom”. The band may not be around anymore, but their songs are actively performed by Cryptic Fate (which is a relief).

Notable tracks: Rong, Akash, Ohom

Minerva

Great Bangladeshi bands that disappeared after their debut album

Minerva came into limelight with their epic medley of 19 minutes (A tribute to Bangladeshi bands). It transcended every frontier of awesomeness that to call it a cover will be an understatement. But the groove metal band have cemented their position in the music scene with their debut album “Biday Shongbidhan” (2013). The band has been inactive for quite a while. We can only hope their comeback with this year’s Rocknation.

Notable tracks: Ashirbaad, Jaatra, Mrittur Shesh Choy

These artists attest to the fact “Quality matters, not quantity”.

The mentioned bands gave us priceless music. The only thing we demand from them is a reunion gig.

Remember, hope is a great thing!

Watch: Zamor, a Bangladeshi in the French Revolution

(Album artworks featured in this article are courtesy of banglacdcovers.blogspot.com. Head over to their blog to see hi-res scanned image of old, new and rare CD covers)

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.