Bangla To My Ears

It hasn’t been long since that dreadful noise. We were at the St. Martins beach, underneath the tinted blue and selfish rainbow of colours. Everything struck more than they were; in absence of the typical metropolitan traffic, we had found heaven on Earth. I suppose our overwhelming joy of escaping the city was too much for others to handle. The dreadful, high pitch vocal of Balam stalked us wherever we went. He was the new hunk in the block and everyone wanted a slice of his voice on their boom boxes. Today, that high pitch vocal has found a ménage in every nook and corner of the city. We’re all echoing the same tunes from that day. Does that mean we have come a long way?

The Bangladeshi or precisely, Bangla pop music has crept its way back into our lives once again. Courtesy of artists like Habib, Balam, Mila, Hridoy Khan, Fuad and innumerable others we can’t remember the names of, there is a sound in Bangla everywhere we go. Be it on the FM stations, funk new Xpress music sets or inexpensive myPods, the slow drug of pop and remix has got us all hooked.

Yet, it wasn’t too long ago when we went to picnics to the beats of the latest Bollywood tracks. Our weddings resonated the sounds of Hrithik’s twisted arm movements, our lonesome nights accompanied by the melancholy Indian pop notes. We didn’t know what the lyrics exactly meant and even if it screamed, “I’ll eat your head and cook you soup”, our vulnerable, Bollywood infatuated neurons would translate that too, “I’ll be there and pull you through.” We would nod to the unnecessary lengths of music and stretched out, desperate attempts of hip hop, and imitate the blown out styles of a culture not our own.

But, times changed. From the grooves of a fast paced underground scene to a struggling rock industry, our local music began seeing the rays of a new sun. We were evolving as listeners and musicians, and we needed a new sound in our lives. Roughly around this era, a long haired, sunken eyed rebel named Ornob entered our lives. His songs combined the lost souls of traditional instruments and gave them a fresh voice in our hearts. He was different and gave us the feelings we also, were different as a culture from that of Bollywood. Ornob’s fusion experimentation was shortly followed by playful musicians who sang from the soul. Topu, Dipto, Laura, Shojib Khan, Krishnokali and Sahana Bajpaie all gave us a new tune to sing to. They were the new breed of musicians, who not only sang, but composed and wrote their harmonies.

Soon, and before we knew it, our compact disc drives were playing a different song, and thankfully, one that was truly our own. The fusion and pop industries together gave our music scene a fresh start and our cultural functions began to dance to it. The quality of music saw a rapid change and the very meaning of Bangladeshi pop was redefined. The songs saw a new face, the classics accorded to a modern, indigenous raga and the teens found a new beat to imitate.

The Bangladeshi music industry has indeed come a long way. There was always a small part of us that would headbang to Nirvana and System of a Down, and lose ourselves at the underground concerts. There will always be a small part of us that would know when Nemesis’ next album is coming out and miss Sellout’s electric stage performances. However, the truth remains there was always a large part of us that once settled for the mediocre, ultrasonic Bollywood numbers. Over the past couple of years, that large number has shifted its eardrums to the local beats. We have Fuad featuring countless upcoming artists, Mila and Balam at the Water Kingdom circuits, Habib and Topu in our playlists and Hridoy Khan at the tip of our tongues. On the other end, we have Ornob, Punam, Sahana and Krishnokali who are striving to give our lyrics a brand new heartbeat and fusing with our souls. So, be it a set of high pitched vocals, blown out distortions or overdone voice modifications, or maybe a playlist of subtle, soul-searching compositions; they are finally Bangla to our ears.

By: Sabhanaz Rashid Diya and Zabir Hasan

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