Occur Goes Global - The Music of Bangladesh

Nestled in South Asia between India and Myanmar, this country has been showing its independence since 1971. Once a part of the Mughal Empire, then the British Empire, then India, then Pakistan, Bangladesh has used its music to revere its past and embrace its future. Its scene is one where hip-hop and alternative rock go hand in hand, and where a newfound respect for folk has given birth to an ethereal fusion trend. Explore the sounds of the best Bengali artists.

 

Artcell

Playing pummeling gigs at 6 a.m.? No problem. Having the gall to wear their own band’s shirts in concert? Indeed. Melodic metal licks that give the greats of the 1980s a run for their money? Oh yes. Artcell rode the lightning of their childhood heroes and became legends in their own right in Bangladesh. Lead singer and guitarist George Lincoln D-Costa came from a Catholic background, a religious minority in the officially Muslim nation. Furthermore, Artcell lost a dear friend and fellow songwriter, Rupok, due to cerebral malaria in 2002. They’ve soldiered on to become one of the most enduring bands in their country.

 

Habib Wahid

Like father, like son. The offspring of pop musician Ferdous Wahid, Habib has earned his own accolades as a film composer and remixer. Linking traditional folk styles with techno, the younger Wahid is credited with bringing EDM to Bangladesh in 2003 with his album Krishto. He is prolific, releasing a dozen solo records in less than 10 years and penning jingles for a variety of products. Habib Wahid recently scored the romantic movie Aro Bhalobashbo Tomay and spends his time between London and Dhaka.

 

Tishma

She has the vocal tics of Shakira and the bubblegum pugnacity of Avril Lavigne. Bangladesh’s “rock princess” fluctuates between Bengali and English, spewing pretty venom in songs like “(Shut Up You’re Not My) Boyfriend.” Schooled in Indian and European classical music, Tishma infuses instruments like the tabla and the influences of Bengali visionary Rabindranath Tagore into modern pop. Her most recent album, HypnotizeD, came out in 2013. Lead photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

 

Bangla Mentalz

Though he came from a heavy rock background, lead vocalist Jubu and his crew cite Eminem and KRS-ONE as their idols. Bangla Mentalz’s brand of hip-hop is bouncy and inclusive, sprinkling elements of alternative genres into the flows of Taseen and Shamir and the composition provided by Shochi Shams. Check out their soccer-loving number, “It’s Time for Football,” and try not to shimmy along.

 

Joler Gaan





Emphasizing the “divine connection” of soil and water, this folk collective is considered a leader in the fusion movement. The Joler Gaan band members purportedly have built many of their own instruments not requiring amplification. Elements like flutes and the mandolin-like dotara flit between the almost-Celtic-sounding melodies. Their latest album is Patalpurer Gaan, released in 2014.

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