Musical experiments and technology aid creativity

                                                                     Saad Chowdhury
Born in the UK, Saad traveled to the US, Luxembourg and Zambia before settling in Bangladesh in 1998. He has been working as a pianist and bass guitarist, performing both eastern and western music. He is also working as a producer and an engineer, with both studio and live sound. He has composed the background score for one of the episodes of Al Jazeera’s ‘Witness’ programme on Bangladesh’s Cholera Wars. He works with film maker Oniket Alam and their films, notably The Professionals, have been featured in film festivals abroad. He took part in a music ensemble that opened for Zakir Hussain and Bela Fleck in early 2013. The man in question is Saad Chowdhury. Saad spoke to Abhijit Ganguly on the sidelines of his performance with Seth Panduranga Blumberg, Mainak ‘bumpy’ Nag Chowdhury, Gaurab ‘Gaboo’ Chatterjee and Bodhisattwa Ghosh in association with ROOH MEDIA Pvt. Ltd.

The present scenario of contemporary music in Bangladesh...

From what I see, there are two distinct veins: First, those that take Bangladesh’s traditional regional musical influences, like instrumentation, melody, and rhythms, and incorporate these into their own framework, for example, a rock band with a Dhol player modernizing Lalon Fakir’s songs, a folk band with acoustic guitars playing original music, a party band playing Rabindrasangeet with tabla, digital keyboards, electric guitars and octapad drums. Second, those that takes influences from a more ‘Western’ musical background, sometimes completely bypassing traditional Bengali folk element. So, for an extreme example, you would perhaps see a metal band that sounds totally inspired by Iron Maiden, Metallica and Megadeth, but singing in Bangla. I also think that studio software, computers/iPad music apps/the ‘home music-making’ brand of affordable technological products are influencing Bangladesh’s production quality, and the way songs are crafted. I have been hearing little things creeping into the music over a period of a few years like auto-tuned vocals, sampled drums, and stuff like that.

Saad with Seth Panduranga Blumberg
Music has been transformed so much by technology in recent times…

I guess you could say that the volume of data these machines can handle coupled with the speed at which they can operate means that there is some really smart, intuitive software available now to aid the creation of music, be it a studio DAW template like Logic or Reason, or a downloadable analog synth emulator for an IPad.

There’s been a marked shift in commercial thinking in recent decades away from making what people want, to making people want what is being sold…

I think that’s always been there. As long as there have been musicians looking for gigs to play and other people thinking, “I can make some money out of this,” the commercial aspect has existed. Perhaps in the short term, the music industry worldwide has had to reshuffle, how it makes a profit collectively in a Napster-inspired world of downloading music. So, may be for a large record company, it could be a safer investment for them to bank on a mega-star who is making music that entertains millions of people all over the world across language and cultural barriers for instance, rather than a really unique ensemble, who perhaps is pushing more boundaries than the mega-star sonically/ politically/ socially, but may be a riskier sell to justify on the annual budget table. Again, these arguments have always been there, and always will be. I think the message is true every- where that as a musician, just be true to yourself and follow your own compass, not any accountant’s. I am not saying that you can’t make a living off your music, just saying that you don’t have to play what other people are telling you to play against your will.

An increase in the number of shows of Bangladeshi artists in India will strengthen the bonds between these two countries…

I would like to think so. We just have to keep it going, and keep it all about the music.

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