By Kevin Perera
Ceylon Today Features
Together with ten local groups performing traditional, folk, fusion, classical and contemporary music, the Galle Music Festival will also feature five international bands from Norway, Brazil, India, Palestine and Bangladesh. Ziaur, the director and bass guitarist of the Bangladeshi band that's to perform, which goes by the name Shironamhin, shared with Ceylon Today Features their story and what drives their passion for music.
Zia reminisced on those Bangladeshi evenings where they used to traverse around the vicinity of BEUT and Dhaka University with the acoustic guitar slung on his shoulder. It was back in the year 1996 that Shironamhin was formed and it was either clapping or tapping on table tops that helped them keep the beat. Eventually they ended up performing at live stage concerts in the campus and introduced new instruments for their group. Zia says that they started to use a plugged guitar and Sarod along with drums. "The best part of our performances was we hardly covered other artists. Most of the songs we used to perform were our own songs which were completely new for the audience and earned some respect for the lyrics and tune, specially the lyrics for having the colour of magic realism." The response from the audiences was encouraging and it pushed them further to seriously consider releasing an album. "We had more than 50 songs and we compiled 10 out of them for our debut album 'Jahaji' that was based on some urban struggles which makes someone think of himself as a lonely sailor sailing around the unknown streets of the city in a quest of life," says Zia.
Variety of instruments
As a band they have always tried to do something different and in their fourth album they have ventured to fuse different instruments of various cultures to create a rich sound. 'In our 4th album Shironamhin Rabindranath, which was a tribute to Tagore, we've changed the total approach in composition. 39 acoustic instruments were played in that album which we had to arrange from all over the globe.
I think this passionate practice on acoustic instruments encouraged the young musicians to learn acoustic and classic instruments instead of using easy downloadable loops and cheap software based music. Asked from where they collected the instruments he answers, "We picked some from Bangladeshi folk traditional music that are almost coming to an extinction due to lack of opportunities in the mainstream music scene. We used the rainmaker from Brazil, Darbuka from Egypt, Irish tin whistle and a Bodhran from Scotland to mention a few." One can imagine the hard work that's put into practicing and training these instruments and mixing them to create a harmonious effect. By using instruments from different parts of the world, Shironamhin has brought different cultures together and I felt that it gives the listener a certain sense of familiarity when listening to their compositions, from wherever the person comes from. There is a universal quality that exists in their composition, and the song Dhole Dhole Fule Fule is testament to this feature. They have released five albums up to now and their latest one is self-titled as Shironamhin.
Speaking of their lyrics which are all in Bangla, which is only practiced in Bangladesh and other few regions, Zia says that though the listener cannot understand the lyrics, he can respond to the tune.
In one of their videos that are available in youtube, Abhar Hashimukh, English captions run at the bottom of the screen. 'Dear sweetheart can you give me a smile to commit suicide with rage that makes everybody know the good guys are lost in the war on both sides of the glittering glass?' I asked what the glittering glass stands for and his reply was, "You know, the world is divided by walls. I used the metaphor 'glittering glasses' for those transparent walls. We had a subcontinent and it's divided into so many nations now. We can feel the glass wall among us, we can see through as well as we can see our own reflection in those walls. Every war creates walls among us and the good guys who can help our culture, nature, society are harmed or killed or lost on both sides every time." Their lyrics attempt to juxtapose the urban cityscape with the morose human soul and the conflicts surrounding the clash of these two entities.
Word of advice
Speaking to the upcoming generation of composers, he says that nowadays many young so called composers are trying to use loop music from software packs just to find the shortest ladder to climb up for commercial success. "If you are not good enough for trying original instruments, it's okay to play synth or tones from midi sampler as you have to play it understanding the instrument character that you are trying. But choosing loops and using those is completely unethical and does not contribute anything to music. Young composers should be dedicated to music, passionate to express themselves by singing or playing. That is what we call music," said Zia.
Both being Architects, Zia is the director and bassist, while Tuhin is the vocalist of the band. Shafin, the drummer,is a student of architecture. Diat will be playing the guitar, and Rashel will be on the keyboard.
They will be performing at Galle Music Festival which is to be held on the 15 March 2014, 4.00 p.m. to 11.00 p.m. at Galle Fort and also at Colombo Concert which is scheduled to be held at Galle Face Green on the 17 March, 5.30 pm to 10.30 pm. Prior to the Festival, the Oriental Music Orchestra which is a partner under the Music Corporation will present the Oriental Music Chamber Orchestra on the 12 March at Ramakrishna Mission Auditorium at 6.30 pm, and Shironamhin will be giving a promotional show case performance along with the three international groups from India and Brazil.