Bangladesh's music scene has seen a great deal of variety in bands, in terms of genres. From Western influenced pop, rock and the extremities of metal to folk and experimental sounds, listeners have had a taste of it all. However, the newest band to have announced themselves on the scene has taken a path that has not been treaded before: of having Hindustani classical music at its core.
Mohammad Shoeb is a familiar name to those who have been following the country's music scene closely; a teacher at the Department of Music at Dhaka University, he has been performing with Arnob, as part of his ensemble Arnob & Friends, for a while. He is the centre-piece of the 10-man band Gaan Pagol -- that had its launching concert at the Bokultola of Charukola (Faculty of Fine Arts, Dhaka University) on a cool Friday evening (May 30).
Shoeb said the band's motto is to hold classical music at the heart of their music; the band feels that whatever type of music one does, they must know the grammar. Whatever the theme of their lyrics were -- patriotism, nature and seasons, love, or the song about themselves called “Gaan Pagoler Dol”, the touch of classical music was evident. While some of the tracks were based more on classical styles -- one of them styled like a thumri, there were folk-based compositions, one of them Santal-flavoured and another from an Ahamiya (originated from Assam, India) groove and a rather typical contemporary band-like song, the essence of classical music was clear in all of them. The band also did an Abdul Alim classic “Kar Lagiya Gatho Phooler Mala” and a Rabindra Sangeet “Pagla Hawa'r Badol Dine”.
The instrumental arrangement of the band was elaborate; from traditional instruments like guitars and bass, flute and violin, tastes of folk were brought in by the Khamak and mandira, Western and Eastern flavours intertwined with the use of cello and mandolin, while the percussion ranged from cajon to the djembe (African floor-drum), symbals and South Indian instrument ghatam.
Shoeb's light-hearted demeanour and humourous quips and comments made the performance even more pleasurable, as he went on to introduce every member with a little bit of back-story about everybody. The instrumental arrangements were also fairly compact, and Shoeb's silky vocals were backed up harmoniously by the others when needed.