Even though the ongoing pandemic has affected professional artistes the hardest, the rising stars in the music industry also face an uphill challenge, after musical events stopped altogether throughout the country. A vibrant sub-culture, which included café and art-space shows, university events and independent releases, have been submerged in uncertainty. Although the rising musicians of our industry usually do not financially depend on the art, their momentum – a crucial part in determining their trajectory – has been put in grave danger.
For many, the prospect of performing in an upcoming show worked as a motivator to create and practice. "Being quarantined isn't a good feeling," says Razin Halim, Level Five's bassist. "Even though we have conference calls to discuss our future releases, it is hard to actually write new material at this time, especially when most of us have to work from home as well." Level Five, a popular indie band that came into the limelight with their debut album, Obosheshey, has consistently garnered fanfare with fantastic live performances. With the absence of shows, the members are doing the best they can to maintain the spark that brought them this far.
Artistes who had recorded material prior to the nationwide shutdown have an edge on the competition. Issa Nibras Farooque, known by his stage name Farooque Bhai, has seen substantial success with the release of his new EP, Gin Bhoot Tonic. "This is the only time I am on a level playing field as other Bangladeshi artistes," says Farooque, who resides in Toronto, Canada. "Since everyone has to promote their music on the internet, all I have to do is focus on my own sound." The Farooque Bhai Project's compositions have helped usher in a new age in Bangladeshi independent music, and the singer-songwriter does not plan on letting a virus halt his prowess.
Dads in the Park had shot the music video for their latest song, Pareidolia, prior to the shutdown. Much like Lullaby, their second single is also a resounding success. Even though the two-man project does not rely on shows as much, staying at home at a stretch does come with consequences. "For the past two months, I haven't been able to write anything," says Ishmam Salim. "However, I had a few compositions written down from before, so I am working on those."
Pragata Naoha, who was enjoying a remarkable run before the shutdown, tries not to let the events fluster her too much. Still riding the coattails of Kalo, the singer is already working on new material with her band, Hades. "All I can say is, I am looking forward to the release of our upcoming song, Bedroom. The listeners will be surprised if they can decipher the meaning behind it, especially during this unbearable period of having to stay at home," she says. Besides music, Pragata is also attending online classes for her first semester in the University of Manitoba.
"I am trying my best to stay positive and practice," says Aseer Arman, who earned fame and accolades overtime with his song, Eka Beche Thakte Shikho Priyo. The former Joler Gaan member looks to start his studio work afresh, after things get better. "Due to some logistical difficulties, I unfortunately had to sell my studio equipment when I moved to another residence," he says. "However, I am constantly jamming by myself, and trying to come up with new material. I plan to rebuild my studio as soon as I can." If we know anything about our music industry – from both the spectrums of the famous and the rising – it is that the fraternity is spectacularly resilient in the face of adversities. The relatively small, but ever-growing fan base of the rising stars in Bangladesh, can hope that their favourite artistes will come out bigger, better and stronger.