The Biopic of a Bangladeshi Band
The summer of 2008. That was the year Bangladeshi underground music scene was at its peak. Jam pads were booked 24/7 and there was never a weekend where the hallowed halls of Russian Cultural Centre (RCC) in Dhanmondi were empty.
2008 was also the year my friends and I started our own band. This is our story.
May 23, 2008
The summer of 2008 started like any other summer would for the backstory of a soon-to-be obscure musician — with a heartbreak. My girlfriend had just broken up with me and it was taking quite a toll on me. In a desperate attempt to distract myself, I decided to meet my best friend, Jahangir Kallol at Dhanmondi Lake.
"Yo, Mishu. What's up, man?" Jahangir greeted me, as we shoulder bumped each other. "I heard Maria turned you down and humiliated you in front of everyone. How's that burn feeling?"
Typical Jahangir, he had shown up just to rub salt in my wounds.
"I feel great. Why would I care? She's dating that loser Ateek now!" I replied, trying to sound nonchalant.
Ateek was the biggest loser from our school. He was tall, moderately good looking and played football. But none of that had attracted Maria before. It was only recently when he had shown up to the Pahela Baishakh Mela at school with a guitar and performed Artcell's Pothchola five times on repeat that he really caught Maria's eye.
"Pfft, I'm sure I could be so much better at the guitar than him. He barely knows the power chord."
Thus, a journey began. Things were set in motion that day and there was no looking back.
June 2, 2008
Having learned five different chords and watched two YouTube tutorials at 240p, I felt that my journey as a musician needed a band around it to truly succeed. After all, I wasn't just about to become a solo pop star. We all knew what happens to solo artists with deep voices.
With my mind now set on the idea, I called upon my closest friends to join the lineup of the next great rock band out of Dhaka. We called ourselves "Unconscious Subconscious". US.
Shabbir: Classically trained in the tabla, we assumed that he'd naturally take to a drum set.
Tafsan: He wanted to play the guitar, but was forced to play the bass because I had already decided to be the guitarist.
Jahangir: Having sung the national anthem at a school festival once, who else would be the vocalist in US?
"But there's a problem. We all know Jahangir isn't a cool name," said Tafsan, "We should give him a cool name if he is going to be the frontman."
"How about Jango?" suggested Shabbir.
"No, we need something more iconic," I replied.
Jahangir looked up at us, smiling. It was as if he had waited his entire life for this moment because things would change forever. No one would ever call him Jahangir again.
"Joe. Call me Joe," he said. The rest of us looked at each other and nodded, slowly, in agreement.
The rest is history. Even now, 13 years later, people still call him Joe.
July 17, 2008
As I alluded to earlier, it was hard to find a jam pad free on the weekend, so it was only after around two sessions in our local jam pad, Excursion, that US was ready to make its debut on the stage.
Our first "gig" was scheduled to be at the upcoming "Battle of the Bands" and we had our hearts set on winning it.
On the night of, as we gathered at the show, everyone was ecstatic. Who else could win but us? Did anyone else have the same level of dedication as to get two sessions in a jam pad in beforehand? Our talent was undeniable.
That was before the show. What happened during the show changed our lives forever.
Having performed our cover of Khaite Paro, we awaited the judges comments.
They were stunned. Mortified by our presence, I assumed. After a short break of them just looking at us with their jaws dropped to the floor, the reputed vocalist and keyboardist from Cryptic Dementia coughed hard, and said, "That was quite a performance. Unfortunately, we don't think you'll make it to the next round on the back of it but keep practising, I am sure you'll get somewhere. Rock on."
We were screwed by the system. A bunch of immensely talented musicians pushed out of a talent show for simply being too talented? It hurt, but there was no going back.
July 21, 2008
After a few days of moping around, the band finally gathered together to the place where it was born.
"We can't go on like this," said Joe, "Bangladesh isn't ready for our uniquely creative progressive rock yet."
"What should we do? Do we just switch to making alt-rock like all the other bands? Because I don't want to go commercial!" I replied, jittery, playing with Livestrong and Amra Bangladesh wristbands.
"No. Worse," stated Joe, looking at us with a hint of fear in his eyes. "We have to go back to metal."
August 1, 2008
We were standing outside of RCC. Using connections from Shabbir's dad, we had gotten booked for a slot in RCC's weekend show.
In the past couple of weeks, we had written our first single. Joe had spent hours behind the lyrics, penning an anti-authority masterpiece. We titled it Pagla Batpar (1). We knew there would be sequels to this.
As we stood backstage, waiting for the band before us to finish their set, Jawad Ahmed from Enemy Lines approached us.
"Hey. I heard you guys playing in Battle of the Bands," said Jawad bhai, smiling. "I thought you guys were really good. It's always good to see new kids on the block. Keep rocking."
He walked away, having changed our lives in the process. We looked on, starstruck.
As we stepped on stage, it felt different this time. Previously, we had just let our cockiness kill the nerves, but this time we had the words of one of our idols to push us through.
We looked at each other, the widest grins across our faces before I slammed the D chord and opened US's set with our very own Pagla Batpar (1).
June 20, 2021
Life is a little weird. Looking back, it feels funny to know a bunch of kids with a few months of experience and a heart full of passion actually made it.
Unconscious Subconscious™ became a hit after our first performance at RCC. Pagla Batpar (1) and Palga Batpar III: BatparAshlo Firey were two of our most commercially successful songs.
Our albums Unconscious Subconscious and Greatest Hits of Unconscious Subconscious both went platinum twice.
Joe went on to run for public office. He used Pagla Batpar 2 as his campaign song and saw great success in the tri-state area.
Shabbir went on to become a doctor, but still plays as a session drummer for 37 different bands.
Tafsan left the band in 2010, to pursue his solo career. Initially there was a bit of beef between us, but as with all brothers, we eventually reunited in 2013 for our five year anniversary show. He proposed to his girlfriend on the stage. She said no.
As for me, I decided to start making music commercially. You may have heard my work in TV and Spotify ads for Xhaka Ball Shaban and Gucci Mishti Chanachur.
We're all in different fields and places now, but Unconscious Subconscious™ holds a special place in all our hearts. The community of musicians and fans kept us going through some of the hardest times. So, till Hoichoi picks up a documentary about our journey and our 13th anniversary (virtual) concert.
Our special thanks to Neo Mendes and Omni Music for the photoshoot. Find your music equipment, and more, at www.facebook.com/OmniMusic