DES was founded by aspiring electronic music producers and enthusiasts -- some of the core founders being Khan Mohammed Faisal and Omer Nashaad, initially as a Facebook group that drew in likeminded people, helping them discover other collaborators in this common mission. It soon turned into a cultural non-profit organisation, creating a label by which music producers could now identify themselves. DES created compilations and an open platform to share and learn, soon involving digital artists. With appreciable support from Goethe Institut and considerable coverage from global media outlets and scenes, DES has developed its share of performances, collaborations and connectivity.
Faisal also represents Dhaka in Border Movement, an initiative that bridges the gaps between the various electronic scenes in the rest of South Asia and Germany. LiveSquare, a musical event managing team, has been by their side, organising live shows in Dhaka and even attempting a rave in Chittagong, seeing the same promise in it as they see in the rock and metal scene of Dhaka. DES has partnered up with production teams to produce original music for documentaries, thereby creating opportunities for producers to put their skills to work. More importantly DES, being a digital platform, has created a way for the Bangladeshi diaspora to come together as producers and listeners with their common interest in electronic music.
Music in our bones
The music scene in fast-evolving urban Bangladesh is anything but predictable. Music is an integral part of our country's culture. The underground rock and metal scene is burgeoning, just as young artists are working to revive the folk music roots. The trends demonstrate that we are not willing to remain secluded within fenced regions in the name of conservatism. It shows that we are connected and willing to learn from the world, but instead of copying new tricks, we want to use the new media to express our own identities and create something uniquely ours.
And that is what the electronica scene in Bangladesh is now.
Legitimising electronic music in Dhaka
DJ-ing in Bangladesh has mostly been associated with Indian and Western pop songs mixed for holud dance offs and social gatherings. There is no trace of a nightlife in Dhaka despite being the progressive capital of a moderately conservative nation. UAE, an Islamic nation with a liberal approach and attitude towards international cultures, is a hotspot for a growing electronica scene, with music festivals such as Sandance on its beaches. What we have in Dhaka now is a very confusing attitude towards electronic music, where the youth is exposed to the music but it's seemingly nonexistent on the streets.
South Asian sounds in electronic music have largely been dominated by India -- with non-resident Indians incorporating sounds from home in international productions, defining a wave of Bhangra mixes and lounge music like Nitin Sawhney's. It's hard to define integral Bangladeshi sounds in electronic music when anything South Asian is perceived as being “Indian” -- a culture with which we share a lot. Even though our earlier ventures into electronic music were characterised by the works of Fuad al Muqtadir and Habib, they largely fell into the category of reviving traditional songs with new spins. To build an original space for Bangladeshi electronic music producers is a challenge.
Such challenges evoke the need to come under an umbrella initiative that can unite all local producers to pursue a common direction for the local scene without having to curb their individual styles -- be it trance, dubstep, house or lounge; therein comes Dhaka Electronica Scene (DES).
In its struggle to define the electronica scene of Dhaka, DES now has to deal with bigger problems. Copyrights issues and piracy are major problems for artists globally, but in a country like Bangladesh, these issues do not get adequate attention. In the process, artists lose ground and get entangled in messes that leave them unrepresented, uncompensated, and demoralised. Proper record labels that protect the rights of musicians are hard to find; labels that welcome new sounds such as the ever-evolving electronic music, are even harder to find. To see their objectives through, DES has encouraged the formation of new labels such Akaliko Records, Incursion Music's Electro Records and Pulse. Dugdugi and ME Label are progressive labels with a more modern approach to the commercialisation of music.
DES is spearheading initiatives that aim to define original grounds for music in Bangladesh, demanding more representation of the local music scenes in traditional media. They have not only challenged the norms by taking on a very non-traditional genre of music, but are also doing it organically from within. Electronica nights here aren't about intoxicants or crazy partying, it is about revolutionising the local audience's outlook on music itself. It's about developing our scene instead of borrowing from others. It's about drawing lines between being influenced or inspired, and simply reproducing someone else's music.
When asked where he thinks the local electronica scene is headed, producer Fahad Zaman said, “I believe in the future we'll see more live acts, full length albums and a lot more producers. We just need the fans of electronica to show their support. My dream is to land a music festival like Electric Forest or Magnetic Fields!”