Dhaka is the Detroit of Bangladesh. Well, somehow. The third part of the essay tells how Dhakas ever growing electronic music scenes are looking for unique sound identities in a globalized world.
The Second Wave – 2010s
«The Explorations compilation brims with confidence. Though the history of electronic music is referenced, the Dhak-ites are unintimidated by it and searching for their own sounds». (Aniruddha Das aka Dr. Das of Asian Dub Foundation)
With a bullish economy growing at more than 6% a year, Bangladeshis are connecting through the world wide web in an increasing number. The number of internet users at the end of 2010 was 6.6% and grew to 9.6% in 2015. These fractional percentages are quite a big number in a country of 160 million people. The effect of globalization has allowed young people to consume the global electronic music scene at the click of a mouse. While there was always access to international music in Dhaka through cassette and CD shops, it only gave the listeners a selected choice and the audience had no clue about alternative music scenes.
Young kids in Dhaka who had access to computers and internet discovered the DAW softwares online and began experimenting with it. Unlike the developments of electronic music scenes in the 80s and 90s in cities like Chicago, Detroit and Berlin which was more collaborative from the very beginning, the exploration of electronic music by Dhaka’s youth has been a largely solitary experience in both listening and production techniques, creating a diversity but at the same time making it difficult for Dhaka to come up with an electronic music sound that it can call it’s own so far. These ‘bedroom producers’ had a variety of international influences and because of that the new wave of producers can also be roughly divided into the EDM and electronica, techno. There are also a good number of experimental/noise acts.
There is a fundamental approach for each of these camps/cliques – the global EDM scene is a solid example of globalization. From Miami to Kuala Lumpur, the sound is similar in style and production, making the market huge as electronica enthusiasts also have a regional mentality, with a focus on a city. House music came from Chicago, techno from Detroit. Berlin took techno and developed their own style in such a way that Berlin techno is one of the most globally recognized electronic music genre.
The development of Dhaka Electronica Scene (DES) as an online cross media DIY community since 2012 created a reasonable momentum for all these bedroom producers by first allowing them to discover each other through the social media platform, Facebook and then their work. It gradually pivoted from an online network to a non profit startup and was featured as one of the best startups by SDAsia in 2013. Currently the DES maintains database of about 200 local artists. In 2013, DES released their first music compilation «Explorations» and to everyone’s surprise got the most attention from the international electronic music community. The German edition of the Vice, featured it with the title, «Bangladeshi Techno is different than you think». British sound artist Gawain Hewitt remarked about the scene to a popular Bangladeshi band he met during his Dhaka trip, «DES, by comparison, are far more interested in listening to what is around them, and building from there». Hence, it was the beginning of new things.
DES with the DIY approach of doing things was a reflection of the internet generation. In about five years since its inception it has grown to include designers, writers, cinematographers, promoters allowing creativity to flourish. The online community gradually became a physical entity with affordable small scale events, host free and inexpensive workshops for new music producers and enthusiasts and promote local work in the growing network. Their first step to mainstream media has to be their radio show «Planet Electronica» which promotes the best local work since 2015.
The Promise of Electronic Music in Bangladesh
«For the past ten to fifteen years the Asian/Indian electronica music dominated by producers in UK and USA. In that time India, Pakistan and Bangladesh music and musicians have had a profound influence on the London Electronica scene. As this wave of new underground music emerges from India and takes the limelight, it’s easy to forget what the neighboring countries have to in store for us. It’s fascinating to see the surfacing of unique sounds resonating from the heart of Bangladesh, Dhaka». (Sanjay Kundalia)
Once again, it’s evident that electronic music is a global phenomenon and not simply western, because the form allows experimentation to an extent that older forms can be broken and new ones created. Innovation, both technological and artistic, are well regarded in electronic music scenes all over the world. There is no single place which can be attributed as the Mecca for electronic music but many. Electronic music will define the music of the future for the world as it brings down language barriers and reflects on the ethos of science. While the general perception of the Bangladeshi population towards electronic music is through the western lens, it only is a matter of time when they will discover local artists redefining the sounds and owning it to showcase it to the world.
Abridged and adapted from the original term paper written for MSS Media and Journalism program of Independent University, Bangladesh.