People take him to be the mystery guy of Bangladeshi music. With long hair, devil-beard and a metal attitude, we sat down with arguably the most influential person of our metal music scene today, Mr. Emran Ul Shifa.
How did you enter the world of music? How did it all start?
I was nowhere near music. I was into the subtlety of life. I was into poetry, painting, etc. The time was around 1993, when I used to see my elder brothers play with their guitars. One of them was a guitarist, and the other was into bass playing. I used to observe how they play it and whenever they went out, I used to take their guitars out of the bags and tried to imitate what they did. As time went by, I grew fond of the bass guitar and started to learn it myself. Though, my brothers wanted me to play the keyboard for them; keyboard was the “real deal” back at that time. I also bought a replica of Paul McCartney’s bass guitar which I found in Kolkata, India.
How did Poizon Green come to existence?
It goes way back in 1996. Mullick and I were students in St. Gregory’s High School. He was a grade older than me. So, I used to see him playing the snares during his time with the scout group. One day I went up to him and asked him to jam; I got a positive reply. After a couple of days, Mullick comes up to my place and asks me to go with him to his house, he told me that he had a drum kit in his place and we could jam there. So, I went there with him and started jamming.
We came to know about Tanvir a bit later. Tanvir was a guy who was into rock music and he used to play solo in all the musical stages Old Dhaka used to have back in the days. We came to know that our influence matches his and we thought, why not ask him to tag along? We met Enayet in our school; he was a grade younger than us. The young lad was interested to play with us and we recruited him as our bass player.
Poizon Green is said to be the first Thrash Metal band of Bangladesh. How do you enjoy having the tag along with you? What responsibilities did the tag bring along with it?
At Poizon Green, we always wanted to be true to the music we played. Back in the old days there were other senior bands that played heavy and thrash metal and with all due respect to them, they were very good but, something went missing somewhere. Every time I went to a concert I used to think that this should be a bit more extreme, that should be a bit more expressive, and that should be a bit more aggressive. They were correct on their part too; they had to make music so that everyone can listen. So, we basically did what they did not do, went in with the aggressiveness, and kept it as raw as possible so that the very small cult we used to have back in those days can enjoy to some pure thrash metal. All in all, it was never about us enjoying the tag, we always wanted to be true to the music we do and true to the listeners and I hope that we did exactly that.
Tell us about the unfolding of events which made you part ways with Poizon Green.
Everything has an end. No matter how far you go, you still have to come to a finish line and that is what I think I faced at one point of time. We started to have a lot of differences between us and even if we had to unite for our fans, it felt very difficult and almost next to impossible. We did not have that chemistry anymore and that is when I decided that I should part ways with them.
There were a lot other tragic events in my life which forced me to quit music completely. I started to think that music is not my place and maybe I should walk forward and find something more out of life. So, I went into movie making and ad business. At one point I found myself writing a full-featured film but something was back there in my mind which kept telling me that the place I was in now, is never mine. When I looked further into this I was shocked to see that the way they see the world, their views, judgmental criterions, criticisms and opinion do not match mine at all. I felt like an alien amongst them. Those are the moments it struck me think that maybe I actually do not belong here.
There were times when I am chatting with my buddies, or I am writing a script when there is this tune playing in my head, may be a guitar riff or a bass line but something always kept playing in my head and then I was convinced that I really need to contribute all my thoughts into a place which is truly mine: Music. Therefore, I came back and started Sent Men Revolt.
Sent Men Revolt is said to go by a genre called, “Spiritual Metal”. How does the music SMR make, goes with the genre?
We have problems around us. Let it be the murders, the rapes, the corruption, the abduction or the wars, we need to realize that we have problems that we created, and we need to realize that all these problems can be tackled. Even though a lot of people know that all these problems can be tackled with care, we still do not act wisely and try to do something about it. So, what we wanted to do is to connect with the spirits of a human being with our music. For example, this track was released in the Rock Series name, “Chotto Porir Golpo”. This is a track which speaks about all the girls who went astray, who were used and abused, gullible and so badly de-motivated that they forgot why they came to this earth, who forgot that their existence and innocence means a lot to the world and they are here to give their innocence, not their sufferings. We want to connect to the spirit of human beings through the music we do and tell them that their innocence needs to be protected. We need to establish equilibrium on earth; an equilibrium which has to shift for the welfare of our society and culture and that these innocent little faces are our culture and a big part which defines our society and as long as we do not act properly, we shall see it all ruin, which in any part of the world, cannot be accepted.
Even though SMR wants to spread a message of goodwill, the music that you do restricted to a cult, not a big one but still a cult. So, how does spreading the message among the small cult help achieve the bigger picture of helping the society?
The extreme bands of the 80s were more into preaching the dark side of life, more into portraying aggression and darkness and even though these bands do not play anymore but they left their mark into this culture in a way, that this specific kind of music is now known to represent the dark side of life. From the 80s till now, we might have new listeners into our cult but the people who were the cult back in the time are destined to be in the hierarchy of the corporate world and in the highs of politics, with a mentality which favors destruction, aggression or fascism, which I consider to be wrong. I am fortunate enough to have all these people even in my time because now I can tell them that this is not the right way. Using music as a tool, I can show them the right path, something which all the other bands did previously. So, even if my music do not reach the mass public, I know my music is still reaching the people I do care about and it feels to good to contribute even a percent to the welfare of our society.
Since you started Sent Men Revolt, you have been playing with young, yet talented musicians. Someone of your age and caliber, does it not hurt you in any sense that you are in a band with people who are very young compared to you?
Age does not and should not dictate the will to do music. Similarly, age does not define one’s ability to do music. I do agree that I have been playing with musicians who are younger than me but let us look at the practical world for a minute: how many musicians do you see out there are still busy with their music and are devoted to it? I would say very few. Most of them are busy with their businesses, with their married life; some are even busy enjoying their corporate highs! But these people I have, they are young and willing to do music and devote themselves to the music that they believe in. Passionate is the right word to describe this bunch. All the people I have been playing with in Sent Men Revolt are without a doubt very skilled and they know what they are playing or what they want to play and as long as I have passionate music lovers around me, who are skilled enough to qualify, I have no problem at all playing with them because at the end of the day, it is the heart that you pour into the music and when all of us share the same passion in music, we believe that no boundaries can stop us.
What does SMR hold for us in the future?
Sent Men Revolt always wanted to stay back to the roots and be the old school thrash metal band. Simply put, we always wanted to stay as far way as possible from the glam and the media of the industry; do as less shows as possible and appear in as less interviews as possible. We wanted to give full freedom to ourselves in the studios and play to our own capabilities and let our music speak that way. All the music we do and all the efforts we put in, it is going to last forever, and we want to last in everyone’s memories as that one old school metal band that forever stayed back to the roots.
Being a person who has seen the whole music industry and the underground scene change, how do you address all the existing problems and what do you think can be a proper solution to it all?
Doing music to have some fun- I believe that is what ruins our industry. I want to tell all these musicians that if you are serious about your music and if you want to be devoted to your music, only then pick a guitar up and start playing your mojo. If not, then please quit now and go one your separate ways and lead your life to the fullest. It is all because of the mentalities. All the fun-loving mentalities out there form a band, play a few shows and when the fun is over, they go abroad and do what they are actually aspired to do. This has given rise to unnecessarily huge amount of bands in this country, upon which the greed of the bluffing organizers is fed. They take this opportunity and capitalize it. It is also wrong on the organizers’ part as well. If he is aware of his profits then he should run behind the quality, not the quantity. If he can pull a quality show, the audience is bound to attend his shows.
Similarly, piracy can only be tackled by talking to the conscience of the people. It needs to be fed to them that they are going to be the reason of pushing a band of their own country to extinction. We have seen how De-Illumination suffered, and it is sad on our part that we still could not do anything. So, it goes out as a request to stop piracy and to stop the killing of a term which means a lot than words- Music.
Anything for your fans?
It is their appreciation and their support that is making me run today. I cannot explain how much I love them. I thank them from the bottom of my heart.
It is general knowledge to us now that music is a tool. A tool to fight crime, a tool to spread goodwill or it can also be a tool to fix humanity. All the young musicians out there who want to be big, aspires to use music for the welfare of the society we live in. Mr. Shifa is not only an inspiration to those, but he is a role model as well. He has shown exactly how it needs to be done. We wish him the best of luck for the service he is providing. Salute to you.
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