Youthsparks caught up with an amazing guitarist, a person pursuing a dream of having a good musical society and one of the few Bangladeshi guitarists to cover Jason Beckers’ “Altitudes”, Saadi Muktafi and I discussed about his musical career; how things have changed since his time. Here is how it went.
What got you into music, specifically, guitar-playing?
I had a strong classical background from the start. I used to take vocal lessons when I was young. So, that confronted me with a Hawaiian guitar and I thought of giving it a try, so I started learning how to play a Hawaiian one. I wasn’t much serious about it. After that, on May 15th, 1993, I got my first Spanish guitar and I started learning how to play that. That would really sum up how I got into guitar playing. But, if my inspirations are being talked about, as to what inspired me to take up guitar playing seriously, I would say that would be the guitar maestro, Yngwie Malmsteen. I never knew that a guitar can played as fast as he can play, so that brewed my passion for guitar playing, to be exact.
What influenced you into band music and how did you get into it?
As I said, I got my first Spanish guitar in 1993 and I started playing that. At that time, I had a friend who used to come over to my place almost everyday and we used to jam together at my place. But my music ride was not at all smooth. Bangladesh did not have any internet connection at that time, and access to international albums was next to impossible. It was very difficult to learn how to play an instrument as there was no one to show me the starting grammar required to play an instrument. I would’ve considered myself the luckiest person on Earth if someone gave me a guitar lesson at that time! Believe it or not, I never knew how to play the minor chords. I always used to play all the major chords, till I came to know when I had the access to it. Realizing the need of proper guitar lessons, I started to teach how to play guitars from 1996. I used to share whatever knowledge I have within me, because it might just help someone else at that point of time. All through the struggling times, a few of us formed a band name “Blitz”, which was a heavy metal-hard rock band. We did not have any commercial motives with Blitz. We played for ourselves and ended up doing quite a lot of university shows. As the days passed, I came to know about bands like Scorpions, Deep Purple, Pink Floyd and others and they inspired me to continue with my guitar-playing.
How did Kral come to existence? How did the band come up with its genre?
Kral was formed in 2001. The band basically thought about the concept of progressive music and how it used to baffle everyone of us which brought us to the idea of forming a band where we would be covering progressive stuffs only. Thus, the existence of Kral with its’ confusing, yet interesting genre, Art Rock. Some might ask why these 5 people ended up choosing Art Rock to be the genre. The answer is simple: The hunger to do something out of the box; the fun of the uniqueness it carries, the ever-changing drum patterns and the aura of the sound. Kral started off with their single name “Obhhishaap” which was released in a mixed album. Then came Aguntok – 2 and brought “Shesh” along with it. That basically made the pathway for Kral to prosper and come to a stage where it is now.
What are your other projects and what do you do there?
I had one instrumental project name “Neverland” but that does not exist now. The other project I have now is Dr. Doctors, where you can see me, Hisham, Basil and Rakil play. This started off as an instrumental project but it changed into a band. The tracks this band cover is what I want to play; whatever suits my mood. Obviously, if I want to play Pantera, I cannot do that with Kral. This defines the existence of Dr. Doctors., in one way or the other. This also clarifies the point that the band has no specific genre. For example, if we want to cover Guns N’ Roses, we do it. If we want to present the crowd with Megadeth, we do it. We just need to grab a good vocal to sing the tracks. Talking about the vocals, I highly appreciate the efforts of a lot of people who burned their vocal chords in front of the mic, while singing for Dr. Doctors, like Jamshed Chowdhury from Powersurge, and Rafa from Aurthohin and others too!
What is Saadi Muktafi’s take on a ‘good guitar playing stage’? What is hindering the development of a good guitar playing nation?
You said it. A good stage. Not undermining the gravity of the event, a guitarfest a year is not enough. We need to have more and more guitar events in our country. I myself once tried to do something like G3 but that did not happen. I even tried to have guitar clinic, something that a lot of musicians outside of our country do, but that did not happen either. The organizers in our country should focus a bit more on these guitar events rather than the Push Sells or what not.
How do you compare the situation of your guitar-playing days with today and what is your take on it?
I believe everything is hyped nowadays. The minimum respect that should come out from a listener for a band can be established as a missing element in today’s society, and the never-ending phenomenon name “Piracy” further approves my point. If a person has the least amount of respect for a band, then they should obviously go to the stores and buy the bands’ album, rather than downloading it. During those times, I can never imagine that LRBs’ album is released and I did not go to the store to buy that! This goes to show how there were no piracy issues at that time. Along with that, I show the band some respect, stating the fact that I support the music that they were doing and it should be continued, something that always needs to be done. Nowadays, there are around 7-8 major bands (at maximum) releasing their solo albums each year. If each copy of an album costs 60 tk (at maximum, again), then the cumulative price for 8 albums (at maximum, again) would be 480 tk which will not even provide you with a proper KFC meal, and still the youngsters are not realizing this fact. We need to face the harsh reality that no matter how much we try, we can never stop piracy, never stop those people from uploading the tracks and never stop those who download them, we can stop piracy, if and only if, the listeners realize the emotion of a band behind each track, so that they can at least save 500 taka a year to buy all these albums and the give these bands a good support to keep this industry running.
What are the difficulties that are not brewing good guitarists into the music scene nowadays?
I have taught around 600 students in my whole life, till now and I can clearly say that the passion for guitar playing is clearly missing on the eyes and hearts of the young minds today. They just cannot feel the ecstasy of hitting a proper note. This is further worsened by the lack of struggling to be a better guitar player than what they are. It is an evident fact that that no one can achieve perfection without a struggle, without hard-work, something which is entirely missing out and which is further worsened by the excessive availability of guitar lessons, which makes the kids go around to any teacher from any area, learn a few chords and make a band of their own. The problem achieves depth due to the lack of listening of the kids today. I have a few students who want to form a metalcore band and they only listen to metalcore music. Little do they know that they are going to be the reason why they will be stuck and will follow a constricted and narrow path of music? I myself, listen to all kinds of music, not to mention the Late Jagjit Singh is one of my favorite singers! The last and the biggest misery to be added, Guitar Pro. This software will never make you learn anything from it, and it should be considered a sin that you pick up songs from that software, if you are a guitarist. It will never give you the real fun of picking up solos all by yourselves. The worst case scenario, this will never make you trust your own ears. Know this: There will be no Guitar Pro on stage where you just might mess things up. I am not against the PROPER use of the software. If there is a tune in your head, then go on, jot it down on the software and save it for further purpose but using the software to cover tracks is the worst form of usage.
What is Saadi Muktafi looking for, as an experienced ear in the society?
Agreeing upon the fact that bands these days are technically advanced, they still lack in having a good tune which can hum in the minds of people. The reason why I believe there are very few bands which can lead this industry and the country’s music after all of us leave. I also believe that bands nowadays hugely lack diversity and this is the reason why almost all of the tracks sound similar these days.
Anything for your fans and guitar lovers?
First and foremost, say NO to drugs. It will not make you strong; will not make you play at 650 bpm. It will only weaken you and make you die. A lot of people think that they will try it once in a while and then they would quit it but that’s not as easy as eating a pie. So, it’s better to stay sober.
Secondly, respect all your seniors and if you are a musician, respect all the senior musicians. Obviously, these are the people who have raised the bar for you all to beat. Thirdly, I hope all of us will be open to new and newer music and everyday and will try to learn from every opportunity possible and will try to practice to those, in order to perfect our knowledge. I love you all. Keep rocking.
This is a musician with true passion for his guitar-playing, who has struggled, who has seen all the ups and downs. A teacher, he is an inspiration for today’s youngsters and the generations to follow. Salute to Mr. Saadi Muktafi. You will always be respected as an excellent musician.
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