If you went back in time, from the early 2000’s to around 2010, something you are sure to notice about the young people in Dhaka is that a lot of them wanted to be in or had a band. Many teenagers, boys especially, formed bands with their friends and every other teenager had a guitar. Over in 2017, it’s not like the culture has vanished but it’s obvious that it has died down to a great extent.

Where did all the guitars go?

I discovered a number of reasons and the diversity of the reasons might surprise you.

21 year old Tushar Chowdhury*, who is currently a student at Dhaka University, is fairly irregular with music but when he was 17, all he thought about all day was putting a band together with a few of his friends. Many of the older kids at his school had bands and Tushar always thought that it was the coolest thing ever to be in a band.

So what went wrong?

“When we started doing it, it became obvious that opening a band properly was no easy business. You can always get a few friends together and perform at a school function but if you really want to do music seriously, so many hassles come together to make it almost impossible. You don’t get slots to play at unless you pay for them, instruments are expensive, as are the practice pads. And of course you have parents constantly breathing down your necks and telling you that this isn’t worth the time”

When I was speaking to him, Tushar looked rather deflated as he recalled the memories.

“We had a lot of enthusiasm. But reality kind of got the better of us. Soon we realized that it wasn’t worth the time. One of my friends left music altogether and started focusing more on Community Service because that would help him apply to US Colleges. Ultimately everyone left, so I did too.”

Speaking to Tushar brought out one of the key reasons why kids today don’t seem so intent on making bands anymore:

they would rather focus on things that will help them academically or will contribute in some way to their College Applications

Another reason why the band culture seems to have died down is because of how difficult it is to actually become capable musicians. Many kids start bands with dreams of fame and glory but as the reality of a musician’s life becomes more evident, many get scared off.

Abtahi Iptesam, of Studio 13, who at one point won the famous Incursion Battle of the Bands, moved over to YouTube when he noticed a niche market for well made local cover videos. This has created new horizons for him, as seen by the success of Studio 13. But unlike Abtahi, other kids who want to do something ‘cool’ and ‘creative’, simply switch over to things like comedy or meme pages.


Seems hard to believe? Think of it this way. A large section of the kids who pick up guitars don’t do it just because they love the music but because of the fame and glory generally associated with rock stars. But it’s hard to master an instrument, get a bunch of similarly capable musicians of similar taste together and then gel as a collective unit. It’s even harder when you factor in the realities of Bangladesh as a conservative 3rd world country. Put all of that together and you can see why people would choose easier options for fame and seeming cool.

So while the more academic crowd moves over to things like community service or MUN’s that help them land foreign scholarships, the others who want fame move over to easier fields. (That is not to take anything away from meme pages of course. Legitimately good humor takes a lot of effort and knowledge.)

In conclusion, it looks like a number of things came together to kill the thriving band culture in the country. Perhaps one day the reality of Bangladeshi will become more conducive to bands and musicians. But until then, a large portion of dreamers will ply their trade in alternate create fields that offer quicker paths to fame and glory.

by Rayaan Chowdhury