Heavy Metal to be inducted into academia: Shakib Chowdhury of Cryptic Fate shares his views

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Official Link (edited and shortened version): The Daily Star – Star Campus

Photo Courtesy: Cryptic Fate and Shafayet Chowdhury

The news that has taken the music enthusiasts by storm is the recent announcement of the academic undergraduate degree in Heavy Metal by New College Nottingham (NCN), UK via BBC on 12 May, 2013. Certainly, it is the first program of its kind. However, an academic degree of probably the most rebellious form of music has its champions and opponents.

Liam Maloy, a lecturer in music performance at NCN told BBC, “It’s a degree, so it will be academically rigorous. In the past, heavy metal has not been taken seriously and is seen as lacking academic credibility when compared with other genres such as jazz and classical music. But that’s just a cultural construction.” “We will teach them the business side of the music industry too, which is imperative,” Maloy added to the coverage by Time magazine.

On the contrary, conservative academics shunned the initiative. Chris McGovern, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education argued to BBC on May 9 saying, “There are too many degrees being offered that lack credibility in the marketplace. It might seem an attractive, easy option to some people. But you don’t need to do a degree in heavy metal. It’s a waste of time.”

With these kinds of mixed reactions towards an academic approach to Heavy Metal, Bangladesh – that hosts more than 200 heavy metal bands consisting mostly of university students has her own opinion(s).

Given such a context, Shakib Chowdhury – lead singer, bassist and lyricist of one of the pioneering Heavy Metal bands of Bangladesh – “Cryptic Fate” shared his insights in an articulate interview with the writer.

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Do you think people can be “taught” heavy metal as offered by these people who will be granting the degree in UK?

Shakib Chowdhury (SC): The emotional response is that, I don’t believe in institutional learning of rock music or metal music. It is a sub-genre of music and rock/metal is about passion and not finesse. The finesse comes with practice and experience. I feel you have to experience metal, learn through playing, learn through picking up songs, playing gigs, sucking at it etc. And to me, metal is always about raw emotions and connections that are very personal. I don’t think you should make metal keeping in mind the audience or the market. You should make metal music for yourself. It is a very different mindset from pop music. Pop music is made for the people. Metal – you make it for yourself.

The rational response is that not everyone who is passionate about music wants to be a musician. Just as being an English Literature graduate doesn’t make you a writer, a Heavy Metal graduate won’t make you a metal musician. And maybe the person taking the course doesn’t want to or need to be a musician. The student may just want the degree because he/she is passionate about metal. And if this person then goes out into the workforce, the metal community has one of its own people in the general work community. For instance, if the person heading a major Telco marketing department is a Heavy Metal graduate, then all the more chances of that Telco brand being involved with metal projects. So that’s a clear positive.

Another thing is that a lot of people give up metal because they can’t find the right partners for their band. So by having a heavy metal course, you are congregating metal enthusiasts and so you have more chances of talented people who otherwise would not have been able to form a band now finding soul mates and making new bands and music.

Lastly, yes rationally speaking, heavy metal can be taught.

Would metal legends of the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Bruce Dickinson and Ronnie James Dio be more successful had they taken such a course? What do you think?

SC: Regarding Ozzy, Dickinson et al. and whether they would have been more successful coming off institutional learning of metal, that’s a very “what if” scenario. I don’t know how they can be more successful than they are now; so I really can’t answer that.

We, the fans of Cryptic Fate know how much trouble, deliberation and struggle you people had to go through while releasing your first Bengali album – “Sreshtho”. When was it produced and when did it get released? As the degree coordinator suggests that it will teach the students the “business” side of music – do you think that has any chance in Bangladesh – or more accurately you can cast focus on this in light of the release of “Sreshtho”?

SC: “Sreshtho” was a very frustrating experience. We recorded the album in 1997 but then we had to wait till 2002 for it to be released. Even that happened only because we had built some credibility with the song “Cholo Bangladesh” which was released in “Chharpotro” (thanks to Isha Khan Durey bhai) and more importantly Bassbaba Sumon (of Aurthohin) was heavily involved with G-series (the record label) at that time. Between 1997 and 2001 we went to all the major labels but no one was convinced that it was a marketable product. Learning the “business side of things” would definitely have helped out then. I am assuming a major consideration for this university is contacts in the music industry. Just as universities in Bangladesh help out with placing CVs, this university should have contacts in the industry and bands will get a lot of help starting their careers. It certainly would have helped us out if we had those contacts in 1997.

Also the business side of things has changed drastically. Now a musician has more freedom in releasing his/her song through the digital space. But the monetisation (I think I just invented that word) of that process is still not clear. So the university can greatly help with these things.

The Heavy Metal degree is drawing a lot of flak internationally but why are we liberal about “music” in general academically e.g. Harvard, Oxford, UC Berkeley and even our University of Dhaka offers degrees in “Music”? Why not Heavy Metal?

SC: Heavy Metal is a sub-genre of music, and maybe studying a sub-genre can be limiting to your talents. Studying Heavy Metal is not the same as studying physics, which is a sub-genre of science. Maybe it’s like studying just romantic comedy films rather than film-making in general. You can see why that would be limiting. Maybe that’s why the criticisms are coming.

Thank you for your time.

Thus, Shakib Chowdhury of Cryptic Fate sheds a rather optimistic view on the novel idea of inclusion of Heavy Metal in academia. It must be noted that Cryptic Fate has been a role model for younger Heavy Metal bands in Bangladesh and they are still going strong. Watch out for their newest project – the highly acclaimed concept album – “Noy Maash” – signifying the nine months of our freedom fight in 1971. The novelty of the album is that the tracks are being released periodically every month setting a very new capstone in the annals of Bangladeshi music industry.

kalboishaki

All the funds earned through the release of the second single “Kalboishakhi” of the album “Noy Maash” are being donated to the Savar Rana Plaza victims for rehabilitation. The tracks can be bought from the official website of Incursion Music.

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