Banglas to the rescue
An LA-based triad of brothers weaves storytelling with rap to represent their culture
When you watch Bhanga Bangla's BOROF, meaning ice in Bengali, you are struck by a feeling of pride. Think Fifty Cent, but if he was Bengali. The beat is typical gangsta rap, and the video ethnic cool. Bhanga Bangla, where Bhanga means 'broken', is made up of three Bengali brothers. "We are a little less fluent in Bengali, so it made sense to name the group around that concept. We didn't want to act like what we are not," they tell us over email from Los Angeles. Tausif Hussain aka Ivory Shakur, Umair Talal aka 41X and Tanjid Hussain aka Young Prince, began their careers writing music for various musicians and then decided to make their own music in 2018. BOROF is also the first release under Sony Music's hip-hop-focused imprint, Awaaz. Excerpts from an interview:
What's unique about your sound?
Our music is about storytelling and our sound is inspired by Los Angeles. We write music, but we also write stories. And our stories are all inter-linked. Each music video is shown in a different year, showing how this military organisation (AATF) is taking over numerous parts of the world, and Bhanga Bangla has to go and save each location from the invading armies. Although it seems fictional and sci-fi, we love showcasing our people [brown/desi] in powerful positions. We grew up not seeing any brown superheroes... We believe in representing our own culture through our art.
What's the toughest part of making music when you want to keep your heritage alive, but also want to introduce new sounds and influences?
The balance between the two can be difficult, but that's why we like to do it. Going through that challenge of balancing culture/heritage of the past with the music of modern times, is exactly what makes us grow as individuals.
Lyrically, what kind of issues do you want to talk about?
We want to talk about the human experience. As more of our music is released, it will fall into place. In fact, our music videos showcase a little snippet of the stories we would like to tell. It may seem like a lot of chaos in the videos, but the videos are metaphors to the world that we live in. For example, in our third music video, The Village, we started it with the text: "Aygnihor Era". Aygnihor is literally Rohingya written backwards. During that time, we felt a deep need to tell the story of Rohingya refugees in Myanmar, and we wanted to do it subtly. In the video, we wanted to show that the Rohingyas were able to stand up and make a difference. Just like that, we like to sprinkle metaphors throughout our music and videos, and use those metaphors to create visuals that are empowering to desi people around the world.
What have you learnt about the music business working in LA?
The music business is a blessing and a curse. We will leave it at that.
What's the one thing that's needed for regional artistes to succeed on an international platform?
The most important factor is the viewers' engagement. Artistes want more engagement from the community. If the viewers feel a certain way — good or bad — they need to express it. As long as we can spark the imaginations of viewers and listeners, we will continue to entertain them.
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