Live²: On RockNation, Wireless Session & more
‘They have an ambitious goal to unite diverse musical genres and to promote Bangladeshi music globally, with an emphasis on youth driving the change. To achieve this goal, Live² has been actively involved in various activities’... Sajid Rahman and Debashish Niloy reveal
For avid rock genre lovers, the music hangover must be full on! Stiff necks, throbbing ears and the ecstasy of having enjoyed some hard rock music… it really couldn’t get any better than that. In case you were wondering and have already figured it out, yes, I was referring to the RockNation II concert of last night. The stellar line up, made of big names like Warfaze and Cryptic Fate, along with newer sensations Nemesis, Arbovirus, Powersurge, Indalo, were all set to bring the house down…and oh they did just that! The show was a hit; the crowd went fanatic!
Yet today, we are not here to glorify RockNation II, or the brilliant performances of the bands involved, rather, the magicians behind the scene who have made RockNation and many such memorable concerts possible. We bring you the story of Live².
In less than three years, Live² has made its mark in the culture and entertainment sector. According to the organisation’s key members, Nafis Ahmed and Afrida Mahbub, Live2 focuses on what they call ‘culturetainment’, a good old blend of culture and entertainment, fused together. Their prime focus is on the urban youth and they believe nothing motivates today’s youth more than good quality music and a platform where they can gather and indulge in the music of their taste. On the front end, Live² is usually seen to organise concerts; but they do more than that. They make jingles, provide marketing solutions for clients through music events and arrange corporate band gigs. Principally, Live² has gained popularity and recognition through its signature concert series such as ‘RockNation’, ‘The Wireless Sessions’ (a series of concerts based fully on unplugged/acoustic music and featuring crowd favourites as well as emerging bands) and the ‘ABC Generation’ (the three biggies of Bangladesh’s underground band music: Artcell, Black and Cryptic Fate on one stage). In addition, they are also the pioneers to accommodate local and foreign artistes/bands on the same stage. A couple of these projects, ‘Starch (a Swiss funk band) meets Lalon’ and ‘East meets West’ received much acclaim from the young music followers in Dhaka recently. Through Live²’s arrangements, the Norwegian band, Casa Murilo came and toured Bangladesh and became an instant hit amidst the vibrant, young music enthusiasts.
If you think that was all, well, hold your horses! Live² has got more to it. They have an ambitious goal to unite diverse musical genres and to promote Bangladeshi music globally, with an emphasis on youth driving the change. To achieve this goal, Live² has been actively involved in various activities like boosting emerging bands, for instance, the promotion of Arbovirus and their new album ‘Montobbo Nishproyojon’. ‘The entire online album launch and promotion of the album was carried out by Live²,’ shares Nafis.
So, where did this all start? Live² was founded by Nafis Ahmed, a passionate rock music lover, a dreamer of music revolution in Bangladesh and a business graduate from IBA. Sounds interesting? Perhaps this is the question circling in your mind: What made an IBA graduate turn away from the conventional career path of climbing a corporate ladder and rather plunge into uncertainty to create a base in the music industry? According to him, it was not all about passion. Passion for music was definitely a big part of it, but added to it was the following: an experience of organising lounge music in the capital, an effective association with foreign institutes in Dhaka, an exploration of the international music fraternities and to cap it all, a shrewd sense of business.
While studying at IBA, Nafis like many youngsters today, was an amateur musician himself. He had his own band, played in small gigs and intently followed the many concerts which took place in his day. However, that was not where he wanted to stop. Through his friends and networks, he organised his first project MetAlter, somewhere in 2004-2005, aiming to create a popular gig consisting of good metal and alternative rock bands of the time. At first, the concerts received good response but soon the vibe died down. Without giving up and rather continuing to work passionately, Nafis fuelled the concept of lounge music in Dhaka and soon, followed it up with the Wireless Sessions. ‘Those times were tough. Sponsors were scarce, financial capability limited and most of all, I had no recognition to bank upon. However, I decided to stick through and eventually, the Wireless Sessions started turning a few heads’, recalls Nafis Ahmed.
Once his name got spread a little, Nafis happened to get a call from Goethe German Institute, offering him an opportunity that he accepted without hesitation- the chance to visit Europe as well as tour the subcontinent to learn more about their musical culture. It started with the Delhi exchange program in 2009 followed by touring Norway, Germany and Sri Lanka. The diversity in music, people’s affection towards various genres, the uniqueness in location, atmosphere and performances of the foreign shows greatly influenced the young mind. He saw that music was a blooming industry in these countries and after returning home, he saw an immense possibility to boost the music scene in our country as well. He made up his mind and thus began the journey of Live², in January 2011.
Through the highs and the lows, Live² has matured as an organisation. It now employs eight full timers and twenty regular part-timers. Afrida, now the COO of the company, has left a career at Unilever to pursue Live². The RockNation concerts have been mostly under her exclusive management and she, along with Nafis, eventually makes the important decisions regarding the directions that the organisation is taking.
Besides Rocknation, one of the proudest achievements of Live² is taking Bangladeshi music to the big international festivals held annually and attended by musicians from all over the world. Chirkuttt attended festivals in India and Sri Lanka and Live² worked behind the curtains to make it happen. According to Live², Chirkutt was the first Bangladeshi band to join in an international festival, which was not exclusively for Bangladeshi audience. As a testament of the band’s brilliant performance, it has now been invited to join another festival in Norway. Other bands will be added to this list soon, expects Live².
Live², to this day, has been predominantly Dhaka-based. But Nafis and Afrida plan to broaden their horizon in the near future. The organisation is indeed working hard on taking its activities beyond the boundaries of the capital city and Nafis revealed that country-wide projects will be launching early next year. Music lovers outside Dhaka, keep your eyes and ears open!
Over time, Live² has crafted its reputation with innovative music events. It is now looking forward to adding artiste management to its repertoire. The signed artistes will work with Live² exclusively and perform in several gigs throughout the year. Live² aims to provide their signed artists with a steady stream of employment, as well as different partnerships with patrons while it will handle all aspects of the artistes’ promotion. ‘This partnership will liberate the artistes from business aspects so that they can solely focus on music. We have signed a few bands already and we are working to add more,’ informs Afrida.
Now, along with excitement comes obligation with the deal between the partners. The signed bands will have to perform in all the booked shows and do their agreed part in all the partnerships with the patrons, in a schedule chalked by Live² in consultations with the bands. The artistes have to work within a structure that guarantees better prospects as well as top notch representation. The key challenge is establishing a structure in the local music industry where structure is virtually non-existent and do it in such a way that artistes are comfortable with the arrangements-all these while protecting the reputation that Live² has worked so hard to create. This type of professional arrangement is not yet common in Bangladesh. So, Live² will have to tackle a few uncertainties here. But dealing with uncertainties and making them splendid are precisely the things that made Live² what it is today.
The passion for good music is what created and fuelled Live² in all their endeavours. With a future of great possibilities and even greater uncertainties, you can only be certain of one thing: with Live², there will always be something new, something refreshing and something not quite seen before in this country’s music arena.
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