In the intricate tapestry of the modern music scene, where artists strive to stand out and create something truly unique, a distinct voice that captivates the hearts of the audience, is none other than Raef Al Hasan Rafa. An extremely talented musician and vocalist and the man behind the band “AvoidRafa”. Rafa has carved out a distinct way in the music industry, enchanting listeners with soul-stirring melodies with a tune in his heart and a symphony in his spirit. During a session with TINDS, we delve into the journey of Rafa, a musical prodigy whose artistry transcends genres and transports us to a realm where sound is more than just music.
TINDS: Tell us a little about your childhood.
Rafa: I was born and brought up in Dhaka only. My entire life has been in places around Dhanmondi. There’s not much to talk about if I am to mention my childhood, it was pretty basic similar to that of any other kid from the 90’s era. My father worked abroad so I kinda grew up with my mother for a very long time.
TINDS: How’d you get into the world of music?
Rafa: My elder brother, Saadi, who’s 9 years older than me was my first inspiration. He is a doctor and also a guitar tutor and I think I was introduced to great music by him only. My brother always pushed me towards doing music as he was very deeply involved with his bands and stuff. I wasn’t really interested in music initially until grade 7, when I found this tremendous liking for music in me. It is almost unnatural how well I understand music, it’s like a God’s gift to me. I never really learned any instrument except for the guitar that my brother taught me. I would visit the practice pads with my brother and start playing the drums without even knowing how to and eventually realized I could sing as well. It was around that time in the year 2000, my brother started a band named “KRAL” with me and one of my cousins Adnan, who was the bassist of “ARBOVIRUS”.
TINDS: Do you remember the first time you were up on stage? Tell us a little about that experience.
Rafa: Our one and only Sumon bhai, the Bassbaba, back then had this place in Dhanmondi where musicians would just go and hangout, it was more like a recording studio or a practice pad. The only passport you needed to get in there was to be involved in music somehow. Back then the Bassbaba actively organized concerts where the show used to be opened by bands like “Cryptic Fate”. My first ever underground show was held in Indian Cultural Centre, in Dhanmondi 12/a. I have seen bands like Aurthohin & Artcell but it was a very underground setting.
TINDS: 3 words that describe you the best.
Rafa: Patient, Stubborn & Gifted.
TINDS: What would you say is your worst quality?
Rafa: I think my worst quality would be the fact that I can not say no. You can also call me a pushover.
TINDS: How many instruments do you play?
Rafa: I can play the guitar, bass, drums, keyboard and a little bit of piano. I can play the harmonica and a lot of string instruments. In a nutshell I can play around 6-7 instruments but I have really worked hard on the basics like the drums, guitar and bass
TINDS: Being in the society that we live in, how’d you end up choosing music as your profession and career?
Rafa: People often assume that us being a successful musician today, things might have come easy to us, but that is so not the case. Coming from a family where most of my cousins and even my elder brother is a physician, needless to say it wasn’t easy to just be a musician. When I finished my O’levels, I eagerly wanted to study music. So I surfed the internet and mailed several institutions to figure out if I qualify or not and I even got an offer from Berklee in Boston. When I joined “Aurthohin”, my parents weren’t aware of the fact for the first two years I suppose. It was later when one of my aunts saw me on tv performing with the band and then told the rest of the family about it. The dynamics of a bengali family is I believe placed in a way that when majority people like something, the rest are more likely to be in support of it. That’s what happened in my case as well, my family was happy about me being involved with a big name like “Aurthohin”. When I confronted my father about studying music abroad, the conversation we had was when I figured that it was immoral of me to ask so much money from him just because I wanted to, because studying music is not at all cheap. I decided I would earn myself and someday pursue my dream of studying music myself. I had to experience a ton of societal pressure from even immediate family. I had no guidance and direction and I feared I’d have to go back to my parents someday and tell them I was wrong but thank God I didn’t have to. Parents always look out for their children to have a stable career and they are often scared of the fact that they will get old. I appreciate their concern and I am grateful for their support throughout the years.
TINDS: What is the story behind the band ‘AvoidRafa’ ?
Rafa: The story behind this is rather interesting. “Aurthohin” was supposed to perform in a show named Rock Nation but due to some legal issues they could not. The organizer was a friend of mine and he was terrified of the crowd as the tickets were already sold. Upon discussion with Sumon bhai, he called me up and told me to get up on stage and perform my songs from Aurthohin and so that I could manage the crowd as well. My friend called me up and suggested he put the name ‘Rafa & Friends’ on the banner of the show, which I personally did not approve of. I asked for a few moments from him to think of a name and get back to him and that is how the name ‘AvoidRafa’ came into the scene.
TINDS: What would you be if not a musician?
Rafa: If I wasn’t a musician, I’d have definitely been a psychologist or an astrophysicist.
TINDS: Do you think it is important to be part of a band to flourish as a musician in our country?
Rafa: Not necessarily, provided that the x-factor is there and the luck is also in your favor, it is important that people like what you’re doing or making. The audience is key. You could be producing excellent music but if the audience doesn’t like it, all of the hard work goes to vain, doesn’t matter if you’re doing it with a band or going solo.
TINDS: What do you think about the transition that Bengali music is going through?
Rafa: I think it is absolutely brilliant. I believe that we are probably lagging behind 20 years or so but I firmly believe we’ll get there eventually. Music throughout the world is evolving as we speak of it and Bengali musicians are doing a great job catching up. I really hope it comes to a point where things become globalized.
TINDS: Coming this far, what have you had to struggle with?
Rafa: Nobody gets to be an adult in our country before they turn 25, I think, which is very sad. Anybody who’s willing to take responsibility turns into an adult when they are 18, but sadly nobody gets to act on it. Also, when it comes to music there are other obstacles like religious barriers. I have heard from many that whatever I am doing is no good.
TINDS: What would your advice be to young musicians?
Rafa: Whatever you do now will catch fire a few years later. I’d advise people to stay determined and know the risks of what they are getting into. It is important that one takes it seriously when doing music because it is nothing less than doing any other business which requires utter determination and will. Obviously success doesn’t come easy, but you have got to keep at it and be patient. Also, make sure to have the right paperwork and have legal rights to your content.
Photography Credit: Emon Rozario
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