Mu­sic as refuge

The Daily sits down with Peo­ple and Space

The McGill Daily - - Culture - Rahma Wiry­omartono

Crammed into a makeshift four-seater ta­ble at the Java U across from Strath­cona Mu­sic Build­ing, three mem­bers of Peo­ple and Space bounced their ideas off of each other as they told their story.

The Mon­treal-based pop-rock and al­ter­na­tive band came to­gether dur­ing the start­ing mem­bers’ first year at Mcgill.

Speak­ing to The Daily, vo­cal­ist Sid Ahmed, lead guitarist Zia Zakaria, and vo­cal­ist and guitarist Atanu Chowd­hury ex­plored the merg­ing of mu­si­cal gen­res, mu­sic as a form of self ex­pres­sion for the di­as­pora, and the bal­anc­ing act of play­ing gigs and shoot­ing mu­sic videos amid work­ing nine-to-five, post­grad­u­a­tion. Bassist An­dre Homier and drum­mer Guil­laume Lau­zon were not present at the in­ter­view.

The Mcgill Daily (MD): So how did you all meet?

Sid Ahmed (SA): It was the first week of school, and Zak and I met through the BSA [Bangladeshi Stu­dents As­so­ci­a­tion]. I was in New Rez, and when we met, we were like, ‘oh wow, we’re from the same coun­try.’ So we kept meet­ing, kept jam­ming, and do­ing cov­ers. Then this one time, Zak’s like, ‘do you have any orig­i­nals?’ I was too shy to show any­one – I had never re­ally done that be­fore – but that was how our first song hap­pened. We found these two bud­dies from rez to play shows, and af­ter our first char­ity show, we kept play­ing as much as we could.

Zia Zakaria (ZZ): When you’re play­ing with stu­dents, a lot of them have to pur­sue their own fu­ture. So they have to leave the coun­try and stuff. We went back to square one at one point af­ter grad­u­a­tion, and it was just me and Sid again. That’s when I sug­gested to take Atanu into the band.

Atanu Chowd­hury (AC): We had a lot of free time af­ter gradua- tion. The big­gest prob­lem is that most peo­ple in­volved were en­gi­neers, so, you know, they’ve got in­tern­ships – but we’re science kids; we were here do­ing our re­search. But we al­ways jammed to­gether, played a lot of East­ern clas­si­cal mu­sic, [even though] we [were used to] dif­fer­ent gen­res.

MD: In­terms of genre, what would you iden­tify as your present mu­sic and in­flu­ences, com­pared to what you started off with?

SA: When we all got to­gether, it was kind of like magic. We were both vo­cal­ists, and [Atanu] was trained in East­ern clas­si­cal mu­sic. I was kind of trained on the fly dur­ing Peo­ple and Space, but I grew up with punk rock.

ZZ: I was mainly into heavy metal, and then we needed a drum­mer and bassist. That’s how we got Gui, who’s also punk-in­flu­enced, and our bassist is into the jazz and blues kind of thing. So it was a re­ally good mix. East­ern clas­si­cal mu- sic is a lot dif­fer­ent from Western clas­si­cal mu­sic. It has a lot of like, vo­cal vi­bratos, [and] a mix of both ma­jor and mi­nor scales. It’s re­ally dif­fer­ent, so when you fuse it with rock and pop, that cre­ates an in­ter­est­ing el­e­ment.

MD: You’re jug­gling nine-to - five jobs, but you still make mu­sic a priority. How do you man­age that?

AC: If you ask me, mu­sic is some­thing I did since for­ever, [ever] since I knew what it was. So when I came here given the strug­gle, given school­ing, liv­ing alone – it was the thing I knew I was good at. It was the con­stant thing that I could bring from home. I brought the cul­ture with me. So no mat­ter what hap­pened, that was al­ways the stan­dard. So even if I was work­ing nineto-five, I would al­ways come back home. Even if it wasn’t jam­ming, I would just take the gui­tar and play two songs by my­self.

ZZ: Af­ter I grad­u­ated I felt like that part of my life was miss­ing. And you know what, the nine-to-five life gets re­dun­dant. It’s the same: you wake up, you work. But start­ing mu­sic again was an es­cape from that re­dun­dancy.

SA: In my point of view, mu­sic was like refuge. Com­ing here from so far away was kind of a shock, all of a sud­den. The tran­si­tion was so fast [...] I didn’t feel like I be­longed any­where. But when we played mu­sic to­gether, that was like a safe refuge. It was like a shel­ter. It would hold us and em­brace us. Mu­sic gave [me] a chance to iden­tify my­self in so­ci­ety, to rep­re­sent my­self. It helped me make new friends, and since I used to write poems and son­nets, it gave me a chance to get those poems out. All of those ex­pe­ri­ences that I trapped in tiny boxes, [mu­sic] helped me re­lease [them] and share [them] with peo­ple. This in­ter­view has been edited for length and clar­ity.

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