Hobby: A Musical Dialogue with Alen Henry Costa

By Mohammed Talal Anjum

DEH is a buzzing hub of talent. Get to know our in-house musician’s journey into the world of music presented by our subeditor.

How did it all start and what made you interested in music in the first place?

Well, everything started at a young age. I can’t exactly pinpoint but grade 5 or 6, my fascination with music began to unfurl. Drawn especially to the captivating melodies, I started a personal challenge to mimic them, exploring diverse genres in search of my inner voice. I would like to add that my mother played a pivotal role in kindling this interest; possessing an incredible voice, she infused our home with casual musical interludes, igniting the interest in creating a foundation for the profound musical philosophy that I now ardently pursue. Fast forward to grade 7, my occasional classroom performances garnered admiration, leading me to become the go-to vocalist whenever an opportunity arose. Collaborating with English-medium friends who skillfully played the guitar, I practiced my musical voice. Since those early days, music has transcended mere entertainment, evolving into my chosen form of expression and a way of life. I must also note that, to me, music is more than art; it serves as a form of escapism, bringing an incomparable sense of joy to my world.

Who inspires you the most when it comes to music, did he/she also inspire you to start your music journey?

To be frank, during my passion for music in its initial stages, I was enamored with the melodies of song, and it didn’t matter who the artist was—I continuously mimicked their tunes. However, as I reflect, it’s imperative to acknowledge those who shaped my musical journey. These individuals, though not widely recognized, are monumental life-changers in my eyes. Andy, a crucial figure in my life was a catalyst who propelled me forward. During grade 9. Together, on Andy’s rooftop, he, a guitarist, and I, a vocalist, honed our musical language. Post my HSc, during my diploma in computer science and engineering, I encountered two more pivotal figures—Rabbi and Rafi, both deeply immersed in the world of music. Rabbi, a former band member, and Rafi, after getting to know about my singing abilities, afforded me an opportunity to showcase my skills at a practice pad. Their genuine appreciation marked a turning point, not only motivating me but also illuminating my musical path. They molded my mindset and introduced me to the bands and singers who now occupy a special place in my heart. Notably, Alter Bridge and Oni Hasan stand out as I idolize them. My friends, coupled with the music knowledge I absorbed, crafted my identity. So entranced and addicted to music, I even made the bold decision to quit my diploma to not be able to turn back around, a testament to the transformative power of this art form in my life.

Do you create music? What is your creative process?

I do create music but I have yet to post, I currently have a band of my own and we will be posting our first single soon. Currently, I’m rocking with my own band, and we’re gearing up to release our first single real soon. Now, when it comes to my creative process, I’m kind of a spontaneous dude. I don’t buy into the whole “one-size-fits-all” approach to success in music. I just go with the flow. It’s like, someone might toss an idea my way, and boom, I turn it into audible art. Other times, I might cook up a melody and then build the lyrics around it, or vice versa. I’m all about doing what feels right in the moment. Music is literally everywhere for me—from the crack of dawn to lights out. Here’s the thing: take, for instance, my mom giving me an earful. The intensity, the emotions, and the thoughts swirling in that moment, I can channel all that into music. I am not trying to berate anyone’s music philosophy, but what I’m saying is there’s no one stop solution when it comes to the creative process. Everyone’s got their own unique groove.

Have you faced any obstacles along your journey?

Indeed, I’ve encountered my fair share of challenges, and while the details are a bit fuzzy, the one that hit me hardest was the financial struggle. I come from a humble background, and so I had to navigate most things on my own. I scraped together some savings to buy a guitar, sticking with it even after realizing it wasn’t top-notch. I’d walk for hours from Farmgate to Mohakhali, engaging my friends in endless conversations about music, absorbing as much knowledge as I could. Every step I took, every move I made required money—gaining knowledge, travel, practice sessions with others, booking a practice pad—it all needed cash. No one really helped me, no one discouraged me either. Apart from financial struggles, I have had problems with personal relationships as well. My mother would tell me: “pursue music but keep in mind it’s not your first priority.” Surprisingly, nothing deterred me, not even my father’s attempt to break my guitar during the chaos of covid—I managed to salvage it. Then there were those times when people, even supposed best friends, hurled insults my way because my guitar skills weren’t that good. I felt the sting, questioned myself, and found solitude in my struggles. “It broke me, but not my spirit.” I stand firm in my conviction, I don’t care about others opinions. It’s not about winning approval or leaving an impression; rather, my true essence lies in expression. I’m not driven by a desire to impress; instead, I am wholly dedicated to the art of genuine self-expression.

What helps you stay motivated and keep moving forward?

I have come a long way, I started with zero knowledge about artists, and now, I glean insights from their work. From a place of uncertainty about my musical direction, I’ve emerged with a crystal-clear vision of what I want to achieve. Allow me to share two significant stories that summarize my growth. Firstly, someone I knew recognized my potential and offered to teach me guitar riffs. For some reason I never happen to give him a visit, but I eventually mastered the most challenging riffs, turning the tables as that same person sought guidance from me. These moments are the fuel that propels me forward. Another source of joy is when strangers recognize me for what I love—singing. During a random encounter on my way to campus, a stranger sat beside me in a leguna and asked, “You are a ULABian, right?” I confirmed, and I asked “how do you know me?” and I was astounded to hear what followed, “I heard you sing.” I’ve become the guy who sings—it’s almost become an identity. What brings me immense happiness isn’t the pursuit of popularity; it’s the pursuit of music. I want my music to carry meaning, resonating profoundly with others and the fact that someone recognized me due to my music was a moment I will never forget.

How has your Major in English helped you in the process of making music?

When it came to choosing my major, English, for me, was both a challenge and an intriguing mystery. As someone from a Bangla medium background, mastering English posed difficulties, yet its allure was undeniable. Every instance of grappling with the language fueled a desire to understand and articulate myself more effectively. I chose English not just out of necessity but also because it shared the same creative and artistic essence as music. I didn’t approach it as a rigid subject; rather, I absorbed the lessons and seamlessly wove my assignments into the fabric of music. Opting for this major wasn’t just an academic choice; it altered my thought processes. Both English and Music, being artistic and creative disciplines, became intertwined in my mind. English, unexpectedly, nurtured my creative thinking, allowing me to approach challenges with an artistic perspective. It reinforced the notion that music is indeed an art form. It’s worth mentioning that this major led me to encounter incredible individuals, several of whom are now my band members, adding a significant layer of richness to my musical journey.

Has being part of DEH helped you in your journey as a musician?

Absolutely, it’s been a transformative experience. DEH (Department of English and Humanities) has been an unwavering pillar of support, presenting me with countless opportunities to showcase my musical prowess at various ULAB events. Beyond that, numerous clubs, with Sanskriti Shangshad Club at the forefront, have extended significant opportunities and collaborations my way. However, the credit for truly bringing my musical journey to light goes to DEH. I am profoundly grateful for the doors it has opened and the platform it has provided. Opting for DEH was undeniably one of the best choices I’ve made, and the gratitude I hold for this department is immeasurable.

Considering the theme for this issue of MUSE is communication, how would you explain the connection between music and communication?

To me, music transcends mere sound; it is a form of communication, a language that speaks directly to the soul. In my perspective, there’s no stark difference between music and communication. The melody itself is a vehicle for expression, a conduit through which emotions, stories, and sentiments are conveyed. I could share a few lines with you, and you’d understand their meaning, but if I were to repeat those same lines through singing, each rendition with a distinct melody would impart a nuanced meaning. Personally, music serves as a profound facilitator of expression, making the articulation of thoughts and feelings more accessible. It is, in essence, a language in its own right—a universal language that transcends barriers and resonates on a deeply human level.

Do you have any other hobbies or interests outside of music?

Immersing myself in nature and exploration is a source of genuine joy for me—it’s where I find solace and gratitude in the simple wonders of the world. Movies captivate me, but what truly sparks my creativity is the art of turning everything into music. Whether it’s crafting parodies or transforming mundane assignments into melodic compositions, I find unparalleled fulfillment in this musical metamorphosis. A standout memory is the rap song I swiftly made between philosophers for my literary theory course which only took me 15 minutes to create, and I presented it with a sense of pride. The beauty of music, for me, lies in its spontaneity, and I indulge in its creation whenever the inspiration strikes. Beyond these passions, I find my interests concentrated solely in these realms—nature, exploration, movies, and the boundless world of musical creation.

What’s your best and least favorite part of being a musician?

The absolute best thing for me is having my own band—it’s the pinnacle of my musical journey, a source of boundless happiness. However, if I had to point out a least favorite aspect, it would undoubtedly be the stark lack of appreciation musicians receive, especially as professionals. Society seems to tilt unfairly against us in the realm of music as a career. Despite pouring our hearts into our craft, constantly refining our skills, and striving to outdo our former selves, the struggle for recognition, particularly for emerging bands, remains a daunting hurdle. It’s disheartening that the society at large often undervalues the worth of new bands, reflected in insufficient pay for concerts.

What platforms can we find you on?

Wholeheartedly embracing the spirit of teamwork, I thrive as a team player, and my love for my band is unequivocal. Having my own band, as I’ve mentioned, is the highlight of my experience as a musician. Publicly, you won’t catch me as a solo performer; I find my strength and passion in the collaborative energy of a band. For those curious to experience our musical synergy, you can currently find me and my band on our Facebook page at “ATA After The Apocalypse- Bangladesh.” While we haven’t yet launched our videos on other platforms, rest assured, we are diligently working towards expanding our reach and sharing our musical creations with a wider audience.

Do you have any advice for anyone in DEH who wishes to pursue music as a career?

My mantra is clear: don’t strive to impress, focus on genuine expression. The pursuit of impressing others leads nowhere; true fulfillment lies in creating for oneself. It’s vital to recognize the distinction between being an artist and a musician. If I were to tell you in short:  Being a musician is a lifelong commitment, a complex journey involving instruments, composition, musical theory, and structural intricacies. On the flip side, an artist views music as the ultimate goal, with expression as the sole objective. Genres become secondary as artists create music driven purely by emotion. While there are various musical forms, adhering to the basics is crucial—there are no shortcuts in this intricate art form. Music, has a transformative power, can change the world, leaving a lasting impact. The key lies in knowing your purpose, relentlessly pursuing it without ever looking back.